Lessons from a sci-fi con – the fine art of energy management

For an energy management challenge, try staffing a sci-fi convention table
Ever been to a science fiction convention (known to regulars as simply “a con”)? Up until two years ago, I hadn’t either. But I like to think of myself as a bit of a sci-fi geek – so when a good friend suggested selling my sci-fi-themed jewelry at one last year, I thought “Why not?”

In retrospect, that may not have been the best response.

The convention very quickly turned into a bit of a nightmare. Firstly, it was held in South Carolina, in the hottest part of July. The a/c wasn’t working, so the temperature was stifling – especially for attendees in costume. That meant they left early, and they weren’t quiet about their disappointment on social media; which in turn, discouraged other people from even turning up.

So – not surprisingly – unlike the air temperature, my sales were glacial. The whole experience felt like a giant let-down, and I walked away from it exhausted, with a churning ball of stress in my stomach. Meanwhile, my friend tried to get a refund, which escalated the drama to a whole new level…

Looking back though, it was an excellent lesson in energy management.

My exhaustion actually started long before the con
For me, the stress didn’t start when I noticed exactly how few people were approaching my table. Instead, it built up over days – if not weeks – of striving, setup, travelling back and forth, and generally not looking after myself.

That combination would start any convention attendee off on the wrong foot – but for me, as an introvert who’s easily stimulated (possibly even highly sensitive), it was a major issue.

Once upon a time, I would have tried to push through the tiredness, told myself not to be weak, and kept going because… well, that’s what you do. And I would have ended up exhausted for days afterwards: drained, irritated, and totally unable to enjoy anything whatsoever about the experience.

Now, however, I’m getting better. Most of the time I remember that when I start feeling drained, it’s a message that I’m missing something, and I need to check in with myself to identify exactly what. I’m trying to be gentle with myself for forgetting that essential information during the con.

So if I could “do the event over”, what would I do differently?
If I ever get another opportunity for a table at a different convention, here are three things I’d like to do next time around:

  • First, I’d put more thought into deciding whether or not that event is really a good fit for me. “Fit” isn’t just about the specific convention itself (although that’s important too), but also about what else I have going on in my life at the time. I quickly said yes this time because it sounded like a bit of fun. Next time, I’ll weigh the decision more carefully.
  • Second, I’d be more careful with my self-talk during the event. I tend to get frustrated and discouraged when sales are slow. This time, I started angrily wondering why I’d committed to the convention in the first place, and why I even bothered making stupid jewelry, period. Next time, I’ll talk to myself far more compassionately in ways that are supportive, instead of judgmental.
  • Finally, I’d look after myself better physically – before, and during the event. I know that, as an introvert, I need quiet time and space to myself to rest and recharge. I also know I need water and healthy snacks on hand, regular meals, enough sleep, and frequent dance breaks. I didn’t give myself any of those things this time… and I paid the price for it. So next time, I’ll take responsibility for organizing everything in advance.

Where could you manage your energy better and be kinder to yourself?
My convention experience highlighted a real opportunity for me to manage my energy better and treat myself more compassionately. But it doesn’t take a major event to leave you stressed, frustrated and drained.

If you need help to identify the areas of your life that regularly exhaust you – or to come up with practical strategies to manage them – I can help.

Felicia Baucom
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