Making the Most of Downtime At Live Events

I’ve written before about the lessons I learned in five years of providing live social media coverage for clients at events like San Diego Comic-Con. Those are most all based on the actual planning and execution of the event itself, which makes sense since that’s the whole reason I was there.

What is often missed, though, are the ways to get the most benefit out of the time you’re not on the show floor, the downtime you have when you’re not on call. That time is just as important as when you’re actively on duty and publishing or providing other needed support. Here are some tips I picked up to maximize the impact of the opportunities I had to not be elbow-to-lightsaber with tens of thousands of cosplaying fans.

Reevaluate Schedule and Priorities

One of the things I loved most about live coverage, particularly in an environment as fast-paced and ever-shifting as Comic-Con, was that you lived or died by the seat of your pants. While there was certainly a plan and outline for the day, the execution of that plan often felt like improv. You’re in the moment and have a choice to make and the success of the plan depends on that gut call, even if that gut call is backed up by substantial experience and expertise. The whole thing was an adrenaline rush that was both invigorating and exhausting.

Those times where I had an opportunity to go back to my hotel room or to a break room were invaluable, though, because they were a chance to get out of the weeds and reevaluate the big picture. What does the next hour look like on the schedule? What’s happening elsewhere? Making sure I had that context was invaluable because it helped inform the improv decisions I made in the immediate future. When you have to choose between two or more options, knowing what the rest of the playing field looks like helps that choice be one that’s informed, which can be the difference between success or failure.

Lighten Your Load

I mean this both literally and figuratively. Part of the big picture perspective mentioned above includes finding opportunities to delegate or reassign certain tasks. If I have a chance to take something off my plate and there’s bandwidth or availability I can tap into on my team, I’ll do so. It frees me up to do something else that may be a higher priority.

Of course there’s a physical aspect to this as well. When you spend all day walking around a convention floor you’re going to accumulate stuff, not all of which you need to keep with you. With a laptop, charging cords and other essential equipment (including water and snacks) not being negotiable, a chance to revisit my hotel room was a good time to make sure I wasn’t carrying anything I didn’t absolutely need to.

Catch Up On Other Work

OK, this is super-practical and not that much fun. But the world doesn’t stop just because you’re in the convention hall. All the “I’ll be largely unavailable between X am and Y pm” reminders don’t stop the onslaught of emails and other messages that require your attention. Those times I had a break were at least in part used to do some email triage, check in on the broader Twitter conversations, make sure other programs were continuing in my absence and more. It’s not fun, but it’s still important, especially if you pride yourself on always putting forth your maximum possible effort.

Take a Nap

You want to know what saved my mental and emotional well being more than once in the midst of a week of live coverage? “Friends” reruns on TBS at 3:30 in the afternoon. Turn that on and I’m out in minutes, shortly after setting a timer on my phone to make sure I don’t sleep past 4:10 because I need to be back in Room 10A East before 4:30.

Whether or not you actually nap, engaging in your preferred decompression activity is highly recommended. Zone out to Shawshank on TNT or whatever happens to be on. Open a white noise app and meditate. Read the Bible for 15 minutes. Resent your mind in some way so it’s active and available again when you need it.

Do you have further tips for the few moments you find you have to yourself in the midst of live-coverage chaos?

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