“Dude, you’re going to be so busy… …you’re not going to have time to be nervous.”
That’s a paraphrasing of Area 5’s Matt Chandronait’s advice to me, given on Rebel FM in response to a letter I wrote about the anxiety I felt leading up to my first E3. Despite my respect for the man, I kind of wrote him off at the time.
“Thanks…that’s useful.” I said to myself, sarcastically and out loud, as I sat, alone, at my computer.
Lesson 1: Heed the wisdom of others.
Fast forward to the end of Nintendo’s press conference, the morning of Day One of E3 2010. Unable to find any wi-fi connection in the NOKIA Theater where the event was held, I run to the LA Convention Center. After obtaining my badge holder, I drop to the floor in Petree Hall, following the lead of the many writers I see who have just done the same, and set to work typing up the highlights from the event. This write-up takes me about an hour, which I immediately realize is far too long.
Lesson 2: Write up highlights from the conferences as they happen, not after. Basically, live-blog them, even if you aren’t actually “live-blogging” to the internets. Just type up notes and bullet points as events unfold, then expand on them later. Those press conferences deliver a ton of information in a small amount of time; your memory won’t be reliable enough to get everything.
Checking my schedule, my first appointment is in just over an hour. I still have to run a mile back to my motel and check in.
It’s hot. Damn, it is hot.
Arriving at the motel, my clothes have become a portable pool. I mourn the unfortunate servers/clerks/cab drivers I’ll meet on this trip who will, inevitably, receive one of the $20 bills I hastily stuffed into my sock that morning. Turns out, the sweet, middle-aged Korean lady at the motel counter will be the unlucky first. She hands me my room key and TV remote and I hand her a soggy leaf of green paper.
I’m so sorry.
My room is small. My room is very, very small. Not that I expected more — in fact, the room has already exceeded my expectations — but if I’d had time to consider it, I would have predicted the cabin fever I’ll feel by my last night in town. But all I can think about in that moment is how thankful I am for that greatest innovation in the grand history of our species: air conditioning.
After throwing my bags on the bed, I knock back a bottle of water and devour a Clif Bar. Mmm — breakfast.
My arm feels like it’s going to separate at the shoulder. Surely, there must be something I can safely remove from my laptop bag to make it lighter. Power cable? Legal pad? Voice recorder? Water bottle? Pen? Pencil? Aha! Pencil sharpener – gone!
Lesson 3: Buy a net book. And a comfortable bag. Anything wight/bag combination that seems “good enough” when you try it on, isn’t going to be good enough. You’re on your feet all day, for three days, carrying that weight — a net book is a very sound investment, for E3 and any future events. Convenience and comfort will make your job 10 times easier.
I arrive back at the Convention Center much in the same state I arrived in at the motel. Only now, I have about 20 minutes to navigate the building and find the booth of a not-very-big publisher.
No, it is seriously wicked-freakin’ hot.
The open bar set up outside of my first appointment’s meeting room appears almost like a mirage. Likewise, a shot of Jameson would taste like ambrosia right now. Fortunately, they don’t have any Jameson. This is probably a good thing. The influence of mind/mood-altering substances may, at times, make me a better writer but I don’t think it will have the same effect on my stamina, punctuality or objectivity. Then again, my objectivity may already be colored by the free sandwich they also provided.
[ANONYMOUS PUBLISHER] are saints!
I swore to myself that I wouldn’t accept any free stuff during the show, but as I fumble with my awkward legal pad, spilling water on it in the process, the almost karmically-convenient notebook they offer seems very much like a necessity. I’ll later learn, karma’s tricky.
Lesson 4: Portability, portability, portability… Again, convenience. Pack light, pack small, and make sure your notebook/voice recorder/camera/all of the above (we’ll get to redundancy later) are easy to draw at a moment’s notice. Even if a speaker or interviewee is willing to wait while you get all your stuff together, you just don’t want to be that guy.
Exiting my appointment, I receive a phone call from my mom. The business cards I ordered that didn’t arrive in time for the show finally made it to my door earlier that morning, and she drove from south Orange County to bring them to me. What a cool lady. She’s waiting back at the motel. A mile away.
Oh, god dammit.
She’s driving me back to the convention center now, as I attempt to scarf down a bean-and-cheese burrito she had left over from lunch. A little more than halfway there, I realize the insane Figueroa St. E3/imminent Lakers game traffic has become an impenetrable wall. I could walk faster than this… more than that, I need to walk faster than this if I’m going to make my next appointment.
I say “see you later” to my mom and “goodbye forever” to the half of the burrito I reluctantly leave behind.
Immediately, I get the chance to break out my new business cards at my next appointment. I’ve never exchanged business cards with someone before. The resulting feeling of “coolness” makes me suddenly very cognizant of the fact that I’m growing up. I can’t decide whether or not this is a good thing.
(Un?)Fortunately, playing 100 Questions with the helpful PR representative doesn’t leave me much time to dwell on such trivial issues as the fleetingness of childhood.
With my second appointment out of the way, I finally have time to wander around the floor.
What I meant to say was, I finally have time to wish I could enjoy some free time on the floor. But I only have 20 minutes to start my write-ups for those two appointments. So it was off the Petree Hall floor and then back on my feet to see the next thing.
By now, I’m used to the routine. Fortunately, each one of these E3 appointments is pretty similar to the one that came before and I’ve hit my stride. Talk to PR person, play the game, ask some questions, exchange cards, get their media kit, rinse, repeat.
Lesson 5: Oh yeah and remember to turn on that voice recorder. Frick. It’s both awkward and, I felt (but who am I to say, really?), a bit rude to frantically jot down notes as you talk with your assigned PR representative. They’re in a hurry, you’re in a hurry, and transcribing your conversation just wastes time. Better to record your talks with, well, everyone and jot down some bullet-points later (preferably immediately after an interview/meeting). Then, you can refer to those bullet-points when you’re scanning through your many, many, many voice recordings. Doing more work in the short-term = fewer headaches later. Trust me.
Now free, after a scant few minutes with Ninja Theory’s Enslaved, I look up from the screen to see the other stations turned off, and two PR people looking not-very-happy with my hanging around. I apologize and leave, steeling myself for the next mile-long walk back to my motel, with a quick stop at Denny’s to eat my first actual meal of the day.
Of course, my day wasn’t done yet. I took a very necessary shower, set my laptop up on the desk and sat down to do some work and get caught up on the news of the day; maybe (finally) watch Sony’s press conference. Only…
Lesson 6: Before you book a motel, try to make sure their wi-fi actually works. You still have a lot of work to do after the show. Sure, you can still get it done without an internet connections, but that just means waking up early the next morning to find a coffee shop with free wi-fi so you can send everything to your editor, all at once. He/she just LOVES that (please detect my sarcasm).