When attending a conference, a good time to take a break is just as the introductory remarks begin. Nothing of any value is going to be said for some time. Yesterday I took a ten-minute walk and after returning, decided that a 25-minute walk would have been better.
Coming late overall has its weaknesses, as you might not get a good seat or a clear idea where lunch and restrooms are. But I think my new plan will be to arrive at the very beginning of registration, grab coffee and scout the territory, load my stuff onto a seat I like, perhaps even with my name, then go take a nap in the car for 45 minutes to an hour.
During the introductory remarks, the people running the joint like to say thank you to all the people who did the work and deliver their little in-jokes and graceful self-deprecations about how long they have been in the field and known each other. It’s tribal stuff, so a surprising percentage of the audience will laugh at jokes that are not really all that funny (“I was going to refer to the 73-year-old woman in the story as elderly but Ken threatened to…”). I conclude that they are reassured rather than entertained by these rituals: this is a nice club to be part of and a safe place.
Also of interest are that percentage of people you see every day at work but are excited to see you at the conference and wave to you. They are almost always women. I believe something similar is happening. Reassurance is being enacted. They are comforted by the presence of people they know in a strange place, and also signal to a crowd of strangers I know others, I do belong here, I am not an intruder or imposter. Rather like bees, perhaps. I think I have made them sound weak or insecure, but it may be the opposite. The three yesterday are all among the most universally-liked, competent people in the building. They may have natural abilities to put others at ease. Or something.