Conferences & Conventions: NISOD 2008 Wrap-Up

30 May

And, what a week—or at least half a week—it was at NISOD! I had planned to post updates daily but by the end of each day I was ready to hurl myself onto the bed in my hotel room, prop up my throbbing feet, and get caught up on the latest “must-see” (yes, that’s the ironic use of quotation marks) cable television shows given that at home we’re still happily chugging along with rabbit ears and 5-6 channels. (Even though it’s been on TV for a while, this was the first time I’d ever seen Bridezillas, which was certainly a spectacle of sorts in its own right.) Anyway, highlights of this year’s NISOD convention included:

Sunday

After meeting up at the office to load up all our conference materials, Grace and I drove down to Austin. With a minimum of wandering around we found our way to the back of the Austin Convention Center (see photo above) to unload all our stuff. Thanks to Melanie—she found some solid black cases to cart our Dr Peppers in koozies around in—this was the first time I’ve manage to load/unload soft drinks without having what seems like 10-15 of them flying off of the dolly to hurl themselves at the ground and explode all over the place.

For the first time this year the NISOD folks had a presenter orientation and so both of us went to that. It was very helpful as they talked about the media/video setup in each room. (You know that headed off a lot of questions ahead of time!) When that was done we set up the booth in the exhibit hall and thanks to Melanie—once again!—when one of our halogen light bulbs on the backdrop didn’t work we thankfully had plenty of spares to replace it with.

After checking into my hotel room and getting cleaned up, I headed back over to the convention center for the initial reception and opening of the exhibit hall. Much to my surprise—I didn’t think there would be that many people in attendance until the following Monday morning—there was just a giant crush of people by six o’clock. A drawing was going to be held on Tuesday for two tickets on Southwest Airlines and to enter people had to get a card stamped from 20-25 of the exhibitors. (This was one of many smart things the NISOD folks did to make sure there was plenty of foot traffic in the exhibit hall.) At one point I had six people around me all at once handing their cards to me to be stamped and I realized I would never be so popular again; it was only ever going to be downhill from there!

Then, in another one of those weird moments you have all the time at conferences—a couple of years I ran into my father-in-law’s college roommate—I just happened to meet up with Cody Siegmund. He was one of the original interns I had in the fall of 2004 who has since graduated, worked for several newspapers in Central Texas, and is now a freelance graphics/Web designer in Austin.

Monday

After a fitful night of sleep it was time to head back to the TSTC Publishing booth at nine in the morning. (Thankfully there were several Starbucks vendors in the convention center so I ate an inordinate amount of turkey sandwiches during the periodic breaks we had.) We put together NISOD survival bags for the TSTC attendees and we gave most of these away that morning. As always, it was good to see people we work with around the TSTC System and get caught up with them. The eight cases of Dr Peppers we took courtesy of Dr Pepper Bottling in Waco were gone by early afternoon so after that people were down to our exciting poster calendars as our remaining giveaway.

That afternoon, I went to Dr. Pezeshki’s session about teaching college algebra. I have to say kudos to Dr. Gilbert Leal, President of TSTC Harlingen, because once again this year he attended a presentation made by one of his faculty members. There’s often a big gap—sometimes real, sometimes perceived—between faculty and administration but it’s things like this that can help to bridge it. Dr. Pezeshki wrote a math book we published a couple of years ago, The College Algebra Helper, so I got to say a few words about it at the end of the session and picked up quite a few business cards from attendees who were interested in receiving desk copies. Then, after Grace and I found an empty room to go over our presentation, I headed back to my room where after a two hour nap I woke up just in time to go back to sleep until the next morning.

Tuesday

At a little after eight in the morning Grace and I met at the room we were going to present in later to go over our full-blown presentation with the laptop hooked up to the projector so we could practice with the PowerPoint presentation. Then it was back to the exhibit hall to work the booth. At about ten I headed upstairs to hear the presentation by Dr. Lucy McGregor and Dr. Bill Segura—the TSTC System Chancellor—about the RUB (Radical, Unconventional, Bizarre) initiative at TSTC to promote organizational transformation. I have to give them major credit as the handout of their PowerPoint showed that they were covering something like 50 slides in less than an hour; it’s been my experience in going to a lot of presentations that this is usually a recipe for disaster trying to cover that much information. They did, however, do this in a smooth, seamless manner with time left for questions and discussion at the end.

After some lunch and progressively more angst/anxiety, Grace and I finally got to head upstairs to do our presentation. There weren’t as many people there as I had hoped—around 10, maybe a few more—but overall things went well and we had some good comments and questions at the end. Courtesy of SlideShare, the YouTube of PowerPoint presentations, you can see what we covered in the viewer below:

At five o’clock booth teardown began and by 5:45 I was at a Boston Reed College reception at The Four Seasons to talk about a potential book project and have a couple of glasses of excellent merlot made by David Wignall, the company’s CEO. I was, needless to say, pretty rumpled at that point from working the booth, doing our presentation, tearing the booth down and stowing it back in the car (all in that Austin heat & humidity), but their hospitality was greatly appreciated.

Wednesday

After the best night of sleep I’d gotten during the week, it was time for some final mop-up work, the last odds and ends of errands in Austin, and then back home to, thankfully, sleep in my own bed.

In the end, it was a good conference and what should turn out to be a productive week of meeting with folks to talk about all things publishing in general and textbooks in particular. I’m by no means the most adept person at talking to people I don’t know as an ongoing activity—I’m more of a behind-the-scenes production person at heart—but we all find ourselves doing things we never would have imagined so you do what you can for the good of the cause. Without a doubt, it was all made much easier by having Grace there to share the load . . . thanks to her willingness to help out during what could have been a long Memorial Day weekend for her instead.

Mark

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