I could blame it on old age, and no one would dispute it. I could mention that I never sleep well in hotel rooms and most everyone would buy it. Neither would be completely accurate.
At recent conferences, I am almost ashamed to admit, I have found myself fighting against nodding off during presentations. To make it worse, I typically sit on or near the front row, in full view of the speaker. It's a habit I have followed for many years. Up front, I can move around, shoot photos of presenters and see PowerPoint presentations clearly. (Back in the day, I had to get up close to see images from overhead projectors or 35-millimeter data slides.)
Afternoons and seminars: I probably should apologize to seminar presenters, past and present. It’s not your fault. To be fair, most any presentation on most any topic delivered following a conference staple luncheon of barbecue, fried chicken or pork chops, will be incapable of keeping my eyelids from drooping.
I fight it. I would be more than embarrassed to let out a loud snore, fall off my chair or hit my head on a table, amusing as that might be to others in the audience.
I shift in my seat a lot, cross and uncross my legs, take copious notes, although I have nodded off while writing and days later wondered what that word that seemed to trail off into squiggles was supposed to be.
I sip water if it's available. If I spill some in my lap, all the better and worry about trying to explain that spot later on if it doesn't dry.
Cracking my knuckles helps a little but can be almost as annoying to folks sitting nearby as a snore would be. I poke my leg with a ballpoint pen.
I concentrate on the screen until the images begin to blur and then I look away quickly before they fade to black. I watch the speaker carefully, examine every blemish on his or her face. I make eye contact and silently correct their grammar if they slip into non-standard English. "We hadn't went to that field for near-bout a week," for instance. That usually brings me around for a few minutes.
Sometimes speakers help. My good friend Joe Outlaw, ag economist and other exemplary titles too numerous to mention, makes sure I do not nod off in any of his talks, even talks about the farm bill.
He calls me out. "Ron, you need to write this down," he's exclaimed on more than one occasion. I always do. And I dare not nod off when Joe's speaking. He would not hesitate for one second to wake me up. "Ron, you better wake up and write this down."
Joe is the antidote to nodding off.