On the Road – Part 1

George Gavrilita L2, Italy

George Gavrilita L2, Italy

Two weeks before GP Ragnarok Judge Conference, you block time to prepare your seminar. But that’s not enough, because this week

a) your kid has fever
b) your boss assigns you a super-urgent project, or
c) you meet the person of your life.

Do not despair. You can still make it.

Enter:On the Road™: A 10-Step Flexible Method for Doing More, with less”.

Thanks to our praised¹, easy-to-implement approach to Seminar Creation (and in general, also other activities) you will learn to maximize resources (time, Wi-Fi, light, notebook, pointer or printer availability, personal energy, bumpiness on the road, battery life, silence, privacy) and break down the task into small, distinct pieces. This way you can make progress whenever you want, wherever you are.

Follow our hero as he uses this method to create his seminar from scratch “Charlie Brown at GP Sin City; or, What They Never Told You About Unsporting Conduct” in the free time he has after GP Kyoto 2015 and before Judge Conference Manila 2015.

True Story

Step 1 – Brainstorm on Paper

Forget the PC. You don’t need a PC. Ideas hate the PC. Ideas love paper. Also, all ideas are great.
When you sit down for a seminar, use paper. Write down everything you can think about concerning your topic, the way you want to execute it, and ideas that come from ideas. Don’t censor yourself or rule out anything right away. Greatness is sometimes where no one has looked before.

Nara Park

Japan, Nara Park. I sit down on the grass watching the deer. I’m tired and sick because I thought I had booked my judge hotel to check-in on Thursday before the GP, but I hadn’t. I should’ve checked that before landing in Japan. So, I slept at Kansai Airport. Three GP Shifts didn’t cure me. Four days later I don’t have my netbook with me, and I’m waiting to see the sunset.

To kill time, I start thinking about a fun way to talk about my assignment, Unsporting Conduct, without simply going through all of them in order. Take out my notebook. Uhm… I need bad people to commit Unsporting, who can that be? Supervillains! They can fit for each Infraction, like Two-Face flipping a coin for Improperly Determining a Winner, or Hulk for Aggressive Behavior! But where would there be so many bad guys to play against each other? In Sin City! OMG this is awesome…

Sin City
Step 2 – Make a Structure on Paper

Take all your ideas, then try to order them. See which ones have more potential. Then take a few sheets of paper, and draw 8 or 12 empty squares on each sheet. Now put in the ideas as a story board – one per square, no more. This is your first script.


China, Shanghai, Metro from Pudong to Hongqiao Airport. I have 4 hours to catch a connection flight between two airports 2 hours away from each other. Osaka-Return and Manila-Return flights have been booked separately, so if I miss this one, I’m in trouble. Also, I’m still sick: air-con is killing me. However, I cannot make the metro go faster so I might as well keep myself busy and not worry until the moment comes to start shouting and pushing people.

First square: USC – Minor.

Second Square: Venom vs Jabba the Hut.

Third Square: Temple of Malady 

Fourth: Venom forgets to Scry, Jabba insists he gets a Warning, even if it’s beneficial.

Fifth: Judge assigns Jabba USC – Minor.

OMG this is gonna be the best seminar EVAH!!!!


Step 3 Research (Handout Part 1 of 2)

As soon as you have Wi-Fi, you can use Judge Wiki, Blogs, the Annotated IPG and MTR  to read articles that you’ll need to reference. This way you’ll seamlessly create a handout: it’s not your presenter notes, and it’s not a printout of your deck of slides. A useful handout is

  1. stuff concerning your seminar,
  2. stuff that people might also be interested in, and
  3. stuff that you didn’t talk about during your presentation.

Be careful, because getting all three right can be hard.
Every time you find a source you’ll be using, even only for a paragraph, quote it. It gives the author due credit, and makes your work look better. Two sources makes it look like you created them because I told you to, six sources makes it look professional. If you have twenty, double check rules b and c above (and maybe even a).

Philippines, Manila, Ninoy Aquino Airport. The night before my Shanghai – Manila flight landed with one hour delay, at 10PM. Still, I went out with local friends and went to sleep at 2AM. Woke up at 6AM to get to the airport in time to catch my next flight, the LAST one, to Palawan, Paradise on Earth. The flight was delayed 2 hours. Then 3. Then 4.

There’s Wi-Fi in the airport so I go to Judge Wiki and search in order “Unsporting”, “Conduct”, “USC”, “Cheating”, “Bribery”, “Aggressive” etc, then do the same in Blogs. I open each article in a new tab, so I have it even offline. I also paste every URL in a document, save it and sync it. This way I’ve already started creating the handout: if the browser crashes I don’t have to do it all again, and if I’m in a fast food place with Wi-Fi but my laptop’s battery died, I can continue reading on my smartphone.

Step 4 – Concept Proof (Rehearsal Part 1 of 4)

Let’s make it very clear from the beginning. Rehearsing fixes all your problems. It makes you think about the answers to the questions you’ll be asked, and you won’t have an answer to. It makes sure you won’t go over time. It prevents instances of the so-called PowerPoint “Stare of Doom”, when you change slide, look at it for 10 seconds trying to remember what you were supposed to say, then continue your speech. Rehearse your seminar today and you’ll save a kitten from certain death.

When you practice a seminar, by the simple action of saying it, you have to transform random thoughts into coherent speech. The idea goes from an Ooze in your head, to a Weird – not necessarily prettier, but at least more defined. And before you notice, you have even more ideas. Interrupt, and write it down. On paper. This way you already start to know what pictures you need, what sources to look for and so on.


Philippines, Palawan, Puerto Princesa Airport. We finally take off and land, and I’m already 6 hours late on my first day. I’m kinda worried because I had only 3 days before returning to Manila and wanted to do everything on the island. A local tourist guide tells me I cannot do the itinerary as I wanted, from A to B, B to C, and C to A, because between C and A… there’s only jungle. No road. He basically sells me a travel package with everything I’ll ever need during those three days, and we start with a bumpy 6 hours minivan ride. But even in the jungle, the minivan has the strongest air conditioning system ever.

I spend time whispering to myself, going through the whole story. I realize that there was nothing unifying everything, because supervillains changed from round to round. So I understood I needed one hero. And he had to be naive, otherwise he would’ve always shuffled the opponent’s deck and called a judge for Slow Play after a minute. That’s how I settled on Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown

Notice that having Wi-Fi access was less likely in my situation, so between the two, I gave higher priority to the task that required internet access, and did research before rehearsing. Nothing stops you from first doing Step 4, and then Step 3.

Told you this method was flexible.

Step 5 – Consolidation (Rehearsal Part 2 of 4)

Rehearse more, now that you’ve done some research. You’ll find others had different takes on the subject, raised questions and gave answers you didn’t think about, and sometimes even did half of your work. That’s good, stuff on the Wiki is under Creative Commons licensing.

This second rehearsal is going to be really different than the first. If you’re doing it right, you will have already made many changes. This is because you are, at the same time, the creator, and the interpreter of the seminar. A creator never wants to kill his own babies, and an interpreter rarely wants to be restrained by the script. Since you’re wearing both hats at the same time, you have to find the balance. It is somewhere between going up on stage and totally winging it, and reading your seminar (don’t ever read your seminar; the kittens will thank you for it).

Also, being able to create the seminar doesn’t mean you can present it well without practice. Whitney Houston didn’t write “I Will Always Love You, Dolly Parton did, but Dolly couldn’t sing it as well. Without the necessary effort, you cannot become Dolly Houston. But you can, and you should try, seminar after seminar. You can even record yourself, and have a base for self-critique.


Philippines, El Nido, Bacuit Bay. Today I discovered there is a middle way between swimming and diving, and boy, is it easy to fall in love with snorkeling!

On the way back to the beach, everybody is tired and satisfied of the long day in the sun. To kill time, I revise my seminar, but I literally have only my trunks on, and I realize I have a hard time remembering the order of the scenes. So I use a mnemonic trick, and assign a deck to everyone, following the mana wheel. I also found the situations quite interesting, and some also puzzling, like apparent stalling, but the player lost the first game so there’s no advantage in doing it. These things happen, so rather than announcing the infraction I was going to talk about immediately, I would introduce the Villains, and let the public decide for the infraction. Suspense, engagement, challenge for the audience.

Holidays, sun, and excitement for the project: what more can one ask when carrying out a task? We’ll see that not everything is taken for granted: time is running, and we don’t even have a power point yet. Blackouts, underground caves and karaoke: all this and more in Part 2. Stay tuned!

¹Inspired by methodologies you can learn about at http://gettingthingsdone.com/


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