Curse the MLA. At least it's not right after Christmas anymore. Recovering from family regression only to stumble into academic regression was just the worst. But I bet the vibe will be pretty much the same. Get ready for it, now.
You walk into the main lobby of the main conference hotel and you walk into an outer circle of Hell. Less than or equal to 10 000 doppelgangers are walking around. They are looking at your name tag, then looking away. Are they just curious as Rosemary Feal's tweets would have us believe? Or are they checking to see if you're famous and important? And looking away if not? Or a bit of both? I'm sure it's mostly the fame checking. Why? Because as a nearly finished Ph.D. student I indulged in a bit of it myself.
Anyway, best to assume the worst: when you arrive at the outskirts of Hell you will be hit by a vertical wall of paranoia that provokes you to talk to people for no good reason, or hang around people for no good reason, which will make it worse.
Why did you come to this godawful place? Oh yeah, you remember—you have a job interview. So focus on getting through that. For different people this will mean different things but for me (introverted, quite depressed) it means GETTING THE FUCK OUT OF THE FUCKING HOTEL and STAYING OUT OF IT FOR AS MUCH OF THE CONFERENCE AS POSSIBLE. Don't be tempted by the waves of people. You think that they think that you think that they think that you think you should be talking to someone/going to a panel/seeing the books. FUCK THAT. Seriously. Number one priority is to take care of yourself. Walk, yoga, nice food, run, see some art.
If you have a book idea to pitch (you should if you've been doing ikebana) then now would be a good time to check with a publisher and see if you can meet for a few minutes. They are usually open to pitching. This is where it all goes down. But remember, the MLA sucks for three obvious reasons:
1) half the people are looking for a job
2) the other half are trying to publish a book
3) a strange extra bunch of people are interviewing and editing 1) and 2)
I try to have little or no alcohol when I go to a big conference. Sorry to be a party pooper but that stuff can regress you really fast and this is not a good place to regress.
Before you go, have some fun with your ikebana (see previous posts). You sometimes find yourself having to pitch your project quite quickly. Imagine you're in an elevator with an editor. You have five floors to pitch your book before she gets out. What do you say?
The key pith instruction: MLA SUCKS FOR EVERYONE. That includes your interviewers. You can join them in this.