Wednesday, October 24, 2007

'Unconferencing' in Tampa

IABC’s Southern regional Conference in Tampa was my fifth (international conference) for the year. For the past twelve months, I journeyed to Toronto (three times) San Diego, New Orleans, and New York. In between, I attended several workshops at home. By the time I reached Tampa, I was all ‘conferenced’ out.

It’s not that I hadn’t learned a lot, met great people and got booster shots of self esteem. (next year, I will speak at the Leadership Institute in San Antonio) I simply felt something was missing from these conference as I dashed from room to room, map in hand trying not to be late at my sesions (I learnt that my regular 5 inch heels don’t work well on the conference circuit)

I had no clue about what I didn’t quite like until another Heather Gem Ible, my friend and fellow communications entrepreneur from Trinidad commented that while she felt the learning was great in Tampa, the networking was lousy (her words were not quite as strong though) That was my aha moment. Gem was right if only because from the time you get your conference bag at the registration table, a real marathon begins. You check your schedule, keep looking at your watch, race around to find your right room and pace yourself so you’re not entirely exhausted juts trying to keep up. In al of that though conversations with fellow delegates are superficial at best, real networking is zero and coffee breaks allows you to cluster will people you already know.

With Gem’s comments swirling in my head I decided to ‘unconference’. On Friday, I checked my schedule felt I had a good grasp on the topics and invited a well known Bajan communicator, to the hotel lobby for a chat. We spent the entire 3 hours talking about our personal and professional lives. We were later joined by the immediate past president of IABC Jamaica, Cloreth Greene as well as a Stacy Wilson, President of Eloquor Consulting in Denver.

As we munched on free pretzels and olives in the lobby of the Rennaisance, , I couldn’t help but think how some of the best networking can happen unexpectedly and how sometimes the side show, is equally as important as what goes on centre stage. By early evening, I had gotten exactly what I had come for.

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