As I went slowly down the escalator, my heart began to race. A table came into view with rows of attendee badges perfectly lined up in alphabetical order. There was a section for attendees, vendors and speakers. I quietly walked by as my face was plastered with the largest smile I could muster even though the volunteers couldn’t see it behind my mask. I didn’t care because I was filled with joy !!
I probably didn’t look like I belonged in the conference center because I was in a t-shirt, shorts and a baseball cap. I kept walking around and waved when I made eye contact with folks. I peeked in the vendor hall and then made my way to the ballroom. I opened the doors and stepped inside. I saw rows and rows of round tables with empty chairs placed around them. I looked to the front of the room and saw the stage that was well lit with spotlights. A podium was in the middle and a colorful banner was in the background announcing the conference theme. It was heavenly !!
I took a few pictures of the room, posted them on Twitter anticipating the event’s beginning the next day. It gave me a chance to share my excitement. You see, I was the opening keynote speaker the next morning. I did what I normally do when I go to conferences by walking through the spaces and getting a feel for what everything looks like. I like to have a mental picture of the environment and get a feel of the event’s vibe. I did my best to blend in because I didn’t want to interfere with the good work happening all around me.
The next morning I got ready quickly, went to the coffee shop, and hustled to the conference ballroom. I set up my table showing my office menagerie and donned my microphone. The attendees started to roll in and take their seats at the various table. I kept getting more and more excited as the tables kept filling up. The conference had an excellent emcee who I had interacted with for a few minutes prior to everything started. He did a great intro and then I heard it.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m a music freak and a giant U2 fan !! Overhead I heard one of their many great songs, Beautiful Day, start to play as I took the stage. It was perfect. I pulled up my first slide and started with a story.
The hour I was to speak flew by as if it was a mere few minutes. The crowd was great, engaged and we laughed a ton !! Afterward, the best part of the entire day happened. I got to talk to people in person. There was a mix of greetings ranging from fistbumps to nods to full-on hugs. It was magnificent !! I am always humbled to get the chance to present and talk to my peers and encourage them in the good work they do. I didn’t realize how much I missed this form of human contact.
I was able to stay for the full first day of the conference. Throughout the day I caught up with old friends and met a ton of new folks !! I walked across the street to grab dinner at a restaurant that was filled with fellow attendees. I was invited to join a table and the night ended as fully as it had begun.
I am geeked that people are moving toward in-person events. I understand that there is still a great need to be cautious, safe and respectful of where things stand. However, we also need to move forward even in small ways. People want to see each other. THAT is the best reason to reconvene and have HR conferences.
I would be completely fulfilled to see more and more folks in the years to come. I know that each time will be a beautiful day !!