There are all kinds of reasons to go to conferences. The usual reason is education. That is certainly true. Education is becoming increasingly easier to find these days. There are events—such as D&WC’s Designer & Workroom Conference—online chat rooms, webinars, DVDs, chapter meetings, and calling your buddy across town education. What may have started as a trickle has turned into a flood. Books, classes, Internet and more all mean that, by cracky, if you’re not educated in this industry it’s your own dang fault.
So, why pick up your suitcase and go to an event? Why buy that plane ticket and that hotel room and go? I’m about to tell you why.
‘COME WITH US’
I like picture-frame moments; you might remember that about me. I saw one in Springfield, MA, in September at the Eastern Designer & Workroom Conference. In one picture filled with acceptance, I saw it . . . the reason to go.
Walking out of the hotel into a drizzly night, a group of people headed off to fellowship. It involved eating and laughing and relating. It didn’t matter that their feet hurt from a long day in front of a class teaching. Or standing for hours minding an exhibit booth. A full dozen of us were together to enjoy a thing accomplished, a job well done. These were veterans—some award-winning veterans. An author, a D&WC cover girl, seminar instructors . . . the type of people that those new to the industry want to be some day.
As we trudged forward, a greenhorn passed by. The kind of greenhorn, or newbie, who would love to be part of the group, but would never dream of inserting herself. “Have you eaten? Come with us,” someone called after her. “Yes, come with us!” echoed the others.
“I was just going to go to my room . . .”
“No, you must come with us!”
So she did. We enveloped her. We included her, now we know her. She can call us now.
SOMETHING TO OFFER
I saw this happening all over the conference. Instructors mingling with attendees. Huddled together here and there. Instructors validating attendees. You see, there’s a little thing that this crop of instructors know: We’re not the only experts in the room. Everybody has something to offer.
I sat around a table of likeminded people—I like to call them curtainladies—before catching a cab. “I learned more at this conference than any other I have attended,” I heard one of them say.
You see, she could learn not only in the classes, but she could learn in the exhibit hall, in the hotel lobby, on her way to the conference center. She could learn over a worktable in the Working Workroom. She had the freedom to share with others what she knew and to be respected for her contribution.
The magic in Springfield was this: Inclusion. Neck hugs are about inclusion. And acceptance. Smiles are about acceptance. And respect. “How would you do this?” is about respect. And friendship. “Here’s my card, call me,” is about friendship. And it’s all worth getting on a plane for.
(The next D&WC Designer & Workroom Conference is scheduled for March 12 to 14, 2009, at the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center, Jacksonville, FL, visit www.dwconference.com.)
Mary Ann Plumlee is the CEO and founder of Workroom Association of America LLC , a trade association dedicated specifically to the betterment of the workroom industry. Visit www.workroomassociation.com to learn more.