The last big conference I attended in person was in 2019 – Jon and I had been invited to the Embarc Conference by Career Arc. 2019 had been a big year for #HRSocialHour, lots of travel and by the time Embarc came around, I was tired. It was a great conference, and a great way to end that season. And while 2020 turned conferencing on its ear, it also gave us a different way of connecting: virtually.
Now, I have long been a fan of connecting online. If you are here, you know that there would likely be no #HRSocialHour #TwitterChat or podcast without social media. The pandemic really pushed more people to meet virtually, virtual coffee dates and happy hours, Twitter chats that became movie watch chats. And because of this, I have friendships that have grown that otherwise might not have because we would wait for that opportunity to come in person. But the opportunities to meet friends from outside the US in person would be few and far between. Fortunately, folks like Nicky Hoyland also took advantage of this “new” opportunity to connect in ways that actually have existed for a few years, but we didn’t really think to use at this scale.
Virtually meeting Nicky & interviewing her for the podcast, and various coffee/wine dates have led to me being able to count her among my friends. And we’ve been hoping an opportunity to meet in person would arise. So when she offered me a ticket to Unleash, I jumped at the opportunity. Getting back to in-person conferences AND I get to hang out with Nicky Hoyland??? Yes, please!
As I arrived at the conference, I headed to the breakfast and immediately fell into the old habits of finding someone to chat with: David from Tech Talks. Obviously, it’s always awesome to chat with with another podcaster. Throughout the conference, I enjoyed running into so many old and new friends, hugs and handshakes, masked & unmasked.
But it was definitely a challenge! I am not in conference shape. I tweeted, took notes and was in need of a break after each session. So I gave myself the grace to take a break — fortunately, everything was at the MGM so it wasn’t hard to run back to my room for a quiet break from the noise. It really reminded me that the last 2 years have given us permission to not hustle 24-7 and that includes at conferences!
I did learn a lot during the 2 day event and I plan to share more through some blog posts based on the Twitter threads (be sure to check out #UNLEASHAmerica 🧵).
As this is, hopefully, a return to more in-person events, this is something I hope to remember for both in-person and virtual events: take breaks and take time to connect!