I Know a Guy

Hi Smokey.

Surprise surprise, there’s a backstory to today’s post. Almost twenty years ago, I was accepted to present a paper at a somewhat significant technical conference. I won’t bore you with the details. Since this was my first time presenting at this level, the conference organizers assigned a “shepherd” to me. This man reviewed my presentation and helped me focus on the important issues so that I could better deal with the time constraint. The conference was in Vancouver, BC, and when I arrived, I took my shepherd to dinner as a thank you. He is a wine connoisseur, and when he noticed a favorite, albeit hard to get wine on the menu, we indulged – yes, I skipped the Canadian beer I was looking forward to.

Several years ago, my boss was going to Vancouver for an important meeting and wanted to treat his boss to a nice dinner. I told him the story and he asked me for the restaurant name and the name of the wine. I contacted my shepherd and was able to provide both pieces of information. My boss laughed at the idea of getting a restaurant and wine recommendation from me – a fast-food and beer guy. When he returned, he thanked me for both.

My point isn’t about food or wine. My point is about the importance of a face-to-face meetings such as the conference I attended, given that there will be very few of them in 2020. Many of these large conferences were already struggling with companies that are trying to reduce education and travel expenses and a generation that seems to feel all answers can be found on-line. I will always appreciate the fact that my boss saw value in my attending these conferences and understood the intangible benefits that came from making contacts and interacting with my industry peers.

Of course, the technical bits I learned twenty years ago are mostly obsolete and of very little value to me in retirement. However, the experience of participating taught me many lessons of lasting value. In addition, the contacts and friendships I made over the years are, as the credit card ad used to say, priceless. I met some of my best friends at industry meetings and conferences. The list is long and the people on it range from vendors to peers to speakers I was impressed with and to people I met at the bar after the conference sessions were over – today, they are all friends.

I looked forward to meeting these people at subsequent industry events, I remain in contact with many of them, and I may well attend one of these events in the future, just to reconnect with some of my friends. More important – for my employer – these were people I knew I could turn to for advice. Advice on what products to buy, what techniques to learn, and what emerging technologies were worth my time. They also served as a sounding board to whom I could describe a problem and the approaches I was considering. They helped me make the right decisions.

How we (i.e. the world) conducts business is certain to change in the wake of the Corona virus. How we learn, how we interact and certainly how we travel will be changed for years, if not forever. The likely transition from real to virtual events will be charted and hyped and will launch new businesses. It will also be a loss that data scientists will never understand.

Fortunately, for me, the virus waited until I had retired.


79 comments

  1. Im with Maddie. Ispent a large part of my Sunday that way. 😉 The face a of human everything is changing but not in the slow, metamorphosis way. It feels more like a mutation. I remember conferences, education allowances, company parties. Thing of the past. 😕

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I read this post with interest and a head that kept nodding in agreement. Back in my corporate days, I attended many HR conferences, shaking hands with people from across the country, sharing dinner with them, and using the information I learned as issues arose. I even went to a MG conference this past February that was amazing. Now, everything is Zoom this and Zoom that, and I know it is going to keep going in that direction for all the reasons you mentioned. We’ve gone from a life of ‘living’ to a ‘sterile’ existence. The young folks will never know what they missed. Maddie is going to need her cot this week as it heats up. :-)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I was telling the young people that worked for me how important it was to make real live human contacts. I never had much luck. I even made one guy submit receipts proving that he bought someone a beer. They don’t know what they’re missing, but it isn’t all the pandemic’s fault.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. All travel has been denied in my husband’s office as well. He’s missing the social interaction during visits to his clients as well. Doing a site inspection via Zoom just doesn’t cut it.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. An interesting story, Dan. And something to think about now that the pandemic has put many of us in a world where the ‘new norm’ feels quite alien. Yet Nature around us is not only going along smoothly, it is improving without us.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Your animals have the right idea: relax, relax, relax! I worry for the future. I don’t think the younger generations understand the idea of nuances and body language. So much of a conversation is non-verbal. They have no idea what will be lost and they are too tethered to technology to care.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Technology can never replace human contact, but it will overtake most of it. The younger generation and future generations are getting shortchanged, and what a huge loss to them.

    Maddie will be making good use of her cot this week Dan. Temps are going up! MiMi and MuMu are silent communicators. A pic says it all.

    But I have to say, “Smokey” creeped me out! Discount the tail, and he looks like a sewer rat! Ewwwww. I know he’s a rodent, but in other shots you’ve taken of the various Smokeys they always look so darn cute!

    But the bunny is precious!
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, I’m sorry for the creepy Smokey picture. He’s the same one as before. MiMi and MuMu have their respective sun spots. They like to be brushed, but when they’re done with us, they let us know.

      Maddie has been enjoying her cot in the am with The Editor and in the pm with me. I think she might be spoiled.

      As for the lack of face-to-face, I think a lot of this next generation prefers it that way. It’s their loss, but who am I to say.

      I hope you have a great week, Ginger.

      Like

  7. Who would ever have guessed we’d all be craving human interaction to this extent?! … even for someone like me who dreaded these meet-and-greets at conferences. The older I get, the more I appreciate the importance of making meaningful human connections.

    Little Mu-Mu might not want to be disturbed, but those little feet peeking out from under the curtain is an enticing invitation 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I confess, I grab those feet whenever I see them. How could you not?

      Our company was small, so I didn’t have other people who did what I did to interact with. I don’t miss the company official functions, but I miss these.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s really great that you’ve managed to keep in contact with some people from events, Dan.
    I had forgotten the beautiful detailed shapes of tiny honeysuckle blossoms. Those are so lovely and abundant! I enjoyed seeing the furry crew — particularly MuMu’s spotty foot. =^-^= Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Teagan. I ended up being closer to those people than I was to my coworkers. It’s funny what you miss and what you don’t miss and what you don’t miss at all 🙂

      The honeysuckle always has to be trimmed, but we wait until it’s done blooming.

      MuMu feet are her to resist 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. There are a few positive things about the online conference format. For example, the sessions are usually available for playback. Some traditional conferences record their sessions, though a keynote or a learning session in ;arge hall, doesn’t usually translate well to a laptop screen.

    The Zoom, Skype, WebEx…sessions are born for mobile devices.

    Though I agree with your post that there are experiences of the physical conference that are irreplaceable: dinners, new baseball parks, exploring new cities, etc.

    We all know that the single-most important factor in choosing a vendor is the quality of the chocolate at their booth in a conference exhibit hall.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha – the vendors at the AIIM Conference would sponsor a happy hour in the vendor area. Then they would have snacks at their booths. Good vendors 🙂

      I liked development conferences where people would drift into small groups and share stories about how they used technologies. I always came home from those events full of ideas. Of course, my coworkers would squelch that pretty quickly.

      Like

  10. It seems Corona is mild compared to everything taking place right now. Things have definitely changed in the world, but not for the better. I’m with you, I’m glad everything waited till I retired. I can’t imagine what the majority of families have and are going through at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. There are a few pluses to doing some interactions virtually–Zoom meetings, for example, are often more focused and shorter than their in-person equivalents–but on the whole I think we lose a lot by this forced separation. It is a lot easier to collaborate with someone when you actually know them and building up a level of trust with someone is a lengthy process, done best in person, that pays dividends when you are in a crunch and need to ask for help. As you know, in my past job I did a fair amount of overseas travel on behalf of the US government. Our physical presence at international meetings in Europe was a physical demonstration of the commitment of our country to European security and it was my sense that our Allies really appreciated that. In defense of Zoom and other similar vehicles, I have to say that it is a whole lot better than talking on the telephone in a conference call. At least you can see the faces of the other participants and view together PowerPoint presentations and such when screens are shared. I am trying to keep an open mind about this issue–I remember how skeptical I was about e-ticketing at first when my first trip with an e-ticket vice a paper one was to Russia, but now am fully comfortable with it. I used to do almost all my banking in person, but have grown accustomed to direct deposit and paying bills on-line. I think that the best scenario would be some kind of hybrid system that recognizes that benefits of in-person interaction, but has the flexibility of teleworking for some of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think people are probably getting better with virtual meetings, which might be a plus. Before I retired, the only good virtual meetings I ever had were with technology workers. Then again, I sat through a lot of horrible in-person meetings, too.

      You make a very good point about building trust. When I was on the AIIM Board, that took new members at least one meeting & dinner and I think the dinner is what helped the most.

      Like

  12. Human contact, and those you could contact for help…..that made my job so very easy. And was one of the plusses of going to those conventions–to reconnect and reinforce those ties. So not the same now. Oh, the birds have moved onto soccer! Two of my kids played soccer in high school–I do love that sport. Mama bunny….is pretty big, isn’t she?! Your kids are so cute. Maddie looks adorable conked out on the porch. She really knows how to relax. Have a great week, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The birds aren’t impressed with soccer. I think they prefer baseball, but we need some kids spilling sunflower seeds out there. I think that might happen this week.

      There were so many pluses to those conferences, but I’m not sure the younger professionals see that. Oh well, not my problem 😏

      Liked by 1 person

  13. We got a new project in April and the client requested for a face-to-face meeting in his office. I have never been more uncomfortable at a meeting. I had my mask on but it didn’t make me feel better. The coronavirus has changed the world in ways we never imagined. No shaking hands, no grouping, no churches. We watch sermons on TV now. I used to despise that. The TV would be off on Sabbath. I hate TV.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I worked in the medical field for over 22 years. I was a phlebotomist/ma and patient contact was obviously necessary. I am sort of glad I “work” from home now because if I had to mask on top of all the other PPE we had to wear, I would be miserable. I feel for all the healthcare workers going through this right now. We are fine going to virtual church until this mess is over. I will not go to church wearing a mask!!
    I love that you have a warm cot and a cool cot for Maddie, what a spoiled baby she is…just like our adorable fur babies. LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hey, Dan. Great post. It reminded me of my days as a mid-level manager. I had a lot of contacts met in exactly those situations and it was not unusual to say “I know a guy…” and get some help or advice when needed. I just hope the Zoom meetings are better than in-office meetings which I always thought wasted more time than the problems they were meant to resolve. From the pictures, it looks like you are still stocked up on Corona. Good thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I used to enjoy regular statewide management meetings, which became less and less frequent, and now seem to be reserved for higher level managers. I miss the training, but also the after conference get-togethers with peers/friends from in and out of the region. There really is nothing like face-to-face commiserating.

    Even after the corona virus has left this place, I see less in-person meetings and travel and more time on Zoom or whatever is the platform of the day, due to convenience and time-saving. Then again, it might be a very good alternative when meetings fall on a bad weather winter day.

    Looks like all of the kids have been soaking up the summer sun and enjoying some sitting time with their dad. Cheers!

    Like

    1. The after conference contact was the best. That’s when friendships were forged. I know virtual will/has take/taken root, and sometimes, it sill be a good alternative. I’m just glad I escaped.

      Like

  17. Super post, Dan. It brought back memories of conferences attended and where I was a speaker. All were good for learning and contacts. In my later working years, I had the good fortune to be married (and still am) to a person who was also a marketing guru at a major winery. When I had important people to take to dinner I would grab the wine menu and shoot her a photo of the probable pages. I would then get a text with two suggestions. One white, one red. Never missed. If I was not known for my business acumen, I certainly nailed the wine genius position. It is great news that these folks are still friends.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. A backstory? What a surprise…not. :-) It’s not just in business that we need the personal connections, but in families and friends and churches and so on. Right now it’s much more difficult to cultivate the strands that hold us together. I’ve been sending postcards and cards to friends and family, thus doing my bit to also support the staggering postal service. FaceTime or even just a phone call rather than a text is good, too. I’ve had coffee/tea with a friend or two via FaceTime and it’s quite nice.

    We had a dogwood tree in the front yard of our house in Ohio. I miss that and I miss the lilacs both there and in Illinois. Of course, we didn’t have cactus and their flowers, so it’s a trade-off. Your honeysuckle is lovely, but I do wonder, do you just recycle a few photos of Maddie in her let-sleeping-dogs-lie pose? :-)

    Welcome to a new week!

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, Janet, it doesn’t much matter how we met people, it takes extra effort to stay in touch with them today. We’re doing our best to keep things moving in the right direction.

      all the blooming things are “as they happen” and Maddie’s lazy pics are fresh daily :-)

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I had a love hate relationship with industry conferences. As an introvert, it was painful to be in a large crowd where, it seemed, everyone knew everyone else… except me. On the other hand, when I went with a colleague (hopefully one who knew others or was better at mingling), I really enjoyed the interactions and connections we made. Pretty soon, I became one of those in the room that knew other people. I really love that the conference organizers assigned a “shepherd” to you. Very, very smart. Not only did it help you hone your talk, but it assured that the other conference goers would get a useful, interesting presentation from you. That he knew wine was a definite bonus!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was so grateful to have him as a “shepherd.” When I got the notification that my presentation had been accepted, the email simply said “your shepherd will contact you soon.” I had no idea what they meant. He was a conference regular. He had organized panel discussions, given presentations and conducted training. He knew what the audience would be looking for and he even had a good idea what kind of questions I would receive.

      The feelings you described at the beginning of your comment are the ones I had at our company social events. Being in charge of IT, I didn’t interact much with our members, our Board and even less with our customers. I made a few friends over time among those groups, and I would definitely seek them out.

      Like

  20. I can’t even put a price on how much I learned from the industry conferences I was sent to and for the semi annual management conferences gathering all of us together from across this country, but also our counter parts from across the world. Just not the same doing it remotely. You get to know people as people and not as names. The resources it created for my career was incredible. As you, I’m glad this distancing didn’t happen in the middle of my career, but after retirement.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Although our lives are changed forever by the pandemic, I don’t think the world has learned as much as it believes it has. We’re a stubborn selfish species under all the glitter, and we will always go for what we want rather than what we need. Conferences will emerge again and people will ignore the social distancing.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Hi Dan – so true … we really do need to meet and see the person … to understand them – excellent post and love the story. I too am glad I’m where I’m at in life … take care – Hilary

    Like

  23. Excellent post, Dan. You have hit on a major problem, as nothing can fully replace the work and relationships that happen when people are together. Zoom will never pick up the tiny subtleties that occur when ‘in person’. Yes, thank goodness you retired before the virus.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I will be quite honest with you and say that I much prefer everything being on-line. I feel no need to interact physically at events and find it wastes a lot of my time which is better spent doing all the many things I need to get done in a day. Working from home has saved me two hours of commuting every day for which I am very grateful. I think our lives are to busy now to fit in the things that make socialising fun. The whole time I am worry about all the emails and work that is stacking up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Working at home and not missing that commute, I can totally understand.

      I used to get so many emails, that I didn’t mind getting away for that. I set up a rule to forward a few people’s email to my gmail account and I let the rest fade away. Many of them were questions that people could look up for themselves, but asking me was easier.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. It is wild to think people cannot travel for business seminars and the like right now until who knows when. I thought about this when I heard on NPR this morning, they want people quarantined upon arrival. I thought HOW can they ensure that? Who would possibly know?
    I won’t see Marian this summer :( I always see Marian in the summer. There’s no con, there’s no Marian. Sad.

    Liked by 1 person

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