Over the past several years at NACAC, I have written a post to try to describe it. In 2005, I wrote this post from Pittsburg. In 2006, it was in Long Beach, and I wrote this post. In 2007, we went to Tampa where I shared this entry. In 2008 we were not selected to speak and couldn't afford the trip to Ottawa, Canada, so we didn't make it. But this year, as you know, we were in Columbus.
This year NACAC was a bit different for me. I sensed a shift, viewing the conference as a new author and a speaker, no longer finding things new, exciting and different, but finding things to be as expected, routine, comfortable, good. And this is the conclusion I came to.
All of us are connecting continually online. It's the new culture -- Web 2.0 -- you and I on facebook, twitter, in blogs. And for that reason I think we lie to ourselves and say that we really know people and that we don't need to spend money or time going somewhere to meet people in the flesh. But we're wrong.
Bart and I and Mike had the chance to have lunch with one of our blog readers on Friday. K had read our blogs for a long time, had bought our book, and is my friend on facebook. We have chatted a few times via email, etc. But I had lunch with her on Friday and I looked her in the eye. I watched her expressions as she sat in my seminar and as we talked over lunch. I heard her story with a chance to ask questions and to get answers. And nothing online can compete with that.
I mentioned our time with the You Gotta Believe staff that we have been building relationships with for three years, either at conferences, in NYC, or through emails and phone calls. Immediately we could begin laughing together (because that is a big part of their ethos) but also passionately discussing issues that are important to all of us.
And we met new people that we had never known before -- people we plan to continue to relate to in the future both on a personal and on a professional basis.
One of my fears is that we will all begin to lie and say that online "relationships" and "networking" is all we need and stop attending conferences -- stop making the effort to see each other in person. I certainly hope that is not the case. Because we really do need each other, and we need real, in person conversations, to thoroughly know one another.
So while this is not as eloquent as some of my posts in the pasts, I remain passionate that NACAC and organizations like them should not give up in their attempts to get us together in the flesh. Because we need connect in every way:
mentally -- to share, to learn, and to grow -- bouncing ideas off one another -- in person, complete with facial expressions, tone of voice...
physically -- to shake hands, to hug, to pat each other on the shoulder --
emotionally -- to become connected with a deep feeling that adds to and surpasses any online connection
and spiritually, where we find likeminded people who share our live's passsion and our faith.
And NACAC provides that place. Every year, regardless of the economy, to anyone who makes it a priority.