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Technology Conferences – We Need Each Other


Article from ADMIN 67/2022
Technology conferences allow us to exchange ideas, discuss solutions, learn new things, and geek out. Most of all, they give us that human connection we can't get in video chats or from email and text messages.

I think the primary thing that the pandemic has taught us, if nothing else, is that we miss each other. We miss gathering. We miss discussing. We miss learning. And we miss clinking glasses. Technology conferences gave us technonerds everything we could want in the latest in technology: the learning opportunities, the gathering of like minds, the toasting with beer glasses, and the geeking out over someone in a Storm Trooper costume or a modified DeLorean. Tech conferences gave us what we need most: each other.

As a non-monetized sideline, I perform weddings. I've only done a few, but I'd love to do more. I customize the wedding for each couple. I make them personal, and the focus is 100 percent on the two people getting married. That's why, in part, I've never been able to deliver the message I feel describes our need for each other. The story is short, simple, and beautiful.

Whether you believe that an all-powerful God drew us out of the earth or that lighting struck a pool of chemicals some half billion years ago, the first gift given to us was life itself, and the second gift was that of each other. Since those first two one-celled organisms huddled together in the darkness, we have needed each other.

Technology conferences satisfy our need to gather. Zoom calls and virtual meetings just don't have the same effect on our psyches. Sure, we can see each others' faces, we can discuss business, we can share lunches, and we can cover a multitude of topics, but when we look around the room, we are still alone. We all know that isolation isn't healthy, but during a pandemic the opposite, at least physically, is true.

I need to speak directly to a person in a booth. I need to pick and choose my swag. I need to tell my favorite joke when I have the opportunity to introduce a speaker. I need to covet the T-shirt I didn't get. I need to ask questions during a breakout session. I need to sit down uncomfortably at a table full of strangers at lunch time and wait for an opening in the ongoing conversation to satisfy my need to interact with other humans. I'm one of those people who wants to know where everyone is from, what you do, and what your hobbies are. I don't know why. I either find myself being terribly shy and withdrawn or so outgoing that I become the glue of a random group. It's weird, but I must interact.

I have worked from home for so long that my internal filter and whatever boundaries are supposed to exist have eroded away along with some of my manners. I seem to speak almost in chat style now. No, I don't say, "LOL," but my conversational style and tone are instant messaging-esque. I'm sure you understand that statement, having worked remotely yourself.

I like working from home. I really do. I always hated going into an office. I prefer solitary time when I work so that I can accomplish my tasks without interruption or distraction. As you all know, people in an office can be very distracting. There's always an off-topic discussion to focus on, a "Where's lunch today?" question, or some object being tossed between two or more coworkers. I like the interaction, but I also don't want to work an extra two or three hours a day to make up for my lack of productivity because of it.

Technology conferences are an escape from the grind. They give us a chance to connect with people who aren't our coworkers. They provide an outlet for the discussions we often don't get to have in our own jobs. We can ponder the "what ifs" and hypothetical situations together. We can also learn from each other. "Hey, how do you deal with X?" is always a good conversation starter. Maybe it's just me, but I've learned almost as much through lunch table discussions as I have from the breakout sessions. That one-to-one interaction is far more valuable than the cost of the conference. I always return to my cubicle or my home office energized and ready to try new things, improve old things, or interact with my newfound friends.

We need each other. It's in our genetic makeup. We need technology conferences. The predictions of conferences becoming extinct are exaggerated. As long as there are technology jobs, there will be a need for tech conferences. We need each other.

Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor

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