I would enjoy my job more if it weren’t for people, said the meeting professional.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t joking. He didn’t like dealing with people, especially disgruntled conference stakeholders.
As conference organizers, we can easily fall into today’s culture of cynicism. It’s difficult to be sincere when we are constantly bombarded with an outrage culture. Any of our attendees can turn to social media to announce their smallest irritation with our event.
Kindness Versus Pessimism
Instead of fostering and practicing conference kindness, we embrace a stoic armor of rightness, pessimism and skepticism. We see kindness as a dangerous crack in our conference confidence.
Yet, deep inside we long for kindness. Kindness towards ourselves. Kindness towards others. Grace and forgiveness for small mistakes.
Cultivating a culture of conference kindness and sincerity is a difficult dance. It becomes a polarizing power that forces us to consider our own thinking and hope.
Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.
~ Maria Popova.
Our Unease With Conference Disappointment
Too often we as conference organizers have spent so much of our energy planning and producing our events, that when attendees find fault with it, we become despondent.
We then feel like giving up. We resign internally as our default mechanism of self-protection. We embrace cynicism.
Then we have no motivation to apply ourselves towards making things better.
In order to survive and thrive, we need the right amount of internal self talk laced with hope. We have to move beyond what’s not working and embody perseverance, creativity and grace.
As conference organizers, we have to realize that sometimes our attendees are greatly disappointed in the experience. And sometimes they say horrible things.
We have to take their words and actions in stride and learn from them. Not let them become our stopping places for failure.
We have to remember that our role is to lift people up, not lower them down.
Inviting Conference Heaven Now
Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.
~ Jack Kerouac.
Yes, kindness seems foreign and an abstract aspiration. Yet it is a luxury we cannot afford to avoid.
Thus, kindness has become our forbidden pleasure argues Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor.
We have to face the fact that every conference stakeholder cringes when they encounter a lack of kindness. Nothing outrages our conference stakeholders more than people being unkind to them.
So we have to embrace, practice and foster kindness towards one another. We have to advance kind acts as a conference culture. We have to stop cheating our conference teams of a wonderful reward.
We need to nourish our conference team’s natural benevolence. That starts with embracing vulnerability from which kindness springs.
It is not that real kindness requires people to be selfless. It is rather that real kindness changes people in the doing of it, often in unpredictable ways. …It is a risk precisely because it mingles our needs and desires with the needs and desires of others…Kindness is a way of knowing people beyond our understanding of them. ~ Phillips and Taylor
We can build conference cultures that nurture rather than corrupt our natural kindness. How you ask? By learning to feel comfortable with the uncomfortable risks of making ourselves vulnerable enough to be kind as Phillips and Taylor argue.
Let’s not regret our conferences failures of kindness. Like when another human is in front of us, suffering and we respond sensibly and mildly. Instead let’s manifest acts of conference kindness all day long.
But kindness, it turns out, is hard—it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and extends to include…well everything. ~ George Saunders, “The Power Of Kindness.”
With hat tips to Phillips and Taylor and Maria Popova.
What are some simple ways we can practice kindness at our conferences? How can we encourage attendees to also embrace a conference culture of kindness?
We committed to a “We want to say ‘yes’ attitude.” We shared this with staff, volunteers and facility staff. Then whenever possible, we tried to figure out a way to say ‘yes’ to a request, a comment for improvement, etc. Sometimes it wasn’t possible to accommodate the request, but we went with something like – “Yes, you have made a very good point. We will try to see if we can make that a change for the future. or “Yes, I understand how frustrating it is not to be able to find the room. Let me walk you to it.” and sometimes…we were just able to say “yes” to the delight of the attendees.
Jeff Hurt says
I love this mindshift: committed to a a we want to say yes attitude. Brilliant. Thanks for sharing that with us and for reading too.