Day 1 of a social conference experience is where I meet the players—the men who will factor into my conference experience. So, meet the three players of my most recent conference experience:
Player 1: Kyle
I arrived to the conference hotel, dropped my bags in the room, and immediately went to check in and get my official conference spoils (bag, book, name badge). Check-in was super organized and smooth, but people were bunching up at the exit. I found a spot off to the side to browse through my new things, and was soon approached by a gentleman who began playfully chatting me up. A couple of minutes into our conversation, he asked, “You don’t remember me from last year?” I looked at him with a face that must have said just how certain I was we’d never met. Even though I hadn’t said anything yet, he replied with “I’m Kyle. Remember? Kyle. I work for the association.” Suddenly it sounded vaguely familiar, and I had fleeting memories of random conversations with some man at last year’s conference. “Oh yeah,” I said as I checked his ring finger (empty—score!). This is how Kyle re-entered my memory and claimed a prominent spot in this year’s conference experience.
Player 2: Douglas
Later that same day, I ran into Kyle again and we got a chance to chat. While we were talking, my phone began to ring. The screen read “call from Douglas Yardley”. I immediately thought “Wow! I haven’t heard from him since he disappeared last season”. Because I was talking to Kyle though, I had my phone send a quick text to Douglas saying that I’d call him back later. The last I’d seen Douglas was at another conference six months ago. The last I’d heard from him was a text message that read “Headed home. Will talk soon.” When Douglas sent that text six months ago I already knew, based on how our conference experience had gone, that I wouldn’t hear from him and he wouldn’t hear from me. So, even though I knew he’d be at this conference, and even though I knew there was a very low probability of us being in the same place and not speaking, the fact that his name had just appeared on the screen of my cellphone surprised me. I finished talking to Kyle and noticed that Douglas had sent a return text message: “Are you here?” I replied that I was, and a conversation ensued with details about where people would hang out later that evening. As I thought back on my times hanging out at social events with Douglas Yardley over the past year of conferences, I couldn’t decide whether or not I should go to the party he was suggesting that evening. After all, this man had already tried to make me his conference mistress—a role which I refuse to claim.
Player 3: Harlan
Yet later this day, I had a conference presentation. After my presentation ended, I was planning to attend a special reception being hosted by one of my favorite conference season players—Harlan Lenoir. Harlan is older than me, but younger than most of the conference season players who enter my arena. His professional status motivates him to work hard, but his youthfulness also makes him play hard. I came out of my session thinking I would go back to my hotel room to rest up and freshen up before going to Harlan’s session. Before I could get to the elevator, I walked right into Harlan. We greeted each other, and then he asked me where I’m working currently…and all I could think is that he should already know this information. Before our conversation could go much further, Harlan was wisked away by someone from his adoring conference public. I walked away still determined to kill some time before his session began and assuming that I’d have a chance to catch up with him later in the week.