Allow me a moment to rail (slightly) against some GAM participants. I was waiting for the doors to open to the general session and I noticed (without really noticing, as you will when you aren't really paying attention but something strikes you later on) the group of people standing/sitting/lounging outside the hall looking down at their cellphones.
Now, don't worry; this is not intended to be an old man rant about technology and these kids today and how things aren't as perfect as they were in the good old days. Such a sight is a quite common occurrence in this day and age. And when you have a gathering of any leadership group - not just internal audit – you can fully expect that these individuals have a lot going on and there is definitely a pressing need to keep up with what is going on in their own worlds.
I sat down and joined the cellular mob, taking a quick glance at my email. In short order, I became engrossed when I noticed something from the geyser gazer listserve, hit the link, and watched the minor eruption of an unnamed geyser that had not gone off for a couple of years.
About then, some friends came up and began a conversation. I was a slightly perturbed because they had interrupted my viewing of the second video that was attached. But I pulled away and became part of the socialization.
I went to get more coffee and returned to the hall. And that is when I truly noticed the large herd hunched over their phones.
And that is the point when I realized that the new habits – the actions that so many of us now accept as normal – were intruding on one of the primary benefits of any conference. I reached back into the slowly dying embers of my memory and recalled the pre-cell days. At that time, when everyone was just hanging around, they'd start talking.
Ah, yes – the concept of networking.
Now that is not to say that significant networking is not occurring. The roar in the Exhibit Hall is evidence of that. But there is no doubt that our new approaches to technology have provided us a new crutch to be used in the battle of avoiding others.
You know what? Maybe I am being that old man. I'm not going to say that social media and cell phones are the end of the world. But it is important to remember that they often intrude on what we are really trying to achieve. Conferences are about learning, but they are also about learning from others. And it is about building contacts and relationships that will help support us in the future.
Next conference (or tomorrow morning if you are here in Orlando), look up and just say howdy to the person next to you. (Unless it's me, because I'm probably watching a darned important geyser video.)