A real live conference! In a place that’s not my living room! And with real people even, without pixels!
The time has finally come: our big reunion at VOICES London, New York, and Berlin — the annual event from Staffbase for internal communications professionals. I’m really excited, because it's my first real-world conference after more than two years of working remotely and being stuck in countless Zoom calls.
During those two years, I've developed some bad home-office habits. For example, I've put on a little extra weight. And why not? None of my colleagues could tell. Now I have to get used to the idea that people can see all of me again.
So in order to meet with you in a fully relaxed way, to exchange our experiences from the last couple of years, and to network without stress, I’ve created a to-do list for myself to avoid making any big faux pas.
And just in case you're also feeling a little unsure and anxious, I'm happy to share my list with you:
1. Wear presentable pants
Over the past two years, my collection of comfy, casual sweatpants has grown considerably. After all, being half invisible to the outside world, why bother dressing up down below? Well, those days are now over. It’s time to dig out the good pants from the back of the closet and make sure they still fit.
2. Watch your facial expressions
Behind the mask, I could make faces, utter silent messages, and mouth swear words without anyone noticing. Or at my desk at home, I could simply turn off the camera and roll my eyes, briefly tune out the conversation, or even go and get a coffee. Sometimes I might even just stare at people on my screen or check out their homes in the background.
I suppose it would be weird if I did any of these things when I’m face to face with you at VOICES, right?
So let’s all check our facial expressions and maybe re-train them in front of a mirror.
3. Remember, you're not muted
Admittedly, this will probably be the hardest step for me to take. How many times have I let my thoughts run wild in Zoom meetings while protected by the mute button?
Sometimes, I might have even briefly discussed dinner plans with my partner during a meeting. From time to time, there might have even been some relaxing music playing in the background.
So, I recommend keeping your non-verbal sounds under control.
4. Decide the intensity of physical contact
During the past two years, the physical distance we should keep from people was clearly set at a minimum of 1.5 meters.
Now that we’re able to meet again and are allowed to get closer, take the time to think beforehand and be clear with your conversation partners about how you would like to be greeted. Doing so will help you avoid awkward or even evasive gestures.
You can choose between an elbow bump, a fist bump, a handshake, a hug, or even some creative combination of those options.
5. Find a pet sitter
How proudly and often we've held our pets up to the camera (mostly against their will) over the past months. Yes, they've sometimes even been active participants in meetings because they've made themselves comfortable on our laps, our desks, or even atop warm keyboards. Sometimes, out of admiration or animal storytelling, we even forgot why we were actually meeting.
But as much as I would like to see your pets in person, bringing them to the conference and holding them up in front of other people’s faces might be a bit inappropriate.
So make sure you have good pet sitters while you’re at VOICES. You can still bring pictures!
6. Let’s respect each other
But seriously: our big joyful reunion likely remains filled with uncertainties and maybe even some nervousness and anxiety. That's why the best thing we can do is to listen to each other, observe the hygiene measures that will be available on the spot, and above all, respect the wishes of the people around you, even if you disagree.
And if you’re unsure about anything, just ask! Even if that’s the only step you take, it will be enough to make VOICES a great and unforgettable event for all of us — especially after such a long period of isolation.
In any case, I'm very much looking forward to meeting you in the coming weeks, hearing about your personal experiences, and celebrating a real sense of reconnection.
See you soon, and don't forget your pants!