In case you, like I, happened to miss this ode to conferences by The New Yorker contributor George Meyer when it was first published a few years ago, you must, must, bask in the glories of someone who waxes poetic about the absolute joys of meetings. A snippet that will get you hooked:
SEMINARS sell out fast. And why shouldn’t they? They are pure catnip for the senses. One arrives late. Outside is the abandoned registration table with its fluttering clipboards, its orphan nametags. But inside, inside! You slip into a plush boudoir of ideas. The air is like opium, the sound system rich and buttery, the seat cushions almost obscenely supple. Loll back and sigh, for you are in the arms of a seminar.
He's pretty fond of roundtables too, and panels, whose "thrills are dizzying, electric, a filthy mule kick to the greedy core of desire." I'm guessing he was not among those polled for this survey who thought panels were outdated, ego-driven, longwinded affairs!
But he did leave out a few items. So I'll pick up his purple pen and wax a tad poetic myself...
GENERAL SESSIONS, where the muddled crowd seep down the aisles to envelop themselves in a vast group mind from their matrix of cushy seats. The font of wisdom fills, fills, until it overflows in a bracing stream from stage to seats. Tips, trends, updates ... we are awash, drowning in data as it sloshes about our nicely shined special conference-going shoes. The general session is the sorcerer, and we are his apprentice, drifting off to dreams of power and glory as the tide rises ever higher and we awaken to realize that the little bits of knowledge we are absorbing perhaps need to be thought through before we pick up those buckets and go to work. But the glimpses of glory the general session flings our way are dizzying indeed, and, humbled yet inspired, we leave more determined than ever to learn our craft!
BREAKOUTS, yes those conference workhorses know how to pull their freight, but there's so much more to them than the laptop that swells with PowerPoint-laden importance or the laser pointer of truth. The breakout's true beauty shines when she draws us in small groups to her divine rounds. The Magic Markers! The flipcharts! The bell has rung, it's recess time, and we cheep and chatter as we bounce ideas back and forth across the table. Look Ma, no hands! She had me at hello.
And then there's the disco queen, the RECEPTION, dripping with mirrored balls and shrimp-on-a-stick. She shimmies, she sways, she catches you in her rhythmic momentum until you swing around the room, dropping business cards like breadcrumbs to help you find your way back to reality, should you ever want to leave that pulsing networking paradise. Ethereal and ephemeral, the reception can only be touched, never held. You awaken the next morning with a fuzzy head, sore feet, and a long list of contacts to follow up with, but never mind—she may have been a dream, but oh, what a dream.
Bonus: Here's the best part of one of the best films ever made and my inspiration for the general session rhapsody above: