26 August 2008

ASAE AM Conversation 4: The Lunchtable Twilight Zone

As you'll note if you read Confessions of a Justified Meeting Attendee, I mostly avoided the ASAE Exhibit Hall. However, one day, I made the mistake of having lunch. No it wasn't the food - I mean, it was typical conference food, but it was edible. And I wasn't assaulted by exhibitors pushing troll bobble heads or anything.

But I had two of the strangest conversations of the entire meeting in the space of 10 minutes.

And I hang out with the YAPstars, so my standards for what constitutes a strange conversation are pretty forgiving.

After collecting my pasta and Diet Coke, I sat down at a table occupied by a couple health care association execs. Now, for those of you who didn't see me, I was rockin' the badge flare: CAE pin, Future Leaders pin, Decision To pin, ASAE Volunteer pin, and about a mile of badge ribbons, including "I Wiki" and "I Blog." So these execs proceeded to tell me that their organizations had decided that they weren't going to do online education because they "believe in face-to-face networking." First of all, I hadn't said anything more than, "May I join you?" and "I'm Elizabeth. And you are?" But whatever. What I don't understand is why it has to be one or the other. Why can't you have some face to face events for people who like that, can afford it, and can get time away from their other responsibilities, supplemented by some online events for people who prefer that method of learning and interacting? I think it's pretty unlikely that these execs had done a survey of their entire universe of constituents (because non-members take advantage of our educational programs, too), gotten a 100% response rate, and not had a single person indicate any interest in virtual events. But I could be wrong. I also don't understand what it was about my very existence that caused them to attack the idea of online ed so energetically, but maybe I put out a subtle pro-virtual education vibe.

But the really weird conversation happened about 5 minutes later.

A prominent speaker and ASAE meeting perennial joined us next. Without even introducing himself (because of course I would know who he was) or asking my name (probably because he didn't consider it important), he asked, "Are you attending my session tomorrow?"

"That depends - when is it?"

"8:30 am."

"Sorry, no, I'll be presenting on wikis in the Social Media Lab then."

"Oh, you mean that Facebook stuff."

"Well, the Social Media Lab has had sessions on a variety of technologies - blogs, Twitter, virtual worlds, social networking tools. My session is on wikis."

"I was on a conference call, and I asked if anyone had generated any business from Linkedin. Silence. Not a word. Heh-heh-heh."

"Um, that's not really the point. I'm a consultant, and I wouldn't expect someone to want to hire me just because she saw my profile on Linkedin. It's about keeping track of people you know professionally, and, increasingly, about getting work-related questions answered."

"Oh, so you can use it to launch your Amway business by annoying people you worked with 10 years ago? That's my profound thought for the day."

And then he split.

WTF?

(And keep in mind, this guy has spoken at every ASAE conference I've attended for at least the last 8 years.)

But that's not the point. The point is this: what do they have in common? Narrow vision. Thinking inside the box. Refusing to look at things differently, even if someone else does the heavy lifting for you. Lack of innovation. Lack of willingness to explore potential. Fear. Of change, of the unknown, of not being in control.


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