The Irreverent Professor

Unvarnished realities about life, teaching, learning, and change in this wild, wild world

Archive for the tag “conference”

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I hate to do this, but we need to break up.  I need some space.  I need some time.  It’s not you.  It’s me.  We’ve just been together so long that I’ve forgotten who I am.  I’ve gotten lost in our relationship.  I’m not saying it’s forever.  I love you.  I do.  I just need to find myself.

Break-ups hurt.  But sometimes they are necessary.  So I’m breaking up…with my industry.

We’ve been together for 25 years.  Call it a midlife crisis, call it a mid-career crisis (although “mid-career” might be generous), but I need some time to think about whether I’ve done all I can with and for this industry or whether I still have something to contribute.  I feel spent, worn out.

There is a wonderful supplier who contributes “Has Been” ribbons to wear on conference badges.  I always look for them and wear one when I can find them.  I wear it as a joke, but beneath that joke is a serious concern.  Am I a “has been?”

I have been a member of a variety of professional associations.  I’ve served on committees, I’ve chaired committees, I’ve done research, I’ve contributed to the education, I’ve attended the conferences, I’ve been given awards I value greatly.  And I’ve loved it.  Until recently.  And recently, I’ve begun to think “been there, done that” a lot.

A "red carpet" shot of my husband and I at a Professional Achievement Award Dinner

A “red carpet” shot of my husband and I at a Professional Achievement Award Dinner

I’m seeing the same issues come around for about the third time since I joined the industry at the still-wet-behind-the-ears age of 23.  And I’m seeing many of the issues come and go again without resolution or significant progress.  It’s a little depressing.  I’m a huge advocate of “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”  And that’s the thing–I feel like I’m part of the problem because I don’t have the energy (motivation, wherewithal?) to be part of the solution.

It is difficult to figure things out with so much “noise” around, so this year I’m not renewing my association memberships or my magazine subscriptions (apologies to my journalist/editor friends who read my blog!), I’ve taken many of the industry people off my social media lists and tried to populate my Twitter account with more variety, and I’m not planning to attend conventions (this is  a big deal since my industry is meeting and event management).

What I am doing, though, is taking the opportunities that come my way–but ONLY the ones I really want to do.  The ones that allow me to grow and explore, professionally or personally: the opportunity to do presentations on fresh topics, to combine business with family time, to speak to groups that I haven’t spoken to before, to teach a class on a subject I’ve never taught.

Gaping Void always knows just the right thing to say

Gaping Void always knows just the right thing to say–I feel like I’ve gotten stuck on the jungle gym. I’ve got to get off and rest a bit before I jump back on.

Some people think I’m crazy (they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong).  I’ve spent 25 years networking and building a reputation in this industry.  They say now is not the time to say, “Meh, not sure it’s for me.”  A wise friend told me I just need to find a new way to do what I’ve been doing.  Freshen it up but don’t lose momentum.  And that may be exactly what I do.

But for now, I need to step away from the noise.  Get quiet.  Spend some time listening to the voices in my head (see: crazy comment) and in my heart.  This scares me (not the voices – they are my friends).  It scares me to get off the train.  I’m scared if I stop, I’ll never get started again.  I’m scared I’ll be forgotten.  That I really will become old news.  But I still have to take this break.

I may come back in a week, a month, a year and jump right back into what I was doing…but if I do, it will be in a reenergized, revitalized, reassured way.  Or I may do a stint as a starving artist.  Or go into a completely different field.  Or a related one.  Whatever I do, it will be the next right step for me.  As this one is right now.  No regrets.

Carpe diem.

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What Your Professors Haven’t Told You (But Should)

Part of the joy of irreverence–and being a professor–is being able to tell college students what they need to know.  And part of what they need to know is that professors don’t know it all. (collective gasp!)  In some case, what was true when they were the age of a college student is totally out date and no longer true.  For example, I was told as a college graduate (many moons ago) that I had to buy a navy blue or black suit with a white blouse or (if I wanted to be edgy) a gray striped suit…just like the IBM folks wore.  I bought pink corduroy (hey, it was fashionable in the 80’s…ok, probably not, but this isn’t a fashion blog).

Next week, I’m doing a presentation for college students at the Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress (MPI-WEC) called “What Your Professors Haven’t Told You, but Should.”  I’ve done a similar presentation for a couple of other student groups–IMEX America in Fall 2012 and most recently, at the Korea MICE Expo IMEX-MPI-MCI Future Leaders Forum in Seoul in June 2013.  Interestingly, there seemed to be absolutely no cultural barrier to the message in Korea and the students and recent college graduates in Seoul “got it” just as the (mostly) American students in Las Vegas did.  Interesting.

Some recent college graduates in Seoul who attended my presentation at the IMEX-MCI-MPI Future Leaders Forum

Some recent college graduates in Seoul who attended my presentation at the IMEX-MCI-MPI Future Leaders Forum

I love-love-love speaking to students–college students, high school students, recent college grads, graduate students.  Anyone open to a message about transition and change.  Part of the challenge with students is that (believe it or not), they are accustomed to pretty much believing what they hear.  Professor = authority figure.  Ergo, what the professor says must be true.  Not.  It’s not that I believe professors set out to tell students untruths.  I think professors really believe what they say.  I, on the other, think most of it is hooey.

Some of the bits of wisdom (read: opinion) I am going to share at this upcoming presentation include gems such as:

  • Grades don’t matter
  • You can’t learn it in a classroom
  • You already have a brand
  • Tattoos, nose rings, and pink hair are ok–even in an interview
  • Ban the black suit

There’s a lot more to each of these.  Hope you’ll be at MPI-WEC to hear about it.  And as a bonus, my buddy Professor Carol Krugman will be joining me to give her opinions (some of which differ from mine–shock).  If not, I’ll post the slides on SlideShare later.

Carpe irreverence.

P.S. You may be one of the lucky students who has an awesome professor who really does tell it like it is.  Or you may be the professor who does.  If so, kudos to you!  I know some of you are out there and I’m proud to call some of you “friends.”  🙂

A Little Gratitude Goes a Long Way

I just got back from (brrrr…) Minneapolis where I facilitated three educational programs at the Religious Conference Managers Association (RCMA) Annual Conference, Emerge 2013.  I wasn’t sure what to expect because I’d never spoken for this particular group before.   It was a fantastic experience!  top_banner2

They (the planners of religious conferences and the supplier-partners who provide the facilities and services they need) were so engaged and participatory in the sessions (well, 2 out of 3, anyway…the session that lasted until 5:30 had a quiet audience.  I’m still not sure whether it was the topic:  “Understanding Difficult Contract Clauses” or the time or some other factor.  It happens.).  Two of the topics were legal and one was crisis management.  I know, some of you out there are going “Zzzzzzz….” but this is important stuff in the hospitality and meetings industry. (So important that I’m thinking of resurrecting my Dr. Tyra’s R.I.S.K. Review blog – what do you think?)

Anyway, I’ve been struggling a bit with my real job lately – teaching at a university – and I’ve been trying to figure out why.  I’ve always loved the challenge of “nuggetizing” information about this industry that I love (the meetings industry) and providing it to college students to give them a leg up on their competition when they get out there looking for a job.  Yet lately it has felt a bit like just going through the motions.  And I haven’t been able to figure out why.

Now, I think I know!  Gratitude is the key.  It’s energizing to work with a grateful group.  On the flip side, it’s de-motivating to work with an ungrateful (or perhaps more aptly, an apathetic) group. As we all remember from college, not every class is scintillating.  Not every class makes you want to run up to the professor and say “Wow, that was so helpful.  Thank you for taking the time to provide this information to us!”  In fact, few do.  But when I speak to industry groups, I often (but not always) have a few people who come up and say just that.  What I often get in class are bored looks (if not outright napping), “is this going to be on the test?” and some bold folks who confess they are neither interested nor plan to use any of this when they grow up.  It’s deflating.

I’ve taught at three universities.  I still hear and keep in touch with graduate from University 1.  They still rock my world regularly.  

Meeting up with one of my graduates in Singapore!
Meeting up with one of my graduates in Singapore!

I never hear from graduates of University 2.  And I’m just beginning (after 3 years) to hear (though very rarely) from students and graduates of my current university, University 3.  But usually just to provide them “professional contacts”…which I’m happy to do, but it’s not quite the same as hearing “Thanks.”

Maybe I just haven’t been here long enough for the students to realize and share with me and others the value in what they’ve learned in our classes.

I don’t want to be one of those “needy” people who needs ego stroking to feel good about what I do.  But, hey, a little positive feedback goes a long way in maintaining motivation in any job.  So say Kouzes & Posner, godfathers of leadership, anyway.

So show your gratitude today – to a teacher, a spouse, a neighbor, anyone.  A little gratitude truly goes a long way.

Carpe gratitude.

I’d Like to Thank the Academy…

When I do something stupid in my personal or professional life, I usually joke about it by saying, “Well, I guess I’m not going to be Mother/Wife/Professor/Employee of the Year this year.”  Only this year – I am!

I just got back from Orlando, where the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) was kind and generous enough to name me “2013 Educator of the Year.”  Complete with recognition at a big luncheon and a lovely award that I will proudly display in my office at the university (and reference on my faculty annual report, of course).

Difficult to see, but I am holding my lovely glass trophy-like award

Difficult to see, but I am holding my lovely glass trophy-like award

There’s something both humbling and gratifying about being recognized by my peers for something I love to do.  PCMA’s definition of “Educator” extends beyond those who “formally” teach in a university setting and includes those who provide education to industry professionals.  As time permits, I do both (I am considering cloning myself so I can do all the things I want to do all the time).  So I am doubly-grateful for this award for the recognition of the work I do with the next generation of meeting professionals and with novice to seasoned meeting professionals.

What is even more gratifying is that this is the second award that PCMA has given me.  In 2009, the PCMA Education Foundation named me the Educator Honoree at the Dinner for Professional Achievement, a big, swanky black-tie affair (intended to raise money for the Foundation but otherwise much like the Academy Awards for meeting professionals).

A "red carpet" shot of my husband and I at the PCMA Education Foundation Dinner in 2009

A “red carpet” shot of my husband and I at the PCMA Education Foundation Dinner in 2009

I didn’t get to give a speech at the award ceremony this week, but if I had, I’d say something like this…

I’d like to thank the Academy (PCMA committee), my sweet husband for putting up with my special brand of crazy, my 3 year old son for accepting Mommy’s “trips” out of town as commonplace, my students for letting me share in the classroom what I think is important for them to know, and the meetings industry as a whole for letting me be a part of it.

Carpe education!

They’re Back! They’re Back! Students, That is.

Squeeeee!  They’re back.  The students are back.  Walking through the rain (without umbrellas) in their winter uniforms: exercise pants and a ginormous sorority/fraternity sweatshirt for the girls, jeans and a hooded sweatshirt of any ilk for the boys. (As I don my grown-up clothes for the first time in weeks, I’m jealous of their comfort).

This morning I’ve already gotten one excuse for missing class today, one request for directions to a classroom (not mine), heard of one student who registered for a course this semester that he’s already taken, and seen at least a dozen Starbucks cups.  And that was just driving in and putting my stuff down in my office.

Of course, I also had a nightmare about the first day of class last night.  Remember in college how you’d have that anxiety dream that you’d signed up for a class but forgot to attend until well over halfway through the semester?  (Oh, maybe that was just me).  For me, it was always a history class.  I’m terrible at (and decidedly disinterested in) history.  Unless it’s fictional history and involves murder and mayhem like my favorite book of all time, Devil in the White City.  But I digress.

Erik Larson's awesome book about the Chicago's World Fair as a mask for a murdering psycho.

Erik Larson’s awesome book about the Chicago’s World Fair as a mask for a murdering psycho.

Anyway, as a professor, that nightmare is usually that I was supposed to be teaching a class and forgot until mid-semester.  (I’ve come a long way, huh?).  But last night I had a nightmare about the first day of my meeting planning class.  The scary part is, it was probably a pretty accurate portrayal of what’s likely to happen.  So apparently I’m just scared of the way I’ve changed the course this semester.  They’re planning a real conference.  For a real non-profit group on campus.  And that terrifies me.  But that’s a post for another day.

It’s SO boring around here without them.  Students, I mean, not murdering psychos.  I’m glad they’re back.  All is right with the world again (nightmares notwithstanding).

Carpe the first day of school!

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