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The Show Must Go On…


Paul MacCormack

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For the first time in nearly three years we are almost finished a full, in-person conference season. From the GCSAA Show, the BTME, the Carolinas and all shows in between, we have made the transition back to meeting face to face and by all accounts it’s been well received. After two plus seasons of virtual and hybrid education, everyone appears to be genuinely happy to be back at our respective events, shaking actual hands.

For me personally, it’s been a quiet return to travel and speaking. In December I made the trip to Red Deer, Alberta to speak at a landscape conference and then more recently made the trip across the pond to speak at BTME in Harrogate. After the two year break it was simply wonderful to be back in front of a live audience. There is something to be said for the exchange of energy that occurs when you are in the same room as the people you are speaking to. 

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I was curious as per how the conference season would unfold after the forced hiatus, so I made a point to record a few of my observations and reflections as we move to the end…

  • People need People. This phrase coined by Tim Kreger of the Carolinas GCSAA, could not be more true. As we navigated the pandemic we all became quite aware of how much human connection is integral to our overall well being. A hearty handshake, a hug, a quiet conversation or even just being in the presence of those we care about has taken on a whole new meaning.
     
  • The joy on the faces of the attendees was obvious. You didn’t have to be a social scientist to realize that folks were just simply happy to see each other again. They were also happy to be able to travel freely again. The energy on the trade show floors and in the seminar rooms was palpable. It was just really fun to watch people having fun.

    The joy on the faces of the attendees was obvious... folks were just simply happy to see each other again.

  • On the flip side, it was also fairly obvious that folks are not back to 100% either. The pandemic has affected us all and to deny this reality would be a folly. I spoke with a great many people who are still navigating the after effects of the pandemic and they are dealing with the trauma the best way they know how. It’s vitally important to honor this fact and give people the space they require to return to things at their own pace.
     
  • Mental health and all things connected to creating positive states of well being have never been more important. It seems that the powers that be within the various associations are starting to see the positive benefits of integrating mindfulness and self care education into our conference curriculums. This is a good thing. But there is still a very long way to go and I hope this trend continues to gather momentum.
     
  • Perspective matters. The past three years have taught us a great deal. My sincere hope is that in our mad rush to get things back to a familiar state, we don’t forget the lessons the pandemic offered. Although it’s been great to get back to attending these events in person, we cannot forget that it’s a privilege that not everyone has access to.

We should take a moment to reflect on the cost of travel and the promise of virtual learning opportunities. Pre-pandemic our society got to a point where we simply took the ease of travel for granted. We need to take stock and realize that travel is a privilege and we must be grateful for it. 

We can also realize the opportunities that are contained within virtual learning. The ability to cater to different learning styles and reach folks that simply can’t afford to travel should not be overlooked.  I have participated in many virtual talks over the past few years and they were all well received.

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My last reflection is simply one of gratitude. I was thankful for all of the opportunities and invitations to speak over the past year. It feels wonderful to continue to share the message of mindfulness and well being with so many of you. I’m also grateful to my family at home. Travelling and speaking can be hard work for the presenter, and also for those taking care of things at home. 

I’m also grateful to myself. In previous years my approach to travel was purely functional in many ways. I would get to the destination, do the gig and then return home. As I returned to traveling and speaking again this season, I made myself a promise; if I had the chance to do something interesting or fun I would follow through and take the risk. The pandemic made me realize how precious these opportunities are and I vowed to see more of the places I was traveling to. 

So I got to visit with a dear friend, Robin Sadler, in Canmore AB and see the world from the top of a mountain. I spent the day in Dublin, Ireland with our very own Jon Kiger and simply had a blast (and Guinness does in fact taste better in a small pub in Dublin). I wandered and wandered and wandered around Harrogate and even experienced a Turkish Bath with Frank Rossi!  And on my last day in the UK, I rode a train to York and spent most of the day wandering around the most magnificent church I had ever seen. York Minster was a marvel of architecture and history. 

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Decided to stop by for a proper cup of Yorkshire tea at Betty's tea room in Harrogate. It was a wise decision.

So let’s be grateful for this conference season. Thankful for the chance to once again gather together to learn, share and network. Let’s be grateful for all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make these conferences and shows a reality. But most of all, let’s be thankful for the magic of connection, and the profound effect it has on us all. 

 

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