Why Do You Still Attend Those CHART Conferences?

May 08, 2013 | 1722 Views

Why Do You Still Attend Those CHART Conferences?

Patrick Yearout, FMP, CHT

Director of Innovation, Recruiting, and Training | Ivar's & Kidd Valley Restaurants

Recently, after mentioning our upcoming CHART conference in Miami, a friend of mine surprised me with a question.

“Why do you still attend those CHART conferences?” he asked.

I started telling him about the networking opportunities they provided, as well as the variety of training sessions, and he came back to me with three more questions: “Yeah, but couldn’t you just stay connected with the other members through social media?  And couldn’t you just watch the sessions online?  Wouldn’t that be a lot cheaper?”

The simple answer to all of these questions, of course, was “Yes.”  I could stay connected with CHART colleagues through Facebook and Twitter, I could watch breakout presentations via a webinar, and it would be much less expensive not to travel.

The longer answer to all of these questions, however, was “Yes, but…”

Yes, I could stay in touch with CHART members through the internet, but I firmly believe that in-person contact will remain an absolute necessity for business relationships no matter how advanced our technology gets.  No funny emoticon or cool avatar can truly replace the non-verbal aspects of communication such as a friendly smile, an understanding nod, or a firm handshake from a colleague.  It’s the same reason why we go out to restaurants even though there are often easier, cheaper, and more convenient ways for us to quell our hunger; although our basic need is for food, sometimes we also want to satisfy our more complex needs for a sense of belonging and social interaction with a night out surrounded by friends and family.

Face-to-face connections also generally result in more honest and authentic dialogue, because people are more likely to say what they mean when they spend less time analyzing their responses (and without a delete key to censor their thoughts).  Sometimes this truth can be hard to hear, but it can also create a stronger bond and a deeper relationship between two people in a way that couldn’t possibly be achieved with a text message or a Facebook “like.”

So if I really want to stay connected with other CHART members, maintain our relationships, and continue to learn from their experiences, it really is essential for me to bond with them in person.  Tweets and emails just won’t ever be enough.

And yes, I could listen to breakout sessions online while sitting in my office, but that doesn’t provide nearly the same level of benefits of attending them at a professional conference.  Getting out of the office and going to an event like a CHART conference can provide a healthy change of pace, break you out of your routine, and help to recharge your mood, your confidence, and your career.

Plus, if I am stuck at my desk trying to pay attention to a breakout on a computer screen, I’m also probably going to be doing 10 other things at the same time: checking my email, playing Words with Friends on my phone, plotting out my next vacation on my calendar, etc.  I’m much less tempted by distractions when sitting in a room with an energized speaker right in front of me, and as a result, I am really able to focus and learn the material.

And yes, it would definitely be cheaper to attend a “virtual” conference and avoid the hotel and airfare costs, but part of what I’m getting in return are experiences that I am unable to have back in my regular job.  I’ve had the opportunity to take on many different responsibilities during my 14 years at Ivar’s, but attending CHART events has allowed me to do so much more.

My CHART experiences have included serving as a Breakout Speaker, Regional Training Forum Director, Facilities Director, Silent Auction Director, Activities Director, Conference Director, and Board Member.  I’ve participated in and organized Service Events, overseen CHART’s regional training program, and assembled an entire slate of conference educational speakers.  And I’ve had the chance to speak with and get to know numerous hospitality industry leaders that I never would have met had I remained back at Ivar’s corporate office.  It’s been opportunities like these, all of which happened because I went to CHART, which have taught me new skills, pushed me out of my comfort zone, and made me a much more effective trainer and leader.

So those are three of the reasons why I continue to “attend those CHART conferences.”  I would also add the following justifications to that list: the amazing ideas I learn about from participating in Live Ask My Peers, the new restaurants I get to visit and new menu items I get to sample while dining in the host city, the new vendors I learn about from strolling through the Resource Gallery, the mentoring skills I develop from working with our First-Time Attendees, and most importantly, because being around other trainers is really good for my soul.  I am the only full-time training person out of the 1,200 employees at Ivar’s, and sometimes it’s just comforting to be surrounded by like-minded folks who understand the challenges of working as a trainer in this industry.

How about you?  What keeps you coming back?  And have you signed up for the CHART conference in Miami yet?

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