Why I (Still) Attend Those CHART Conferences
March 11, 2020 | 700 Views
After being a member of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART) for 18 years, I am often asked by friends and colleagues if I still get anything out of being a part of the organization. When I respond with an emphatic “yes” and provide examples from recent conferences (such as networking opportunities and training sessions), the follow-up questions are almost always the same: “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 is also “Yes.” I could stay connected with other trainers using various apps, 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, is “Yes, but…”
Yes, I could stay in touch with CHART members through the internet, but I firmly believe that direct contact will remain an absolute necessity for business relationships no matter how advanced our technology gets. No funny emoji can truly replace the non-verbal aspects of in-person 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’s essential for me to bond with them in person. Tweets and emails will just never 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 me out of my routine, and help to recharge my mood and level of confidence. 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 20 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, 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 of conference travel, 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 CHART events. For the most recent conference we had in Napa, I would also add the following justifications to that list: the additional social media hacks I picked up from serving as Communications Director, the new restaurants I got to visit and new menu items I got to sample while dining in the host city, the new vendors I learned about from strolling through the Resource Gallery, and the mentoring skills I developed from serving as an Ambassador with our First Time Attendees. Finally, and most importantly, being around other trainers is really good for my soul, and in Napa I had the opportunity to interact with almost 200 other hospitality trainers and training executives. 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 in this role.
If CHART sounds like something you’d like to experience for yourself, then consider attending the organization’s 100th conference this July in Chicago. Details of the event and registration can be found HERE.