Over the years of my career I've attended more conferences than I can name. Some were forgettable because they were horrible, others were forgettable because they were...well forgettable.
You see, I've been in financial services for more than 20 years. I've been in operations, funds management, training, financial planning and in the last ten years or so, I've been a writer of technical financial...stuff.
Yep - I can see your eyes glazing over but please stay with me for just a bit longer.
I love financial services and financial planners are a unique lot, and once you get to know their quirks and understand what makes them tick, they're not a bad lot - no...really!
But financial conferences have always left me feeling a bit uninspired.
This morning I returned to Melbourne having spent the weekend in Perth at the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) annual conference - this year held in Fremantle.
Can I tell you, I have never enjoyed a conference as much as I enjoyed this.
Not only was I taken aback by how friendly and unpretentious the participants were, but I have never been inspired like I am right now.
I have so many ideas and so much motivation I've hardly even thought about coffee - I mean, I'm even blogging, right? And I've made a commitment to myself, and to you, that I will blog more regularly from now on. That's just one of my new resolutions. I have many more.
You see, the problem I've always had is that my only experience of attending conferences was in the financial business. Hanging around with a bunch of financial planners, usually men, sometimes (and I don't want to generalise) but SOMETIMES they're even a wee bit sexist, and I never, ever looked forward to the event.
Often, I was required to speak at the conference which was a whole other bucket of unhappiness. Regardless of how well I knew my topic it was still hard work. I love the industry, but financial planning can still be a bit of a boys' club. The women who navigate these waters successfully - and there are plenty of them, many are my friends - yeah JB I'm talking about you! - they have a certain...edge, a ...je ne sais quoi that enables them to mix it up with the boys and give as good as they get.
I take my hat off to yer ladies!
Proudly I say, yep, I can give the boys as good as I get, but unlike some of the gals I know, it wears me down and I find myself nursing a chardy in the corner hoping like crazy the guy in the expensive pin-stripe doesn't spot me and embark on a vivisection of my transition-to-retirement case-study.
So it was with trepidation, that I decided to attend the RWA annual conference as it would be good for my career and my recently published book Torn.
I dragged myself to Perth, took my husband along for the ride and arranged to stay with friends we don't get to see very often. I told myself that if worse came to worse I would skip the conference and hang out with Stuart - suffering spouse - and friends Jeremy and Maritza.
Saturday morning, I was dropped at the conference centre in Freo. Stuart, Jeremy and Maritza had planned a fun-packed day of wine, food and exploration. I, on the other hand, lifted my chin, strapped on my armour and flipped closed my visor. Hoisting my jousting stick, I marched on in.
OMG, OMG, Oh...my...gawd!
I have never, ever, ever enjoyed a conference this much! I loved every minute of it. I loved everyone I met. I loved the workshops and talks. I loved the pastries at morning tea...ok, the coffee I didn't love so much ...but this conference will stay with me for months to come.
RWA you should be congratulated on a fantastic event!
Yesterday afternoon, it all came to a close and the details were announced for the 2014 conference. I held my breath, pen poised in anticipation...tell me the date!
What!? August 7 -10!?
Of the 52 weeks in the year, they've chosen the one week I'm booked to attend the Tony Stockwell mediums' course in the UK.
I can't go...
I'm devastated. But I will definitely be there in 2015 - nothing will stop me!
Now, as I look over the copious notes and information from the weekend, I realise I have so much inspiration and motivation, I'll be kept busy until 2015 anyway.
RWA - I have to re-think everything I thought I knew about conferences.