How I got on my feet and danced again

On the stage at PCMA EC I danced again
I danced again

Here’s a story I told at the opening of the 2015 PCMA Education Conference:

“The EduCon organizers asked me to say a little about the conference format, and I thought about when I was a teenager, and loved to go to parties and dance. Then something happened, I don’t remember what it was—probably something incredibly embarrassing involving a girl I liked—and I became self-conscious and stopped dancing.

I stopped dancing for 40 years.

In 2003 I go to a workshop, and if you had told me beforehand that I would dress up in costume there and dance, solo, in front of an audience I would have a) said you were crazy and b) skipped the workshop.

I’m very glad I wasn’t warned, because at that workshop, when I experienced dancing again, I remembered that I love to dance—and I’ve been dancing ever since.

If I had been reminded at the workshop that I used to like to dance, it wouldn’t have made any difference.

All the lecturing in the world wouldn’t have shifted my belief that I really didn’t like to dance any more.

I had to experience dancing again.

I had to get on my feet and dance!

Now, we’re not going to ask you to dress up and dance at this conference—unless you like doing that, in which case we’ve got the Fort Lauderdale Pool and Beach Party tomorrow night!

But what we are going to do at this conference is to give you plenty of opportunities for participative engagement—to experience things that we think may be useful for you in your lives and work.

In addition, this conference is full of experiments with a variety of learning environments and methods. We are proponents of risky learning—Sarah Lewis & Mel Robbins—will be exploring this in their sessions.

And, in our crowdsourcing experiment tomorrow, you’ll get to choose what you want to learn about, discuss, share, and connect about.

So our hope and desire is that, at EduCon, you will:
engage;
be open to your experience, with a willingness to learn from each other; and
be a resource to your peers.”

It was my hope that sharing a revealing story in front of a thousand people at the start of this conference would model openness amongst attendees for what followed. Based on the feedback people gave me during the event and my observations of the level of interaction and intimacy there, I think I realized my hope.

Promise engagement at your meetings, not perfection

engagement perfection Man & woman dancing
What’s more important at a meeting: engagement or perfection?

To dance with customers in an act of co-creation: This is part of 37Signals’ secret. From their book to their blog to their clearly stated point of view about platforms and the way they do business, they invite customers to debug with them in an ongoing dialogue about finding a platonic ideal of utility software. They don’t promise perfect, they promise engagement.
—Seth Godin, What is customer service for?

Sometimes you go to a meeting where not screwing anything up seems to be more important than anything else. Such meetings often execute impeccably—and yet something is missing.

That something is engagement. When you’re obsessed with not making a mistake, how can you respond in the moment to the unexpected? To the guy who brings bagpipes to your event? If the Dalai Lama turns up unexpectedly? When attendees are helpless with laughter at the unintended consequences of a perfect storm of technical problems?

Engagement is the heart and soul of a meeting. Cold perfection is admirable, but inhuman. When you are open to the unexpected, and dance with it rather than fight or deny it, you open your event to the possibility of participant engagement around human imperfections and marvelous opportunities that are always present when people meet.

Engagement or perfection? Don’t promise perfect, promise engagement.

Photo attribution: Flickr user dancingwithwords