I was so nervous before last year's Leadership Communication Days, I got to New York at 8:00 a.m. the day before it started, just to case out … Manhattan? I wound up wandering around the city all day eating and drinking everything I could get my hands on, from McSorley's Saloon to the Oyster Bar Grand Central Station.
It was the first event of its kind, and as the organizer and moderator, I wondered: What will happen if everyone is shy? Or if one goon dominates the whole conversation? Or if people aren't comfortable enough to tell the truth? Or if everybody has problems but nobody had answers? Or if they don't listen to me when I demand that they turn off their Blackberries?
And I wasn't the only one with worries. Some of the attendees had apprehension too. "Having never attended an event remotely resembling this one," one panicked participant wrote me a few days before the event. "I'm unsure if my self-defined 'best practices' and 'worst problems' are anything other than commonplace, in which case I would certainly be subject to the mockery, if not scorn, of my peers."
As it turned out, none of the attendees—who represented firms ranging from Pfizer to General Electric and organizations from AARP and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management—had any reason to worry.
Instead, we ought to have been sleepless before the event, but only with sheer excitement about finally getting a chance to connect deeply with some of the few other people who understand executive communication.
Over two days (and deep into a night), the conversation was light at times and intense at others, and always infused with good humor. People shared what they were proud of and they trusted the group with the most candid, detailed description of their stubborn problems.
Utterly pleased with how the week came off, I think what suprised me most was how incredibly energetic and generous the group members were when it came to helping one another solve problems. They asked probing questions, offered thoughtful inventive ideas and gave sensitive advice.
"I am inspired by all of you," one vice president told the rest of the group in an e-mail afterwards. "It was an amazing couple of days."
Which is why she's coming back to this year's meeting, which will be hosted by another alum of last year's meeting, AARP CEO communications chief Boe Workman, Oct. 27-28, in Washington, D.C.
Of course I'll be arriving a day or so early, just to get the lay of the land …