I love conferences
I love meeting people with similar interests, listening to lectures on topics that fascinate me, and in general being around a lot of passion. But the BIM Conference that Graphisoft North America organized was extra special. There’s something uniquely wonderful about attending a conference of 150-200 people where I’ve only met five or ten of the attendees in person before, but I easily know a quarter to half because of social media. And being a prolific blogger, my hunch is that the majority of attendees knew who I was. In fact, my first experience with the conference was walking to my room and having another attendee stop me on the stairs and say “hey! You’re Jared. I love your writing”. I wasn’t wearing a badge. He just recognized me from all my various profile pictures (or he initially thought he saw Scott Baio and realized that didn’t make sense). Obviously it was flattering and made me feel like the conference was going to be unlike any other that I’d attended.
The next surreal moment happened an hour later at the opening night party. When I went to get my first drink of the night, I saddled up next to the (open) bar beside the CEO of GRAPHISOFT, Viktor Varkonyi. I didn’t say anything because he was in the middle of a conversation with someone else and I was too hungry (for my East Coast time zone brain that had not yet adjusted it was probably about 10:30 pm at this point and I hadn’t eaten dinner). But I figured it was okay to stay silent; I knew there was plenty of conference to go. Though it would have been nice if the announcement about Viktor being named to the Executive Board of Nemetschek AG had been announced before the conference. That would have been good small-talk fodder for the following night when I got a chance to talk with Viktor, Ákos Pfemeter (the Director of Global Marketing at Graphisoft) and some others. Oh well. We had other things to chat about.
Bookends are nice, but what’s in between is what really matters
I like those two extreme encounters because they cover the spectrum of me being the celebrity to me being the timid “fan-boy” too tongue-tied to say anything useful. But those weren’t the best encounters of the event. The biggest thrill in this regard was hanging out with all my virtual friends—people I’ve been having conversations with and learning from online for months or years. Finally getting to share a drink with a user I helped or who helped me was on par with all the great insights into ArchiCAD from the official sessions. There were users like Matthew and Laura whom I revered for their ArchiCAD knowledge when I was first exploring the ArchiCAD-Talk Forum in 2006. There were users like Willard whom I have had as a guest blogger on Shoegnome (three times and counting). Not only have Willard and I connected via writing, we’ve also e-mailed a bunch about kids, life, future plans, etc. And then there were also users like Ken, who also blogs about ArchiCAD. Or did. I need to pester him to get back into it. His first posts were great. You should read them on ArchiCHAZZ.
Matthew, Laura, Willard, and Ken are just the first four I could think of. The list is too long to name everyone (Geoff and Eric I’ll find an excuse to give you name drops in future posts). What I loved about these conversations was that we already had an intimacy that allowed us to get to discussing the interesting stuff right away. Everything from ArchiCAD tips and stories to how to juggle family and work. Being able to sit down with Ken and just jump into conversations about how his thirteen year old son is using ArchiCAD (more on that later) or being able to talk with Laura about her new job meant we didn’t spend the whole night playing “nice to meet you, what’s your name?” And I can’t tell you the number of times discussions of ArchiCAD quickly turned into discussions about the practice of Architecture as a whole; those two topics are unsurprisingly very connected.
And of course there were the fellow ArchiCAD users whom I’ll now get to continue engaging with online. Some knew about my copious writing and others didn’t. Because we all knew we were each passionate enough about ArchiCAD to travel all the way to San Diego for the conference, we had instant conversation topics. There was Samantha from the other side of Massachusetts and Michelle from Chicago. Both are in official or unofficial BIM Manager positions: just the kind of users whom I love talking to for blog post ideas. There was Thomas in Seattle who organizes the user groups there; I look forward to talking with Thomas more since I’ll be living in Seattle for at least 6 months at some point in the next year or two, probably. And then there were Jason and Michael from Houston. Not only were we able to talk shop about ArchiCAD, we also got to share our love of Houston. I lived in Houston from 1999 to 2005 and if it wasn’t for the heat, humidity, and lack of seasons, I never would have left that city. I’ll say it. I love Houston, Texas. But I’d rather visit than live there. I think. I digress…just like the list of people I knew before arriving in San Diego, there are too many people to name in this already long post.
Twitter, ArchiCAD, and the BIM Conference
What do Twitter, ArchiCAD, and the BIM Conference all have in common? They are force multipliers. They accelerate what we were doing before we were involved with them. Attending the conference gave me a deeper connection to those I knew virtually beforehand and provided a spring point that will be continued digitally with both them and all the new people I met. Since leaving the conference I’ve had conversations with many of the people listed above (and not listed). The discussions have been about everything from ArchiCAD to guest posts to highlighting specific users and firms in future articles to consulting work to possible team ups (the natural endpoint of many discussions of Teamwork 2) to personal conversations about The Economist, favorite YouTube Channels, and other private matters. Oh and of course we’re all talking about the hope of another conference next year!
Before I launch into how social media makes this all possible, I’ll end with this: probably the greatest thing about the conference was the strengthening of ties within the North American ArchiCAD user network (there were a few users from Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, among other places). Most (all I hope) left with not only a reignited passion for ArchiCAD, but also the ability to grow these connections in ways we can’t yet articulate.
Did you attend? Do you have similar personal stories to share about meeting old and new friends? Share them below!
And on a personal note: did we meet at the event? Are we somehow not connected on LinkedIn? Let’s fix that. You know how to reach me.