We laughed like we were teenagers at a slumber party and captured a picture of our silliness in the over-sized shower of our Green Acres Cottage. We were conference attendees who became trusted friends. Learn 4 ways to make the most of conference relationships.
Jeff Goin’s Tribe Conference is a gathering in Franklin, Tennessee for writers and artists who want to expand their influence and hone their craft. I’d been to a multitude of conferences throughout my professional career as a counselor and I was ready to hang out with writers and influence beyond the four corners of my private practice.
I describe Jeff as a red-headed wise soul who looks like he’s 14. Since attending three Tribe Conferences, he’s delivered beyond my expectations giving me courage to explore the hidden writer I’ve been all my life.
I resonate with Jeff because he thrives on relationships and isn’t afraid to brag about his own therapist. Especially when most folks don’t want to admit they have a therapist or don’t believe they need one. Not only is he young enough to be my son, he’s one of the wisest 34 year olds I know.
As a licensed mental health counselor AND writer who thrives on friendships, here’s 4 ways to make the most of conference relationships.
#1 — Social media groups
With my first conference in 2015, I didn’t know a soul but I intentionally sat at the front table to focus and learn. I’m a great listener and comfortable with face-to-face connections, but I lagged behind in follow-up strategies.
At that time I was still a novice at social media. Many therapists are. We develop learned paranoia with every ethics course we take. Many don’t have personal Facebook accounts for fear of rejecting a client who asks to be a friend. The balance between ethics and growth can be sticky.
#2 — Volunteer
I’ve attended too many conferences in the midst of multitudes feeling alone. Volunteering brings a sense of community. I was proud of my red T-shirt and connections in Seattle volunteering at the Gottman-Siegel Summit in 2014.
By year two of Tribe Conference, I volunteered with intentions to connect. I joined a coaching group and became a Tribe Girlfriend on a closed Facebook group with 17 others.
Our girlfriend group met regularly all year through Skype and Zoom calls. We laughed, prayed, encouraged, and shared words of wisdom along with our ideas. At times we asked, “Now why are we meeting?” We challenged each other to be clear and focused. We took turns “leading” and coordinating our time zones from California to Tennessee.
We grew in our trust and began to know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and trials. We empathized and asked hard questions. When tragedy struck, we were there for each other. We became soul sisters.
#3 — Make Plans for the Next Conference
A few months before this year’s conference I booked our Green Acres Cottage through airbnb, open for roommates. Others planned meet-ups in Franklin before the official conference activities began.
After three years, our meetups grew from a handful of insecure patrons to a confident gathering of trusted and familiar friends. Some of us met for the first time in person comparing the postage stamp facebook profiles with the live person.
“Oh, you look just like your picture.”
Or you’d hear phrases like, “Oh, that’s you? The one who. . .?”
However the greeting began, it would continue as, “I’m so glad to meet you.” Some squeeled in delight. We’re hugging, smiling, thanking, and connecting.
Laughter is spontaneous, but relationships are intentional
#4 — Practice Conference Wisdom
Marsha Shandur, was the speaker who normalized our awkwardness as “dork goblins” when we meet new people. It was a brilliant and funny way to present; what I do less brilliantly and funny for my clients in counseling sessions. She demonstrated her own quirks and how to respond to the insecure parts of ourselves, give it a name when it shows up, and take deep breaths when our bodies react to anxiety.
The five of us roomies recognized and named each other’s “dork goblins.” We laughed until we cried during our late night slumber parties. We created sacred space to be real right there at our Green Acres Cottage in the midst of the rolling hills and pastures of Tennessee.
There were many highlights at the conference: speakers, meet-ups, books, networking, notes, gormet popcorn, chocolate, and conversations at the conference. It’s not just about learning new ways to think, and do, and be.
It’s about ways to make the most of conference relationships. It’s about the Tribe.