KalamazooX 2015

I’ve attended the last three KalamazooX Conferences and each year I leave inspired enough to move mountains; it’s a deeply invigorating experience.

I was honored to be part of the planning committee this year and I even had the opportunity to run a Fishbowl before the afternoon sessions. We had 115 attendees and featured the largest percentage (~40%) of female attendees I’ve ever seen at a conf.

KalX focuses on the so-called “softer” side of your career; just the easy things like your happiness, fulfillment, anxities, etc. Each talk tends to be extremely personal and some turn into survivor stories of sorts.

Well, this sounds like a great conference right? How depressing can you get?

There were eight speakers this year. Three ladies and five men. As each speaks a common theme is unvieled. The room gets smaller and quieter. The speaker lays bare something personal that is usually something that you or someone you know has gone through. Imposter Syndrome. Failure. Peer Respect. The speaker’s voice gets louder and cracks. It becomes a therapy session for all watching. I’ve seen many cry.

What is the point of this? KalX reminds us that we are first, foremost, and forever, HUMAN. It yells in your face to be present. Put down your phone and pay attention. You are not you position, place, title, nor rank. We all go through the same things and this place is a safe place to be surprisingly honest with complete strangers.

A mutual respect is developed between the speakers and attendees. No fancy lights; no stage or barrier. Just eight keynote-worthy talks from around our little world about like minded folks going through the crap we’re going through. You’re not alone. Let’s discuss these issues and work together.

It’s the conference equivalent of having the power go out. The world gets very small and introspective for a while. When the lights go back there’s that pang of sadness of going back to real life.