Conference neck is a real condition. It’s one I’ve battled for years. It’s at its worst during breaks and lunch. Or, as they’re sometimes referred, ‘networking time’. At TCMA 2015, I largely used the breaks to speak to one or two people at my table. I didn’t mingle. In hindsight, that was a mistake. I was one of the newbies. I’d missed the first day. Personal relationships had already formed, and I felt like a bit of an outsider initially.
Don’t get me wrong; I met some great people, but my lack of confidence at the time held me back from meeting people who are now my friends. One of those friends illustrates ‘Conference Neck’ perfectly. In the photo, you can see Mr Andy Brown. I’d love to say that this is a trick of perspective and that actually, I’m very far away. For the avoidance of doubt. I am not. Andy is tall. I am not.
I think it’s important that we get that out in the open. I’m going to be meeting many ‘virtual friends’ (including Facebook stalkers) for the very first time. And, that includes a client. We’ve only had conversations over the phone or Skype. I want to avoid any awkwardness. I don’t want it to come as a surprise to you. I also don’t want you to miss me. And, I mean that in the literal sense. Picture the scene. You scan the horizon looking for me, but alas, I am lost in a sea of people. Horizon? I dream of breaking its axis.
A few people have told me that I need to stop drawing attention to my height. But my height draws attention to my height. It’s not a new thing. I don’t look back at pictures and reminisce about the halcyon days when I was 6” 3’. I have always been a short fella. I’ve got used to it. I’ve embraced it.
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If you’re coming to the conference and you’ve never met me, say hello. You can even hug me if you’re that way inclined. (#SayNoToWigwam – read yesterday’s blog for context). If you’re under 5” 7’ we should be fine. If you’re of ‘Andy Brown’ or ‘Patrick Johnson’ proportions (6” 5’+) things can get more than a little awkward. It looks clumsy and awkward. Occasionally it looks like I’m getting a hug from my ‘real’ dad, but more often than not – it looks a little bit freaky.
Embarrassing issues can be heightened (pun intended) if the subject of the hug is both tall and female. I don’t think I need to draw you a picture but the one I found below sums it up. And yes…. the gent does resemble me.
On four separate occasions, I have almost suffocated. Not a bad way to go, granted but terrifying all the same. If there are any hug based concerns but you’re not averse to some form of human contact, can I suggest a handshake. Fist bumps or high fives are in my experience, fraught with danger. Wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve gone with a fist bump and my intended recipient has misread my intentions entirely and gone for a high five. The result? We end up playing a very public game of ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’. Trust me; this is bad. Very bad.
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All height based banter aside there is an important message I want you to remember. With any conference or event, you get as much out as you put in. Get involved. Introduce yourself to strangers. Engage in conversation. Learn from your fellow delegates. Don’t be a shrinking violet. I know, for some, that’s easier said than done. Some people find these gatherings difficult. And I am ‘some people’. That’s what I was like in September last year.
So with that in mind – please feel free to interrupt me at any time. You’ll probably be saving someone from one of my ‘witty anecdotes’ – they’ll be very grateful – trust me.
And if you are ridiculously tall, don’t draw attention to my stature by patting me on the head or, for the love of god, kneeling down. The exception to this rule – selfies. Crouching down to create the illusion that we are the same height is actively encouraged. But doing so to the extent that I look taller than you, is frowned upon.
I look forward to meeting lots of new people over the next three days. Safe travels to those making their way today, have a brilliant conference and beware of ‘Conference Neck’.