A Different Kind of Conference

This past weekend I attended a conference all by myself. That’s right. I was the only one there.

Of course that’s not entirely true. On Friday I was the only one sitting with my feet up in my family room listening to inspiring women share their take on the meaning of community, but thanks to technology, women all over the world had joined me to watch the same webcast.

It was the (in)courage online conference, (in)RL, which stands for “in Real Life”. The Friday session was in preparation for Saturday’s get together – thousands of (in)courage women all over the world getting together in homes, coffee shops, restaurants, or churches – you name it– to connect in real life!”

The organizers said, We love the online world, but there’s only so far a comment box can go to connect us. We’re looking forward to stepping through blog posts and into each others’ real lives.”

“We needed a way to give the thousands of women who visit (in)courage on a daily basis with their aching hearts, their joys, their fears, their prayer requests, their hopes and dreams, a real life community to share those with. A community that is seeded online and grows off line. That’s how (in)courage in real life was born… It’s an all-you-can-eat, wear-your-comfy-clothes, invite-your-neighbor, don’t-have-to-pack-for-it, girls-just-wanna-have-fun, in-real-life-is-better-than-online, un-conference, conference!”

 About 1700 women participated, some in big groups, some in small, some as individuals. That was me. Even though I’m a rather private person, if there had been a ‘meet-up’ group gathering nearby on Saturday I probably would have attended. The webcast was that inspiring.

However, that wasn’t to be, so I and my laptop settled in with multiple mugs of coffee, chai lattes and Diet Cokes to savour the collection of videos by myself. I don’t think I can adequately explain what I got out of it. Like most conference experiences, you needed to be there to appreciate the benefits first hand. But just to have been linked with all these women of faith taught me something new about ‘community’. It’s “fitting in versus belonging.”

One attendee summed up the conference beautifully on Twitter: “Loved being wrapped in this community. Beauty. Hope. Grace. Honesty. Freedom. Identity. Calling. Thank you.”


Have you ever attended an online conference? What were the circumstances? Have you taken part in online courses or workshops? How did you find the benefits differed from attending ‘in real life’?

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13 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Conference

  1. Carol, I don’t think we can truly express what we all got out of this conference no matter how hard we try. 🙂 I know from my experience (and even after writing a long post) that there are things I was not able to verbalize but I have kept them deep in my heart. So glad you enjoyed the conference.

  2. Sharon O says:

    It was good and I was also alone for most of it.

  3. So encouraging to read your take on the conference. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend, but so wish I had. I’ve attended several on-line conferences and workshops. For me the good thing was being able to “spread out” and scribble notes notes with wild abandon, to be physically comfortable and relaxed. However, I don’t think anything can replace the contagious enthusiasm of participating in person – – although based on your post and a couple others I’ve read it sounds like you had an amazing experience:)

    • Deborah says:

      Brooke, It was my first time to do the on-line conference. I’ll be honest, I’ve had trouble staying with on-line reading clubs and bible studies, but this was great. I did attend the meetup, but I got the most out of the face-to-the-screen, pausing while I jotted something down. The sessions will be available for purchase for on-line or DVD. I’m going to be getting them and hoping have something with the ladies of my church. It was that good…I want others to experience it.

  4. Carol, it sounds like you had a wonderful “moment,” even if alone. Well, you were actually not alone. I’ve done web cast and on line workshops for years. Some are through The Learning Center in NYC where I attended many conferences and workshops when I lived there. They also provide wonderful workshops on line, some only voice and others with a video feed.

    I listened with fascination to Chuck Sambuchino from Guide to Literary blog and to the wonderful voice of Rachelle Gardner doing a workshop on queries. There are many free web casts and workshops and others for a minimal fee. For writers you can search Writer’s Digest or RWA National, for other types of subjects I search The Learning Center or google a topic on youtube. They also have wonderful and often very inspirational video workshops for free.

    It doesn’t matter if someone wants to have a moment of faith and community or they are looking to bolster their knowledge, there is no reason to sit alone on a shelf with only the keyboard for company when there is a world waiting for us 🙂

  5. I found it an amazing and challenging experience too.

    Glad you still felt part of it all. I was praying for anyone watching alone that they would feel included.

    Can’t wait til next year already!!!

  6. Carol says:

    It’s so good to have all of you visiting here to start out this new week! Thanks for sharing your comments. In the quieter evening hours I’ll come back to re-read and savour each one.

  7. Shari Green says:

    It sounds lovely!

  8. pastordt says:

    Likin’ the new look, Carol. A lot.

    I watched on Friday but did not get the second day into the weekend. And I am sorry about that. I really wanted to see the video on Gitz – that was a primary motivator for signing on – and I, too, was by myself. I think it was a very clever idea and it’s been fun to see the connections that have been made in locations all over the place. Maybe I’ll order the DVD set…

    • Carol says:

      Diana, I think the DVDs should be great to have. I know I watched a couple of the video clips more than once and would probably watch them again if I had the DVDs.

      BTW, in case you didn’t happen to know, Sara’s website is still up and running. The last post about her passing was at this link, but during the months after that, Shannon has continued to write there, too.

      • pastordt says:

        Thanks, Carol. I do receive email notification whenever Shannon posts over at Gitz’s place. It was always such a comforting space to be in – and I appreciate Shannon’s occasional reminders of that.

  9. Jeri Taira says:

    So glad you shared about your blog through your flickr photos. You had a great old party with You n Jesus. God bless.

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