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’?
~ ~ ~