Why I Throw an Annual Mini-Conference for Friends


On May 2nd, I’ll be gathering a group of friends and colleagues at a coastal resort, where we’ll spend the day giving talks on whatever we are currently into. You are invited! Just come and listen, or come and share, your choice.

You may be thinking, “Wait, you do what? I’ve never heard of such a thing. Why?”

This is the third time I’ll be doing this, and every time I ask myself those same questions. It’s actually a fair amount of work for me to do this (despite what I tell myself when I start working on it in January). Convincing friends to pay money, give up a whole day on the weekend, leave their families, prepare and give a talk — that’s a tall order, and one that requires much goading, cajoling, and encouraging. Wouldn’t it be easier to just invite friends over for a party? Yes, it would be easier, but not the same.

One lesson I learned from my father was on the importance of milestones. As a child and young adult, I tended to eschew ceremonies and formal celebrations — they made me feel awkward and uncomfortable. But Dad was always a stickler for doing it right — whether it was a graduation, birthday, or even a straight-A report card, all were afforded an acknowledgment in some way. All of the holidays were also given the proper time and involved a variety of traditions. Over time, I’ve come to realize that we can often fail to realize when something important has happened that we really value. Relationships are possibly one of the most valuable gifts we give each other, but aside from a few “Hallmark” holidays, we rarely ever acknowledge their importance.

The goal of Convox (as my mini-conference is called) is to be a milestone event to celebrate and recognize the relationships I have with my friends and colleagues, and to give everyone a chance to shine and share what they’ve learned that they think may be valuable for others to know. While casual conversations over a meal, at work, or at a party are the foundation of a relationship, they don’t tend to get at these kinds of things, but instead they only touch on daily happenings. By gathering in one place, one day per year, everyone has a reason to reflect a little on what’s important to them, distill their message down to its core, and share it with others who want to hear it. In my reflections on the first iteration of the conference, What if You and Your Friends Held a Conference, I noted this as the most gratifying part of holding the conference: I learned a little more about everyone and connected with them at a deeper level than I had before.

One of my friends has called my conference a “TED for friends.” In some ways that’s true, in that we have “groundbreaking” talks that last about 20 minutes. The talks are not usually groundbreaking at a societal level, though, but rather groundbreaking at a personal level. And because many of the people who attend know each other, it makes the talks all the more powerful.

One concept I picked up from my yoga teacher training class is something called holding a space. It’s a very powerful concept that we all encounter every day, but few people really acknowledge it. On the surface, holding a space means arranging a time and place for people to meet and attempt to accomplish something together. But it goes deeper than that — it also means doing whatever it takes to facilitate frictionless progress towards that goal. It means making it safe and easy for everyone to contribute their best. Teachers of all kinds hold spaces in their classrooms, studios, and elsewhere. Meeting and conference organizers do as well. Parents hold a space for their children to grow and learn (commonly called a “home”). You can even hold a space for yourself, by taking the time to do your daily routine. Held spaces can be truly transformative, healing, and productive. It is that power that I’m trying tap into by holding a space where you can “share what you dig.”

I hope you can join us, or, hold a conference of your own — I’d be happy to share my experiences with you if you think it’s something you’d like to try.

For details, see: http://svbbc.luvogt.com/convox2015 or proceed directly to the Eventbrite page to purchase tickets by March 31. Here’s the current line-up (subject to change):

  • Nate Moser – “Generative Art: a Systemic Approach to Manufacturing Inspirado”
  • Aaron Weinstein – “Checking Out: Moving Forward During Times of Transition”
  • Maria Stone – Either “The Benefits and Pitfalls of Storytelling” or “What if Spain and Russia had Never Ceded California?”
  • Pravin Mahajan – “The Why of Busyness”
  • Olga Bergstrom – “The Importance of Love and Compassion in Moving the Human Race Forward”
  • Scott Banachowski – insights from the productivity literature
  • Kyle Jennings – topic TBD
  • Chris LuVogt – Either “How Striving Gives Life Meaning” or “Yoga: It’s Not (Just) for Posers”