Meetings in the Clouds

Originally posted Meeting Today Blog

Meetings in the Clouds

I love clouds. The different formations, how they cast shadows and make it cooler to be outside on a hot summer day. I love how they look when a storm is approaching, though I confess to preferring that on the ground rather than when in the air!

“Slowing down to appreciate clouds enriched his life and sharpened his ability to appreciate other pockets of beauty hiding in plain sight,” wrote Jon Mooallem in a May 4 New York Times Magazine article titled “Head in the Clouds.”

I suggest you take the time to read the article about Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s decision to take a sabbatical after feeling burnt out at work (he ran a graphic design business and edited a magazine called The Idler), and how he developed a fascination for clouds and formed the Cloud Appreciation Society. If you make it to the final section of the article, you will learn about the first major conference for the group, held on the Cloud Appreciation Society’s 10th Anniversary.

Oh wait, did you think “cloud” in the title was to do with the digital cloud? Where we store our data? And perhaps I’d write about how we could hold meetings in those clouds?

Naw. In the blog accompanying the August 2016 Friday with Joan newsletter (all about hotel contracts) I said it was August and yet, I was going to make you think. This may do that but what I really hope it does is help you become more observant and to see that meetings can be oh-so-different and about, well, clouds and observation.

Before you read on, I suggest you click here and listen to Judi Collins.

Reading about this one day cloud conference reminded me of the film “Wordplay” (IMDB info and video) about the Will Shortz crossword puzzle tournament. While watching “Wordplay” (more than once), I realized how complicated we sometimes make meetings when this—a crossword puzzle tournament—was so simple and joyful.

OK, maybe not the same kind of joyful as for those who seriously competed in the competition until they won! Both gatherings (cloud and crossword) seemed to be about what we know people want from most meetings: connections with others with the same or similar interests.

Watching the “Wordplay” film, I remember the marvel of the evening talent shows. I wondered why, at industry events and other meetings, rather than producing over-the-top, overly expensive receptions with inaccessible food and way-too abundant alcohol and noise, can’t we simply enjoy what we say we are there for, which in most cases its “networking” and is really peer-to-peer interaction. If that was the goal, why don’t we hold simpler events like these?

The science geek in me loved learning about clouds and seeing the exquisite photographs in the The New York Times Magazine article. I loved reading about the one day conference, Escape to the Cloudsnamed and executed in a way that could only cause one to gasp at the wonder of it all. “The program … was a little highbrow but fun”; they gave away “artisanal Cloud-Nine Marshmallows” in gift bags. And they worried about the environment of the meeting as we do: “…the London sky was impeccably blue. Not a single cloud. It was terrible.”

About Lisa Knapp singing the song most associated with Judi Collins (linked above), the author wrote: “The performance moved me. But it was more than that, and weirder. Maybe, somewhere in this story about clouds and cloud lovers, I’d found a compelling argument for staying open to varieties of beauty that we can’t quite categorize and, by extension, for respecting the human capacity to feel, as much as our ability to scrutinize the sources of those feelings.”

Isn’t that the reason why we go to meetings? To be “awed” and enchanted? To leave feeling better than when we arrived? Maybe we can learn something from this very simple gathering that was about … clouds.

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