President’s Perspective: There, but not *there*

Jul 14, 2021

The Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) conference held recently was terrific, as it usually is. A conference full of Iowa business leaders coming together to network and learn is meaningful and impactful. Coralville & Iowa City, this year’s host cities for the conference, have some really awesome venues where great speakers and programming were held. This was the first conference of this type I have attended since the pandemic began, and I believe the same was true for about everyone there. Finally!

While in many ways it was just like I remembered it, I am quite certain I am not the same way I remembered me in it. I was physically present all of the time, mentally there some of the time, and some of the time I was mentally checked out.

With a personality like mine, this is not totally uncommon. I can be subject to the pull of multi-tasking and distractions just as much as the next person. However, this felt different. I scheduled some work-related calls and meetings to directly conflict with some programming and networking that I would enjoy. I am not a victim, and I did it voluntarily. It is a hangover from the way I’ve been working for the past year.

Always available, always willing, with few other competing priorities, I can make it work – all conditions and behaviors strengthened by the pandemic. Its only 30 minutes, an hour, or whatever… It’s no big deal, I can do it from wherever. Why wouldn’t I say yes? I’ll just step out for a session and dive right back in when it’s over.

Well, that all works on paper, but not in practice for me. In the past, a few things would come up during the conference that required attention or a returned call. But for the most part, when I was there, I was *there*. In this case, I created some planned interruptions, and the same few things came up that typically do.

This combination of circumstances, coupled with my pandemic induced attention deficit behavior, did not support me very easily resuming the flow of the conference. I need to reteach myself the practice of presence that I lost touch with during the pandemic. I did not get as much from my settings and those I interact with while they did not as much from me either. It is a lose-lose proposition. Time to reprogram and not miss those opportunities in the future.

Next time you see me, I’ll be *there*.

Mike Espeset