Hello… it's great to finally meet you.
For the past 10 years of running Red River Press and ESL Library, I have had very little up-close interaction with our customers or even some of our staff for that matter. The more connected the world has become, it seems the farther away we all get from each other. Our office has a small team of people who work here in Winnipeg, but most people who work for my company work from their homes in different countries around the world. Not a single customer has ever visited our offices; we speak only online or on the phone.
In 2004 I commissioned an artist in Poland to draw some images for a new lesson section we were creating called Famous People. He has worked for us on contract ever since. A few months ago it dawned on me that he had been working for us for seven years and I had never once met him in person - never even seen a photo of him. I sent him an email requesting a picture of him. (He was not at all what I had imagined.) I told him that hopefully one day we would meet in person. His reply: 'That would be very nice, but I doubt it will ever happen.' And it probably won't.
This past week I attended the annual TESOL conference which was held in New Orleans this year. (A fabulous city I must say!) For the past seven years in a row, I've traveled down from Canada to attend the show - it's held in a different US city each year. Recently my reasons for going have changed a little. What I love most about attending these large teaching conferences now, is how all of a sudden people whom I've worked with, dealt with, or spoken with only by email, Skype, or phone, are all right here, right in front of me. It's so great to finally meet you in person! Though conferences seem to be going to the way of the dinosaur, and are no longer affordable for many businesses (or schools, or teachers, or anyone), I must say there is something really special about seeing so many people from one industry come together all at once. It is the one chance we get to say hello in person and shake hands and share a smile with the people we speak to every day online. I love meeting and speaking with our ESL Library members, and with all our colleagues in the industry.
In an age where everyone knows everyone and no one knows anyone, conferences really are the last true place we can all get together and finally meet each other in person. It was great meeting you all in New Orleans this year. I really hope to meet more of you at the 2012 TESOL conference too.