Since this year’s ARMA Conference is primarily focused on navigating changes in our industry, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on the changes that I’ve experienced in more than 30 years as a conference attendee.
Most glaring is the reduced number of suitcases required! At one time the Conference was longer with many more social events, including a formal banquet. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that meant gowns, suits and even an occasional tuxedo! As a Board Member I’d be packing the appropriate leadership attire, the requisite vendor attire for that year, the necessary red and white Canadian Party attire and the oh, so important the let your hair down…after hours hospitality suite attire. Some days required two or three wardrobe changes, thus you can easily see the need for numerous suitcases!
Another key element of preparation included organizing ARMA pins; determining your dupes (potential traders) and deciding which ones to bring. Meeting new people with pin in hand was a terrific ice breaker and networking tool which was, at least in part, a catalyst for the fraternal environment that ensued. Strong bonds were created and attendees would look forward to renewing those friendships every fall. During those years I can recall thinking that the ARMA Conference was actually a reunion – disguised as an educational conference!
Today the Conference is compressed into 2.5 days, the banquet is a thing of the past, as well as so many of the various parties that were scheduled making every evening a whirlwind of hopping from one place to another. Hospitality suites have dwindled, with the exception of Houston…you can ALWAYS count on Houston, as a result of stricter restrictions from the hotels regarding noise and frivolity in the wee hours of the morning. Pins are no longer a big part of the culture with the exception of a few designating membership in various groups. True there are many of us who still look forward to seeing our “once a year” ARMA family and catching up on one another’s lives but every year the Conference has attracted more and more new faces from many different areas of business. Although networking and education has always been important and will continue to be so, I sense that these new faces are hungry for answers and find the fraternal aspects of the conference less important than we did in the past.
It was a different time indeed, one where we struggled to gain recognition of the importance of Information Management. From the globalization of organizations to changes that have occurred in technology and government regulations, the pressure is on to deliver solutions and the discussions have changed from why do we need records management to how do we protect our organizations and glean value from the information we possess? It’s not that the traditions of the past aren’t important but just as is the case with everything around us, we must continue to change or perish. It’s incumbent on all of us to lace up our running shoes and take full advantage of the incredible opportunity for expanding our base of knowledge at ARMA 2014! For more insight on our evolution, please join the Fellows of ARMA International on October 28th for the closing general session: Provocative Perspectives on Embracing Change.