Archives For Conferences

When I arrived for the second day of the Global Leadership Summit, I was told that I looked energetic. I didn’t feel energetic, but I was very relaxed after having put my thoughts together about Day 1.

Then Patrick Lencioni started off the first session, and I was absorbing every word like a sponge. Three speakers later, it was lunch time and my information cup was full again. I dragged myself back to my spot for the start of the afternoon sessions, and I was thinking of creative ways to sneak out and go home. (The rule follower in me never would have allowed it, but my imagination loves to think of different ways my days can end.)

Then John Ortberg took the stage. My cup began overflowing immediately, but, instead of it wearing me out, I was craving more. And I got more. And when five o’clock came, I was officially wiped out.

Now that I’ve had a little time to think things through, I’m starting to see some cohesiveness between the sessions that relates to me.

Patrick Lencioni talked about the importance of a healthy organization. William Ury talked about solving conflict within an organization. The entrepreneurial side of me was so thankful for their insights. I wanted to start an organization of my own just to put some of their words into practice for myself.

Then there was Bill Hybels’ message in the final session. It was a forty minutes story that I’ve heard at least a handful of times before—the message of how he started a church. I wasn’t thinking of the entrepreneurial aspect of those beginnings, but it struck me sometime this evening.

By connecting those dots, I feel like that’s what I needed to get out of today. I also realized that I need to go back and read my notes from Len Schelsinger’s message about entrepreneurship at last year’s Summit.

I still don’t know what to do with it all. I don’t know what to do with my energy around entrepreneurialism. But I guess I have a whole year to figure that out before I feel this challenged again.


Today was a whirlwind of important information at the Global Leadership Summit, and I will consider myself lucky if I am able to remember any of it next week.

I’m going to save my favorite conference quotes for a post after the Summit to focus on a topic I’ve been trying to process since the last session ended today: the next generation of leaders—my generation.

Bill Hybels talked in his session about sowing seeds, and he took some time to talk specifically about sowing seeds of new leaders. Marc Kielburger talked about how the next generation is already stepping up to the task of taking on big issues like global poverty. And Craig Groeschel wrapped up the day talking about how young leaders need to honor those who have come before them (and older leaders need to train up those who will come after them).

By those examples, it may seem like the day was stacked on the issue of raising up young leaders, but the topics were a lot further apart than that.

I am just elated to hear about people who want to raise leaders up out of my generation.

I get excited when I read an article about how a small startup company has started changing the world, but there’s a part of me that’s nervous that those startups with their endless creativity and tireless effort don’t have the right leadership to get them to be a major player in the marketplace. I end up rooting for those startups anyway just because I want a story of someone from my generation making it. (What’s great is that Chicago is in the process of becoming a startup friendly city thanks to organizations like Excelerate Labs.)

Why am I, someone who isn’t event invested in their project, afraid that those organizations will fail? Because I feel like those people are a great representation of the creative and hard-working group in my generation.

But there’s another group in my generation that Craig Groeschel hit on—the “entitled.” Craig went on about this group for five minutes, and, while I definitely know some people in my generation who act that way, I don’t think “entitled” is the word to describe the entire group.

With that said, there was something else that stuck out from three of the other speakers: Great leaders have humility.

The first time I heard that phrase today, I thought it was one of those phrases about leadership that one leader needs to mention at a leadership conference. The second time I heard it today, I chalked it up to the speaker making a reference to the prior speaker as a respectful action rather than a to emphasize the same point. The third time I heard it, I knew I needed to pay attention to it, but I wasn’t getting how it played into the big picture.

Then, when I was frustrated at Craig Groeschel for calling my generation “entitled” for the tenth time, it hit me. Anyone who is entitled lacks humility and can’t be a great leader.

What a tragedy for my generation. 

I’d love to say that I have a solution for my generation to help them out of entitlement so that we can have great leaders, but I don’t (which sucks because it’s hard to wrap up this post now). Maybe I’ll find that solution when I have a chance to process the rest of the Summit. And when I do, I’ll start writing up the book proposal.

I’ve surprised myself by blogging from two conferences already this year. “Surprised” because I don’t consider myself a conference blogger, but writing about my experiences has really helped me process the large amount of information I’ve been given in such a short time.

This Thursday and Friday, I’ll be at the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit. For those who are unfamiliar, the Summit pulls great church, business, and organization leaders together to share best practices, new techniques, and insightful knowledge over two days.

I’ve attended the last four years and I’ve seen Bono, Jack Welch, Catherine Rohr, Tony Blair, Gary Haugen, Tony Dungy, Blake Mycoskie, Cory Booker, Seth Godin, and many more. Each year I walk away wondering how I will ever remember the wisdom and learnings I was presented, and there’s a part of me that wishes I could walk away with more.

This year, I will be one of 8,000 watching the Summit live in South Barrington. Another 62,000 attendees will be watching the satellite feed all across North America. The neat part is that I will be watching the whole event in a room that about 50 people have access to—the Summit’s social media room. I get to be in there for my job (I’ll be tweeting from @WillowCreekCC), and each year I’ve been in there, the room has gotten just a little bit bigger. If there’s one downside to being in that room, it’s that I can’t always tell the mood of the auditorium from what I’m seeing on a screen. Some speakers command a presence when they speak, and that doesn’t always translate over a monitor.

So expect to see a couple blogs before the end of this week. Plus I’ll be tweeting parts of the event from my person Twitter account (@iphilpot) as well as from my Google + and Pinterest accounts. (That’s right. No Facebook love from me.)

This weekend I attended Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, MI. This was my second time at the biannual conference. Both times I’ve attended I’ve been representing Reliefof which I am the web editor. This means that I spent a good amount of the conference at the Relief table in the exhibitor hall telling people about the journal and meeting people who we have published.

The sessions I saw were incredible! This is in stark contrast to my experience at AWP. Though I only went to four sessions (all on Friday), I couldn’t have been happier with them. The first session was called “The Word Needs Flesh: Sex and Faith in Contemporary Writing” with John Estes and Amy Frykholm (a Relief published author). The second session was “From Page to the Screen: Adapting Novels and Short Stories for Film” with Scott Teems. The third was an interview of one of my favorite authors: Craig Thompson. The fourth and final session was Craig going through his graphic novel writing process. I ended the day at Calvin’s art gallery where some of Craig’s drawings were on display.

Here are some of the snippets that I took away from the sessions:

  • “We’re uncomfortable with our needs and our wants because they’re selfish and we don’t want to be perceived as selfish.” —John Estes
  • “The church can’t make you holy any more a school can make you smart.” —John Estes on self motivation
  • “If you don’t really look at pleasure, you can’t have discipline over it.” —Amy Frykholm
  • “Our job as adapters is to attempt and theme—attempt to portray the author’s intentions and sort out the themes to display to keep the audience interested.” —Scott Teems
  • “Once you’ve done something autobiographical, you’ve burned all your bridges and you’re free to do whatever you want.” —Craig Thompson on the creative freedom that opened up after writing Blankets
  • “Because of the paper canvas, comics feel like a letter from the author.” —Craig Thompson

I also had the opportunity to meet some new people who were very kind, entertaining, and nice from Antler, Rock & Sling (here’s a picture a the awesome banner over their table), Word Farm, and many more. I also had a great time meeting some of the Relief staff I hadn’t met before, like Jake Slaughter, Lyle Enright, Andy Koenig, and Tania Runyan. Our evening shenanigans were the best I’ve ever had at a conference, and I was sad that they had to come to an end. Great people.

AWP 2012

March 4, 2012 — 4 Comments

Over the last few days, I attended the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ (AWP) conference held in Chicago. I woke up early to catch trains, ate quickly to catch panels, and slept little as my mind tried to process new thoughts even though my body needed rest.

One of the most exciting parts of the conference was being in Chicago. The whole experience reminded me of 2007 when I commuted to Columbia College from the suburbs. I missed the smell of Garrett’s popcorn on Madison Avenue. I missed the inspiration I’d find in people watching from a seat in an Argo Tea. I missed it all, and I was glad to have it back, even if for a couple of days.

I sadly report that about 50% of the time I spent at AWP was listening to uninformed informants or endlessly expounding educators—neither of which lent me any new thoughts except for “I wish I had gone to another panel.” I didn’t think I would have said that. For the three days, there were six sessions a day and an average of 20 panels for each session. But it was nearly impossible to know which panel was going to be a hit and which was going to be a flop.

At the same time, it is with great enthusiasm that I report that 50% of my time at AWP was well-spent listening to writers who believe in what they do and love engaging and sharing their thoughts and learnings about our craft. I would love to share every detail, but I will instead provide some quotations I heard shared in the panels I attended. (Each quote includes an attribute and the session I heard it in.)

  • “A novel isn’t meant to be perfect.” —Sabina Murray in “Reports from the Tenches: Teaching Novel and Novella Workshops”
  • “Writing literary books was never a good way to make a living—that predates the Internet.” —Stephen Elliott in “Literature and the Internet in 2012”
  • “Go out, meet people, make friends. Don’t network.” —Blake Butler in “Literature and the Internet in 2012”
  •  “If we’re not supposed to dance, why all this music?” —Gregory Orr (from To Be Alive) in “God at Every Gate: Dialogues in Silence”
  • “It is not incumbent on you to finish the task; neither are you free to give it up.” —Alicia Ostriker in “God at Every Gate: Dialogues in Silence”
  • “If life isn’t enough, then the afterlife won’t be enough.” —Fanny Howe quote mentioned by Kazim Ali in “God at Every Gate: Dialogues in Silence”
  • “Don’t spend so much time studying the jug that you forget to drink the water.” —Rami quote mentioned by Kazim Ali in “God at Every Gate: Dialogues in Silence”

I feel fortunate to have walked away with such strong words as those. I also came out of the conference with about eight new ideas for stories. (They will all have to wait until Script Frenzy is over though.)