To say that this is an extraordinary time of year for me might come off as some sort of trite expression of the obvious. And make no mistake, being the one largely responsible for bringing 226 people together from six continents is a heady experience.
The older I get, however, the more I appreciate the rituals involved in playing host to the four-day user conference that is the Presentation Summit. They play out across a much longer timeframe than those four days. They begin in utter solitude and in my car. When the Summit is on the West Coast, I prefer to drive the 525 miles to our customary host city of San Diego, and I begin at 4:00a. Most of the time, I do not even turn on the radio for the first several hours. That’s about as solitary as you can get.
I arrive at the hotel days before anyone else on the conference team is scheduled to arrive and I pretty much hole up in my hotel room like a bear in his cave.
Why do I do these anti-social, borderline creepy things? That’s part of the ritual: When over 200 people are about to be paying attention to you, when you are about to become public property every waking moment, the only way to prepare for that is with solitude. I don’t subscribe to the theory of working up gradually to the excitement of the conference; I prefer to crash into it.
On the other side, it’s a different story. I have to come down very gradually from all of that attention and I learned this early on in my career (back when I was young enough to have been able to handle it better, but alas, I didn’t). I remember after our first-ever event in 1989, asking Becky to take me home as soon as the conference was over. The giant sucking sound you would have heard was me undergoing total implosion and massive withdrawal.
So now I know to ease away from the chaos of the conference and that translates into keeping a lot of people around me. Those who stick around Wednesday evening and Thursday day receive my eternal gratitude.
Two days later, I am ready to return home. And collapse. Because it is then that I have to pay it back. All of that adrenalin I borrow against for four straight days. Pay it all back. With interest.
So there it is, the secret to my success. Sit in a dark and silent car for several hours, hide out for two days like a bear in a cave, exhibit a massive explosion of false energy for four days, beg people to keep me company afterward like some pathetic loser, and then collapse in a heap for the better part of two weeks.
Don’t you just love rituals…?