EduCon Takes Sessions Outdoors

Authors: David McMillin       
Michelle Russell       
Barbara Palmer       

The Convene editors stepped out into the SoCal sunshine to attend three different sessions held concurrently on Thursday afternoon. Here are their takeaways.

A Breath of Fresh Air

When I was growing up, there was one magical phrase I longed to hear from the teacher when summer was on the horizon: Let’s take class outside. That relocation still holds the same kind of appeal for me more than two decades later. At Education Conference, the move made perfect sense for a session titled “Staying Fit and Fueled On the Road and in the Office.” Busy professionals do not make enough time for sunshine. We eat lunch at our desks. We spend long hours in windowless meeting rooms. At conferences and trade shows, that inside-all-the-time approach often gets even worse with the combination of late nights at receptions and bad dietary decisions.

The session was — pun intended — a breath of fresh air. We learned breathing exercises and stretches designed to decrease stress, and they felt better paired with California sunshine. The outdoor component did introduce some additional challenges for attention span, though. From catching audio of the neighboring session that was staged on a boxing ring stage to seeing the scrolling digital advertisements on the L.A. LIVE screen, taking class outdoors puts some hurdles in front of the curriculum. Those distractions didn’t faze Nora Tobin, health and wellness partner for Marriott International Luxury Brands, though. She even incorporated some of the music from the boxing ring into our exercises and kept the audience engaged. She was proof that another lesson from those outdoor days in eighth grade still rings true: A good teacher can make you smarter, no matter what’s going on around you.

— David McMillin

outdoor education

Nora Tobin, health and wellness partner for Marriott International Luxury Brands, shares wellness tips at “Staying Fit and Fueled On the Road and in the Office” Thursday at EduCon. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

Bring on the Sunshine

I couldn’t wait to step outside and soak up some mid-day sunshine here in LA, to take a break from windowless, chilly session rooms and get some fresh air. So when Michelle Boos-Stone took the “stage” on West Road for our session, “Embrace Intentional Leadership to Energize Your Team,” I was predisposed to love her and what she had to say.

I’m pretty sure the rest of the audience shared my mindset. And Boos-Stone, the founder and principal of Five Elements Consulting Group, didn’t disappoint. She was on point, witty, and shared examples of how she leads her team and organizes her day — one of her consistent practices is what she calls “the 10 X 10 rule.” Every morning, she sets out to accomplish 10 things by 10 a.m.

Which opened the window only a crack into her process as a talented graphic recorder. I marvel at her ability to fill a blank canvas with colorful key takeaways and illustrations while a speaker is presenting a session — that takes a disciplined and focused mind, for sure. Those lively poster boards lined the walkway en route to the session rooms at the JW Marriott.

And Boos-Stone proved her mettle at the session by not allowing the blaring Rocky theme song from the adjoining session, or the trucks barreling down the street not far away, distract her or detract from her earnest presentation.

When the session was over, Boos-Stone asked if anyone had any questions. There were only a few from the audience, but almost everyone lingered. We were still letting the warm sunshine settle into our bones.

— Michelle Russell

outdoor education

The “Embrace Intentional Leadership to Energize Your Team” session features Michelle Boos-Stone of Five Elements Consulting Group. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

Cheers for Epic Fails

We used our outside voices at the “F-Stage: Reframing Failure With a Focus on Success,” where a regulation boxing ring was set up for two bouts of competitive storytelling. During each round, participants took turns telling a personal story about the role that failure has played on the way toward success. Presenters hammed it up, some of them wearing robes and dancing around the ring, to a clapping and cheering audience.

Something about the sunshine and the mood-setting music — “The Eye of the Tiger,” Rocky’s theme song — peeled away any reticence four presenters might have had about getting honest about times when things didn’t go according to plan. “We do not share and celebrate failure enough,” said moderator Juliano Lissoni, managing director of the MCI Group Canada. “It cannot be separated from innovation.”

Cathy Mason, CMP, senior director of events for YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization), told the story of what happened when her organization tried to expand upon a successful event too fast, and Stuart Ruff-Lyon, vice president for education and events for RIMS (Risk and Insurance Management Society, Inc.), talked about how he and his organization reacted when one attendee, a person of color, reported not feeling welcome at a RIMS event.

The relaxed crowd roared when innovative strategist Amy Blackman, shouted, “I am a failure ninja! I have a black belt in failure — I can only be an entrepreneur,” while wearing a boxing glove on one hand and holding a microphone in the other. Blackman told how she walked away from a successful career in the music business, cashed in all her chips to go back to school to get an MBA, before rising like a phoenix to found her company, Fruition Co.

Blackman won the round.

—Barbara Palmer

outdoor education

Stuart Ruff-Lyon, from left, Cathy Mason, Amy Blackman, and Patsy Fukuda at Round One of “F-Stage: Reframing Failure With a Focus on Success.” (Jacob Slaton Photography)