Media companies are only & only human capital, events are a test of human endurance & celebration of human achievement. That’s what I miss about our physical Skift Global Forum this year.
It’s early September, the languid days of August have given way to the impending manic of the fall crush as it slowly tiptoes on us and then suddenly slams its way in. You know it is coming when the t-shirt days give way to light jackets and you start to put your arms around yourself in the morning to shake off the early morning nip in the wind when you leave home for the commute.
It has to be the Skift Global Forum season for us at Skift. But this isn’t like any other season in the past.
Now in its year seven in 2020, our flagship conference is muscle memory to us by now, ready to be flexed again this year. This was going to the biggest year in our history, we had outgrown our iconic venue at Lincoln Center on Broadway and were moving to a brand new giant venue all the way on the West Side with floor-to-ceiling windows around a New York City block with sweeping views of Hudson wrapped, a sign of how we had established our Forum as the most definitive and prestigious global conference in one of the world’s largest sectors. Skift was — and still is — *the* lingo in travel and Global Forum was how we expressed it every year in the splashiest way possible.
In the business we created since late summer of 2012, writing up words on blank digital pages for everyone to read, the physicality of our Forums made it all real for us as a team, it made us real to the world that hung on to every digital creations for all these years. For a few brief days, we really were the center of the universe we exist in, a universe of travel that has existed for a couple of hundred of years and we weren’t even part of short eight years ago. It really was the best feeling in the world those few days of the year.
Well, we are a few days away from what will be the most consequential Forum of all in travel’s most consequential year in its modern history, just that no one will be traveling to attend it this year.
Every year during the couple of weeks prior to our Forum, I break out our Forum soundtrack (yes, we have had one since the start!) to get into the zone, and this year listening to it is an exercise in nostalgia, of what I really really miss about our SGF week.
I miss being with all of our Skift team who fly in from everywhere around the world to be together to absorb that intense energy, playing off the energy we all generate, to see their hard work come to life in those few days, to be the rockstars, each one of us, walking on air those few days, meeting people who we write about every day.
I miss that really early morning dusk on uptown Broadway, empty and peaceful for that brief moment in time. I miss that feeling of seeing the Skift sign up on Broadway, the proudest moment for me personally (came in 2016 when we were in Alice Tully Hall). I miss that mad rush to set up the check-in booth early on morning one, just seeing those lines of eager and smiling faces at the check in.
I miss the makeup room, that one time in the year we break out of our startup normcore look and look spiffy before going on stage. I miss the easy backstage camaraderie with our production team, the great Legend Productions team we have worked with for every physical event in our history. I miss the calm of their hand on my back as I am ready to walk out. I miss my opening address welcoming everyone from around the world into our “house.”
I miss the iconic (in our minds) Skift yellow chairs on stage. I miss my walk-on music, I miss the amazing quality of the sound systems of the auditorium. I miss the hugs with old-timers attending and meeting year after year at our Forums, I miss the handshake ritual at the end of the Forum with my friend Jeremy Cooker who has attended every Forum. I even miss the awful five-hour Energy drink I used to stay vertical, the only time in the year I need it.
I miss our by-now-legendary on-stage selfie we do every year with the growing (until the pandemic hit) Skift team on the day two morning, when I also introduce the teams and their incredible work to our attendees. I miss the end of the conference dinner, the bone-draining tiredness and exhilaration of having climbed the mountain. I miss telling this to the newcomers to Skift: “For those who are new to Skift, I can guarantee that at the company dinner the last night of the Forum, when you are dead tired, you will feel that collective high and will get why we put the superhuman effort into the Forum and the importance of this achievement to the team.”
I miss saying goodbyes to our team, till next time. I miss everything.
And yet, we move on into the new world, knowing this too shall pass and a new hybrid world awaits. We have gathered an incredible lineup of speakers, our best ever in a year where because of virtual, the lineup and attendees are truly global. We have a great lineup of sponsors that are supporting us and this industry they love, in its most critical year. We will have the most urgent and important discussions that we have ever had in our history on that video stage. And we will still have you joining us.
Here is what we will still have at the end of 2020 Forum, I know for sure: the end of a successful conference, that feeling of exhaustion, exhilaration, satisfaction, and excitement of possibilities ahead.
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