By Adele Meyer
NARTS Executive Director
Reprinted & updated from a past issue of Your NARTS Network, NARTS Monthly Newsletter
One of our newer members phoned me recently for some information about Conference. After responding to a few questions, that I knew were answered in our application, the REAL reason for her phone call surfaced! "This is probably a dumb question", she began, "but I don’t travel often and I’m nervous about coming alone... what if no one talks to me?" How fortunate I felt to be able to honestly assure her that NO one is ever a wallflower at a NARTS Conference. I’ve never seen such a friendly, sharing and caring group of people as our attendees. Gail and I have counseled many first time attendees over the years and typically before the meeting ends they come up to us and say, "I’m SO glad I came to Conference - everyone is SO friendly!" Don’t we know it... many long time friendships began at a NARTS meeting!
My conversation with this "now registered for Conference" member brought back memories of my very first resale meeting and I decided to share my experiences with her and now with any other members who may be having the same apprehensions.
Let’s go back in time... to the days I still owned my resale shop and would have attended Conference as a resaler, not as your meeting planner. At that time there was no NARTS... no local resale group. I had never even met another resaler... we were all pretty much out there by ourselves. One day I received a letter asking if I was interested in attending a resale convention in Iowa, I responded yes so I could find out about this new event.
A few months later I received information and an application to the first RAGS Convention in Iowa. I moved this envelope around my desk for a few weeks, then I phoned about plane reservations. I was really scared about going to a strange city by myself to attend a convention where I knew absolutely no one, but my curiosity about a resale meeting was stronger than my fear, so I decided I had better get up the nerve to attend or I would always wonder what I had missed.
I started making my plans and told my friends and employees what I was going to do. Everyone responded with, "You are going WHERE to WHAT???" Don’t forget in those days, resale was barely a recognizable industry... let alone one that held organized meetings! After gathering the nerve to attend I started making mental plans for what I would do when I reached Iowa.
The convention didn’t start until Sunday afternoon, but I had to fly in Saturday to get a decent airfare. I had everything figured out in my head... I was going to take a good book with me and planned on going to the hotel, checking in and having dinner in my room. I even planned Sunday morning, I would have breakfast in my room and then wander downstairs very nonchalantly before the meeting started and see if anyone would talk to me. I’m not sure if I had even convinced myself that I would walk into the meeting room alone. I never liked going into a new situation by myself so it wouldn’t have been a surprise if I’d chickened out and went back to my room, especially if everyone knew each other and no one talked to me!
What actually happened was so far from this mental plan that I have to laugh at myself now. On the flight to Iowa I noticed three women on the plane and wondered if they could possibly be going to the resale convention. When I reached the airport in Iowa and went to call the hotel shuttle they were right behind me. We rode to the hotel together and while chatting found out we owned shops on the opposite ends of our city.
As we checked into the hotel, they asked me if I’d like to meet them in the hotel restaurant for dinner. We must have been vocalizing quite well about resale over dinner, because people kept shyly walking up to our table and asking if we were there for the RAGS convention.
Within a few hours we’d pulled tables together and over thirty resalers were sharing stories and becoming fast friends. The restaurant finally closed around us, reminding us to unplug the coffeepots when we left. (Isn’t small town hospitality great?) We all made plans to meet for brunch before the opening session, which was in a few short hours since we had stayed up almost all night talking.
I don’t think anything can compare to the first meeting for a resaler who has never been able to share stories, frustrations and triumphs with a peer. It was the most exhilarating feeling! I came home with new enthusiasm, fresh ideas and friendships that still go on.
The point of this story is to assure anyone who is "scared" to attend Conference alone that even though you may walk in and see many of us who look very confident and self-assured, believe me, we all had that same insecure feeling at one time. I promise you’ll leave Conference with such good feelings about how friendly and open your peers are that you’ll never realize you attended Conference alone.
So for all of you who are still pondering - wanting to attend, but not quite sure if you’ll be comfortable - this article is for you! Log on to our Website and register NOW! I promise you won’t regret it and you won’t be alone... just look for one of our friendly Hospitality greeters and you’ll have an instant new acquaintance. I hope to see YOU at Conference!