One presenter, a middle-aged man, spoke broadly about his work, and it became apparent that he had other aspirations. His presentation was an infomercial for his own company, and he kept asking us to sign up for his workshop and seminar.
The irony was that we were all there because we already signed up for a workshop and seminar that we paid for (either in volunteer service or money), and the intention of the workshop was to give us this information, not for us to sign up for another presentation.
There was not a lot of audience engagement in the discussion portion, because every question was avoided as he told us he would answer those in his own workshops, and to find out more we had to attend those. Everyone tuned out and turned off.
Meanwhile, a few hours later, I attended a conference run by two young women who were passionate about sharing.
To begin, they sent everyone the link to their powerpoint presentation so that we could download and save the information. They shared hundreds of links to websites, free services, and invited us to join cohort groups with them.
They gave specific, in-depth answers to questions, and the entire mood of the seminar changed. Instead of 50 people half asleep in front of a computer screen, this group was engaged and excited, sharing experiences, thoughtful questions, and opinions.
The generosity of the hosts, and the belief that sharing freely created equity, shifted us. There was a spirit of abundance in the room. The more we shared, the more we wanted to.
I downloaded new programs, I signed up to work with people. I was excited because the information was open and free.
Later on my evening walk, I thought about this. I ruminated on the gender and age disparity between the presenters, and I considered how it might be a sign of a societal shift - and a healthy one at that.
It seemed clear that the older man felt his information was proprietary and the biggest value in the room. On the other hand, the two young women saw that connection and community was the value of the gathering.
During this time, when so many of us have lost our jobs, may not have income or a safe place to stay, where the future seems so uncertain, I reflected how much I hope that the younger attitude rules our future.
And that attitude is believing that your creativity adds as much value to a conversation as your dollars would provide to a wallet.
I have been in so many environments where I am trying to be sold something that I don't need. That has seemed to evaporate in this crisis. Now I know that the true value that we can generate is not money, but creativity, effort, connection and time.
I hope that we can shape a new status quo for society as we move into the future so that we can live in a less proprietary world, one where we share the enormous bounty of our labor, experiences and effort.