Subtitle: a blatant, unadulterated, unapologetic promotion for Annual Meeting because I love it
It’s that time of year again. No, I don’t mean the holidays. I couldn’t care less about those. I mean ‘tis the season for the Charlotte Chamber Annual Meeting! Yay! I ♥ Annual Meeting! (More exclamation points, so you understand how serious I am!!!!!!)
You’re probably thinking that it’s my job to say that. True enough. Those who know the inner workings of the chamber and know that my supervisor, Blair Stanford, is responsible for annual meeting might also be thinking that I’m kissing up. Not true – she knows me well enough to see right through any insincerity on my part. No, my friends, I was a fan of annual meeting long before I worked at the chamber.
My deep and abiding love for this event began in 2001. I was still a bit of a PR rookie working at Epley Associates. I was told to bring a handful of business cards and my best suit to accompany my then boss to a function after work. That also meant leaving my then husband at home with our infant while I got to hang out with grown-ups at night. This role reversal and the plan that went with it already teemed with win.
We arrived and took our seats just as the program was beginning. The theme that year was The Art of Business. Three huge, blank canvases had been set up on stage. International artist Jean Francois took the stage and using his hands and rags began painting Charlotte’s skyline on the center canvas. Impressive but my mind was not yet blown.
Later in the program he began filling another canvas. Eventually the silhouette of Marian Wright Edelman emerged. Edelman, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, was the Citizen of the Carolinas honoree that year. As I watched her beautiful portrait emerge from the canvas, I listened to the voiceover about her and her work. I was awed by this woman, a fellow Carolinian, who dedicated her life to helping poor, abused and disabled children. I felt an odd mixture of awe, pride, humility and motivation.
The artist began his work on the last canvas. Everyone in the audience struggled to make out what the artist was painting. The crowd murmured their guesses, but it really didn’t look like anything. Then with a grand sweeping gesture and a gasp from the crowd, he flipped the canvas 180 degrees. The faces of the outgoing and incoming chair smiled at us from the canvas. He painted them upside down ... with his hands ... right in front of us. That’s when my mind was blown. A whole new perspective opened up for me: take a look at problems upside down!
The business part of the meeting – hearing about the chamber’s accomplishments from the past year, previewing the goals for the coming year, and meeting the incoming executive committee – was interspersed with entertainment and felt like the natural flow of the show. It was energizing hearing about their plans for my city. And when I say my city, I mean my city – my hometown and first love.
At the reception that followed, I enjoyed delicious food while chatting with several of my clients that I never got to see outside of the office and got to meet several community leaders who frequently had a direct impact on my client work. The people-watching at the reception was part of the show as well. At one point I just stood against the wall and played “name that power broker” with myself. It was a pretty big deal for a 20-something.
People, I say this with all seriousness: the Charlotte Chamber Annual Meeting is the best show in town. Blair and her Annual Meeting Committee never fail to deliver a show that is entertaining, informative and on schedule. I hope you’ll join me this year as we honor Sandra and Leon Levine as the Citizens of the Carolinas and Carolinas Healthcare System as the Belk Innovation in Diversity Award recipient. Register here.
If you’re inclined to leave comments on blog posts, I’d love to hear your favorite moments from annual meetings past. I know they’re out there. Maybe it was the I SEE video from last year? Or perhaps it was the time you turned into a speechless fan-boy when you met Hugh McColl? (You know you did. Don’t lie.)