by Daniel Cattanach
So I finally went and did it. After almost four years of dilly-dallying, I have bitten the silver bullet and bought my first-ever ticket for Comms Unplugged.
I absolutely cannot wait to get into that field in delightful Dorset – the field of dreams; the field of expert inspirational speakers; the field of fresh air and free-thinking; the field of possibilities; the field free of tech and distractions; the field of endless opportunities. I look forward to bringing back everything I learn and sharing the benefits with others.
So, I hear you (and the voices in my head) say, what took me so long?
Frankly, it was fear. For far too many years I had been frightened to step outside of my apparent “comfort zone” and interact with new people face-to-face (as much as I knew it would be good for me). Across the room at past conference events, I had recognised the faces of many fine folks who I follow and respect on Twitter (including Comms Unplugged’s very own Georgia Turner and Sally Northeast) but I was so painfully shy that I never had the guts to walk across the floor to say, “Hi” to them. I guess it’s like what they say about not meeting your heroes.
There was also the overwhelming feeling that I didn’t want to be selfish by taking time out just for me (when I should be focusing on my family and other priorities, such as work, instead). Coupled with this was my stupidly-stubborn reluctance to accept that I needed to devote more time and effort on looking after my mental health and wellbeing. After all, if I didn’t work on my own resilience how on Earth could I possibly expect to be there for the others who may need me – my family, friends and colleagues.
I’m not exactly sure what the turning point was for me. It was probably thanks to a number of factors; the cumulative impact of reading the glowing testimonials of other unpluggers and seeing photos showing magical moments from past unplugged events, alongside being nurtured by the patient, persevering and persuasive banter that I’ve enjoyed sharing with Georgia and Sally on Twitter over the last few years, as well as the ever-supportive words of fellow Comms Unplugged co-creator Darren Caveney. Thank you, folks.
It’s helped me grow more aware of our collective need to talk about the increasing pressures of modern life (especially the “always on” nature of social media) and how succumbing to them can have a detrimental impact on us, our families, friends, colleagues and comms peers. Although I still appreciate the positive things that can come from having a little window on the world in the palm of my hand, I’m keen to find more ways to escape from the shouting and negativity that it also peddles.
However, there are only so many inspirational memes you can scroll through and snippets of life-affirming podcasts you can listen to before the sharp ping of notifications pierces your concentration and drags you back into the abyss. The way I see it, the flicker of blue light from a screen offers no match to the warm glow of a campfire and sharing thoughts and feelings with like-minded comms folk sat around it – who are outstanding (or sitting) in their field.
So it’s definitely time for me to try something different – whisking myself away from the distractions of technology and floating off to the Comms Unplugged field to immerse myself in true human interaction; making new friends in real life; enjoying fabulous food and marvellous melodies; and learning life lessons from inspirational speakers, exhilarating experiences, fresh air and free-thinking.
Look on the bright side
If you’re still not convinced enough to join us then perhaps a little analogy might help to explain it. I cleaned my glasses this morning. Well, when I say “cleaned” I mean I quickly sprayed them with lens cleaner and gave them a fleeting wipe with a cloth before rushing on to the next thing on my to-do list. However, I noticed that there was still a haze to my view. Upon closer inspection I could still see smears and dust on the glass. So I took some time to sit down, spray the glasses a bit more; wipe them thoroughly with one cloth and then dry them with another.
The result was that I could see things more clearly – literally and metaphorically – giving myself the space to focus on the task in hand helped me to do it better, and gave me the breathing space to ready my mind for the rest of the day. I know from past experience that if I pop into my local opticians then they’re equipped with the right knowledge, skills and kit to give me even greater clarity of vision. And that’s just with wiping my glasses – imagine if you could go somewhere and be with friendly folks who can help you to lift the fog in your brain and see things more clearly. For me, that’ll be the magic of Comms Unplugged.
If any of what you’ve read above seems familiar to you then please grab a Comms Unplugged ticket while you can. Personally, I can’t wait to see you in the field.
(NB – I’ll be the one ‘singing’ this homage to the Comms Unplugged community 👇 but please don’t let that put you off!)
Daniel Cattanach is a senior communications officer working in regional government. He’s also the creator of the unbearably clever Comms Top Trump cards and lots of amusing and engaging videos. You can say hello to him on Twitter at @DanielCattanach
— Wednesday 19th February —