Coming so soon after Barbara’s sweet story about the first date that the late Lou Reed and his wife, Laurie Anderson, had — at an audio-industry conference — do we need another uplifting case where meetings brought two people together? Yes, absolutely, we do.
But this one, while honed with friendship and humor, has something more of a professional edge than the ballad of Lou and Laurie. It’s a story from NPR, about how a Jewish comic named Judy Carter and a Muslim policy consultant named Dalia Mogahed met at one conference and collaborated at another. They were both on the program at the ICAN (Institute for Career Advancement Needs) 2013 Women’s Leadership Conference in Omaha — not named in the NPR story, but findable via Google — and got to talking during a speakers reception. They hit it off, and soon Mogahed, quiet and serious, was asking the funny, outspoken Carter to help her liven up a presentation she would be giving on U.S. engagement with the Muslim world at the Chautauqua Institution in July (also not specified in the story).
After extensive coaching from Carter, Mogahed kills it, interspersing her talk with jokes that have her Chautauqua audience laughing and engaged. Afterward, she tells Carter: “I was thinking, Judy, only in America would this partnership be possible. You’re funny and I’m serious. You’re Jewish and I’m Muslim. You’re gay and I’m straight. It’s an American thing.”
A conference thing, too. Isn’t it great to think about that? About all the people you connect? All your attendees out there in the world, before or after your meeting, working within your framework, making things, sharing ideas, coming to know and trust and like one another? And it’s a little mind-boggling to realize that, when it comes to networking and collaboration, your live program is just the tip of the iceberg?