Hopefully you had a great break for those who are in strength and conditioning (except for basketball — I hope you enjoyed your 24 hours off). Over the Christmas break, two things happened to me personally that are greatly related, and I felt like I needed to share so everyone has context. I’ve heard it said before that the difference between a smart person and a wise person is that a smart person learns from their mistakes. A wise person learns from the mistakes of others. I like to take a different turn on this saying: A smart person learns from their experiences and a wise person learns from the experiences of others.

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I am continually trying to deliver articles that are things I’ve done from my career so that those who follow can learn and build upon those things I did well and wrong; so that they can go further in their career and life than I. The two things that happened over the break for me is we were in a wreck in the middle of nowhere and I also experienced the drastic rise of the online live stream of conferences.

When going to my in-laws’ house for “Christmas” (it was a couple of days after) in the DC area, I was tired and let my wife drive for a while and I took a nap. I awoke to us hitting a deer in the middle of nowhere in South Carolina. It was 20 miles to St. George, South Carolina and that was the closest “city” to us.

After spending an hour on the phone with the insurance company and then various car rental agencies to find that all of the vehicles that could get us to our destination were either out or on recall, we were stuck on the side of the road. The tow truck agency said, “Well, we can get it to Charleston for someone to take a look at it,” and I had a beacon of hope to be able to get help.

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A friend of mine, Donnell Boucher at the Citadel, was located in South Carolina. While our location didn’t allow us for immediate help, we talked a state trooper into giving a ride to my family and I rode in the tow truck to a hunting motel 20 miles away (I’ve spent 40 years without being in the back of a police car and I don’t see the need to start now).

Donnell arranged a ride for me with one of his assistants, Carl Wise, to go and get his vehicle (just purchased, and it’s gorgeous — the nicest vehicle I’ve ever driven) to be able to get my family up while we were waiting on an appropriate rental. It was a pretty amazing experience, to be honest. Donnell was in Massachusetts on vacation visiting his family and friends. I sent him a text saying, “We were in a wreck and are somewhere in South Carolina near Charleston, we need help,” and he sprang into action.

I want to stop and point out here that Donnell and I never worked together in a physical structure. We met at conferences, served together on the board of the YSCCa, and spoke via social media and text, and made sure to hang out whenever we could. It was because of this relationship that I was able to get his assistance and receive the help we needed to get to where we were not stranded. Now to shift gears.

The online live streaming conference has become a thing. This year at the NSCA coaches conference, I believe that there were as many live stream registrants as in-person attendees. I definitely understand the allure of the live stream and have utilized it when there were events I could not attend. Information and ideas are golden, and if you can get the information directly from the horse’s mouth, that is best. By having live stream options (with recording for watching repeatedly to ensure a great grasp of the material), you can watch presentations you’d never be able to attend.

Beyond that, the ability to receive the information while sitting on your couch in your underwear and no one being able to talk to you may be a dream for an introvert. The streaming events are usually the same price as the live registration, but you will save on all travel expenses such as airfare, meals, hotel, taxi, etc.

I sometimes wonder if I am a dinosaur for this, but I really like going to conferences. I like to be able to sit and listen and pick up on the speaker’s body language for cues as to what they are trying to portray. While most places that do live stream or recorded conferences use professional videographers, the camera person may be focused on the person's face when it’s their hands or legs demonstrating the point they are trying to make. On the live stream or recorded video, you will miss that context which may result in you missing the point they were trying to make.

Another issue with livestream is copyright. In a live presentation, more can be gotten away with. For instance, there was a video posted of a lecture I gave called “Sports Science 101- Go deeper with your data.” In that lecture, I interjected a clip of the song “Warpigs” by Black Sabbath that jolted the people in their seats and then used allegory to explain how just like “Warpigs” had a surface and depth to it (it sounds like a song about witchcraft, but in reality is a war protest song), you could go so much deeper with what you already collect.

Without being at the live conference, it may be tough to understand that depth of the information. Some presenters (myself included) may utilize a video off of YouTube, which is completely legal to show for educational purposes, but may get a bit gray when rebroadcasted and thus is omitted from the video that is shown via a livestream or as recorded content. So again, you miss out on that actual bit of content.

Something else that is available from the actual conference that isn’t available in the live stream is the ability to network and make connections. While you are often able to ask questions to the speaker during live stream events, you are unable to get the viewpoint of other attendees. Honestly, I often get more out of talking with other attendees on their viewpoints of the talks as the talks themselves. It also spurs greater conversation about similar training methodologies and what results they got with them. When you are watching from home, you miss out on this.

Many people have also gotten jobs as a result of being at the conference. Whenever you are there, you meet people and they may know of jobs that you’d be a great candidate for. You can also meet people who become your friends and you can call upon them in times of need, like I did with Donnell.

I often think of the movie Good Will Hunting, for various things like this, in the “You’re just a kid,” scene with Robin Williams and Matt Damon.

“You don’t know what it smells like in this Sistine Chapel.” That line has been in my ears since I saw this movie as a teenager. If you are only watching on the live stream, you don’t know what the conference hall smells like. What it feels like to sit directly behind Joey Batson (this was before the National championship run), who you had heard stories about since 1998, and he’s next to you in real life and you get to shake his hand and say, “Coach Batson, you don’t know who I am, but my name is Bryan Mann, and I’ve been a fan of your work for over a decade.”

You don’t know what it feels like in the bar at 11 p.m., everyone huddled around a table learning how someone does a trick in excel that saves them three hours a week in printing off their workout cards. You don’t know what it feels like to sit at a table at an awards ceremony with Joe Kenn and Boyd Epley and say to Joe Kenn, “Dude, I can’t believe we are sitting at the table sitting with Boyd Epley.” To have him turn back to you and say, “Nah man, he gets to sit at the table with us.”

I have met many people who I call friends at conferences; they are far too many to name. If I didn’t go to the conferences, I wouldn’t have had Donnell that I could lean on in my time of need. While the online conference is great, it allows you to get information you wouldn’t get and it can provide some fantastic ideas for your program. It may allow you to be able to know, to paraphrase Robin Williams’ character, all of the biography including the sexual orientation, but it doesn’t allow you to know what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. That my friends, can only be done in person. You can’t shake someone’s hand on-line and there’s something to be said for that.

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While there are greater expenses to incur when attending a conference in person — the airfare, transport to and from the hotel, the hotel of course, meals, snacks, libations, the additional expenses pale in comparison to the benefits possible obtained through connections, as they cannot have a monetary value. That’s not to say that simply going to a conference will allow you to meet people and gain additional connections and experience. You do have to do a fair bit of work for it, too. You’ll have to go and meet people.

It’s always best to talk to those around you. You never know who they may be or may become. Todd Hamer introduced me at his conference and said, “I knew Bryan Mann before Bryan Mann was Bryan Mann.” While a cute statement, you never know where life will take who you meet. The conversation you struck up in the bathroom or between speakers may lead to a great job 10 years down the line.

So, to the point of this article — don’t let opportunity slip away because you wanted to save money on airfare. Get out and meet people, as they say, your network is your net worth.

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