It was one of those beautiful NYC days. You know the kind of day that gently falls in a very small window between the extreme seasons of hot and cold. The sun was out, the air was right, and I was crossing a strangely barren Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park en route to an actual gathering.
On a day like this, Sheep’s Meadow would typically be host to an obstacle course of city residents sunning, of nannies minding children, and of occasional lovebirds stealing not so private kisses. Today there was none of that; the field was nearly empty. And across the expanse of the field (I had mistakenly entered from the wrong side), was an oasis of white round circles, 20 or so, polka-dotted against a vividly green lawn and nestled under the trees.
As I made my way to the perfectly spaced blankets, each anchored with gift bags featuring the names of the participating hotels and hospitality groups and filled with swag, a few of the attendees started to come into view.
I heard the gentle bop of the lone singer and her back up guitarist, both bedecked in 1930s swing garb.
Continuing the 1930s theme, I was greeted with delicious (park) contraband of the bubbly sort — a chilled mini-can bearing the name of an auteur’s daughter, I peered at half-masked faces, trying to decipher identities and find any sort of familiarity.
I quickly realized that this gathering would be an interesting experiment of addressing people that I may or may not know, and mentally prepared conversational gambits for a live action Guess Who with everyone changed by six months of stay at home.
Fortunately, our common interests, including a deep and almost desperate desire for connection made it easy. For networkers and event planners, it’s been an incredibly long seven months.
By the beverages, I found Great Performances’ contribution to the event: our newly designed bento boxes, beautifully packaged, safely prepared, and perfect for this type of dining.
Not far from our bento boxes, I spotted my dear colleague Linda Abbey, who I had only seen from the chin-up since March, and I was so grateful for this in person reunion. We shared a moment, and then made our way to the other guests.
There were about 35 guests, and it began to feel like a party. I made my way to Travis Pham, who orchestrated the whole evening with his company 360 Destination Management, and thanked him for bringing us all together again.
As I discussed the challenges and attributes of online meetings with a client from a financial institution (she had just produced a virtual gathering of 11,000 people from her company!), I saw Linda engaging guests with the bento boxes. They shared her excitement about the boxes, and groups splintered off to the polka dots to enjoy their meals. Across the lawn, I heard the celebration of the food and the packaging. One guest determined to take the empty package home for research, which I took as a high compliment.
The event concluded and I was thankful for the beautiful evening, the opportunity to see familiar faces, and the slight exhaustion I felt from standing around for hours chatting. Linda and I walked away from the park, happy with the outcome and hopeful for more events.