How’s that for saying “live conference” without actually saying it?

In two weeks, I will not only be attending but also helping to moderate a panel at the Texas Society of Architects (TxA) annual conference in San Antonio. And in person no less!

Saying that out loud sounds a bit weird. (You should hear how it sounds in my head.) Especially after the last year and a-half of participating in virtual conferences. Not to knock virtual. I will admit there’s something nice about being able to log in from home instead of hopping a flight or taking a road trip.

And there are definitely more opportunities to reach a broader audience. James has been listening to sessions this week that are part of a conference with presentations in every time zone and multiple languages across the globe. Not something you could do in person.

However, I am looking forward to physically seeing other architects and picking up on the energy (or lethargy, depending on the topic) generated by having people coming together. Since most of us won’t have seen each other since the conference in 2019, I expect the buzz to be bigger than usual.

Yet at the same time, I find myself a little anxious about attending. Like any conference where I’ve presented, there’s the anxiety that builds until you’re in front of the audience. But this year we get to add pandemic protocols to help ratchet up the nerves. However, TxA organizers have vaccine and test requirements in place just to pick up your badge. Plus the city requires masks inside the convention center.

But I am curious – especially as part of a session – how rooms will be set up to maintain distancing and still allow for attendees. Last time I sat in on the handicap accessibility session and ended up sitting on the floor. As part of our continuing education, architects are required to have an accessibility credit, so the room was packed. I wasn’t the only one on the floor, and people were standing in the back. Hard to imagine that happening this year.

Also hard to imagine – this will be the first time I’ve been in San Antonio since 2007, and I don’t know if that trip counts. My sister and I stayed on the southern outskirts in a Comfort Inn (that’s a misnomer if there ever was one) to attend our grandmother’s funeral south of the city. I can’t remember the last time I stayed in the heart of San Antonio, went to the Riverwalk, or visited the Alamo. Almost a new experience this trip.

I just hope when I arrive that I recognize anyone. While masks have certainly been a good way to keep us safe, I’ve never been good at figuring out who I was talking with by just looking from the nose up. Who knows? This may be the one year we’re all grateful for nametags.

We’ll see. And in person!