Reports from the Beyond The Love convention
Last weekend I went to one of the newer poly hotel conferences that have sprung up: Beyond The Love in Columbus, Ohio, now in its third year. It sold out three weeks in advance, and a lively crowd of 240 showed up all told. Like last year, I was impressed by how well Dan, Dawn and Karen — the triad who created it — run the convention together along with their big and dedicated volunteer staff, including much of Poly Columbus.
|Karen, Dan, and Dawn|
First here's my report, then one by Kitty Chambliss of Loving Without Boundaries.
Ostensibly, the centerpiece of the convention was the four simultaneous tracks of classes/workshops, 30 in all, running during the daytime. Many of the presenters (partial list) that I saw were excellent. Of course I had to miss 3/4 of the sessions, but I was especially impressed by Neil Wehneman's superb Poly 101 for newcomers at the very beginning (slides), Michael Rios on Poly as a Spiritual Path/ Tool for Personal Growth, and Kathy Slaughter's presentation of John and Julie Gottman's famous research results on the simple things that create lasting, happy long-term relationships.
But like last year, I was particularly impressed by the effort that went into the social aspects of the weekend. Set up in the center of the conference space was an always-buzzing social area with big round tables, display tables, and snacks nearly around the clock. (Some of the more substantial, healthy snacks were provided by sponsors, such as other Midwest poly groups, in exchange for time with a display table. This helped keep people fed.)
Each evening offered a solid schedule of organized activities with effective leaders. Friday began with ice-breakers: a people scavenger hunt (“Find someone who’s been to the top of the Empire State Building. Find someone who's been poly more than 20 years”), and then the big welcoming gathering with introductions and announcements enlivened by giveaways. And a thoughtful and moving keynote address by Ferrett Steinmetz, science fiction writer and poly blogger, which he kept to 12 minutes. (Here's an attendee's later podcast interview with him.)
Next came a mixer run by Boi Kris, including a PolyAthlon — in which, for instance, we were teamed up with strangers for a race to complete a list of silly tasks. A game room off to the side was always in use (Exploding Kittens, Cards Against Humanity), and quieter spaces were available for those who preferred.
|On the Flirt Board. (Photo by Kitty Chambliss.)|
At one point Neil Wehneman gave a class titled "You Are Cleared For Take-Off: Formalizing Your Poly Group for a Larger Scale." A notable point on one of his slides was this:
People value social events more than organizers do.
People value speaker/ educational events less than organizers do.
Big cheers for the BTL organizers, staff, and volunteers. The core triad have produced other events besides Beyond The Love and seem to have this thing nailed.
And they want to teach you how! Want to start a poly convention in your city? Dan says they'd be delighted to share all their knowledge and resources — including their project-management timeline that lists everything to do starting many months out, materials lists, advice on negotiating with hotels, the works.
Not only did BTL sell out, some of the wait-listed people showed up and ended up with a gathering of their own in the hotel lobby. The event was proof that you can gather a jumping poly convention even in a seemingly forlorn place like central Ohio — if you've been networking the local alt-relationship community vigorously, working social media, building a reputation, and if you involve a lot of local volunteers starting far in advance. Hey Seattle… Boston… St. Louis… Minneapolis… Austin… NYC… Tampa… Chicago… Here's your chance for a jumpstart.
And now, from Kitty Chambliss, who had a press pass as a relationship writer for her website Loving Without Boundaries:
Read her whole article (November 19, 2015).
The “Press Is In” and the Beyond The Love Conference was AMAZING!
...It exceeded my expectations in pretty much every way imaginable. Not only was the content and the quality of the various presentations excellent, but the overall loving, happy and accepting vibe of the entire event was just a breath of fresh air. Add to that I was meeting for the first time many friends that I have been chatting with and getting to know for years, and it’s just an explosion of AWESOME! The producers Dan, Dawn and Karen really have come up with an excellent formula. They managed to marry great and useful information via workshops with varied activities for every personality type, as well as fun socializing opportunities fostering a sense of connection with your tribe.
...Our keynote speaker Ferrett took the stage of the ballroom. He explained how he’s been married for 25 years and identified as polyamorous for half of that time. Then he went on to explain very beautifully that polyamory is most certainly not just about the sex. He spoke of “polyamorous friendship” — which he explained as deep, loving, connected friendships with special people that he considers every bit one of his loves.
...Polyamory as a Spiritual Path, by Michael Rios — What would relationships with others be like if we really were our own best friend? The more we do our own spiritual work, which is really about learning to fall in love with ourselves, the more available and loving we become.
...Relaxing Relationship Containment, by Kelly Cookson — Couples often have a lot to lose if their relationships deteriorate or break up. Consequently, couples protect their relationships by engaging in something called relationship containment. A possible alternative: Couples can learn to relax relationship containment, giving everyone involved greater freedom to develop close relationships.
...Solo Poly, by Master So’N’So — This lecture discussed the joys and pitfalls of being your own primary partner.
...Building Relationships That Last, by Kathy G. Slaughter, LCSW – This workshop explained the day-to-day habits that help strengthen long-term relationships, as well as the four habits that will destroy a relationship.
...Stay tuned for many of the above speakers to appear on my podcast!
...Don’t dream it, be it! “Showing up” is half of what life is about. :)
● What's coming up next? Here's the schedule of poly conventions, retreats, gatherings in 2016: Alan's List of Polyamory Events, with descriptions. Pass it on.
If you missed Beyond The Love, the next similar hotel con is Poly Living East, February 19–21 in Philadelphia. And I'm interested in what the brand new Infinity Con in Atlanta will be like, February 4–7....