I almost never travel for work any more. A conference or seminar once or twice a year, a team meeting somewhere local. For the most part, vacation adventures notwithstanding, I am right here, homebody extraordinaire.
But then again, there are those unusual times when work takes me away. Earlier this week, I needed to co-lead a focus group for a project I’m on.
A focus group in California.
Airfare for a quick fly-in-and-out proved too costly (not to mention too likely to leave us jetlagged on arrival and flailing through the event) so my former-boss-and-partner-in-crime for this project (hereafter simply Jane) and I had the chance to fly in earlier. We therefore got to sample Napa in all its glory for just slightly more than a day before the work commenced. Jane had friends-with-connections who had set a few things up for us, resulting in a private tour at Jarvis and the most fabulously fun tasting session at Vintner’s Collective. We also decided to go for the experience of the Wine Train and a tour of the Grgich Hills Estate winery. (A bit of a personal splurge, we decided, but after all, when would we be back?)
We had beautiful (if a bit chilly) weather and fabulous scenery throughout, as the vineyards go on forever and occasional cypress trees interspersed with palms are whispers of Tuscany in the middle of California dreaming. …at least that’s how I remember it… it gets a little blurry after all those little sips…
A handful of pics from the trip:
Anyway, we had a good time — without getting into undue trouble — and then the fun was over and we were back to business for Monday and the final meeting preparations, the cocktail hour, the focus group…
Oh all the agonies of anticipated social interactions, coupled with the pressure for perform for work!
It was good that there were so many details I could attend to beforehand, to keep me from climbing out of my skin.
And then, the cocktail hour was at hand…
The crowd for that was all people who make their living, among many other wonderful talents and abilities, by having excellent social skills. They are probably wired for it, and are certainly practiced at it… While I… well. What can one say? I am me. Utterly fabulous (ok, mostly likeable anyway – and stop laughing, you!), and individually personable, but easily overwhelmed in a group setting. Illustrative and amusingly self-deprecating story follows: A few years ago, on a lark, I went speed dating. At some point I was paired up across the table from one gentleman and we were having a good conversation – I assume he thought so too, as he ended up asking me out afterward – and somewhere in the middle he sheepishly admitted that he was pleasantly surprised at how easy I was to talk to, because he had seen me in the crowd at the mix-and-mingle portion beforehand and I had seemed … how to say this politely?… visibly uncomfortable… a little lost… a bit fish-out-of-water.
//Hmm. Yes. And, gosh, I would SO hate it if my social discomfort were something I was successful at keeping all to myself.//
So, yeah. Mix-and-mingling is not one of my natural gifts. Mix-and-mingling, leading straight to co-leading a group discussion, followed by more mix-and-mingling? So.Much.Fun.
But actually, it went fairly well, if the feedback is to be trusted. As we planned beforehand, Jane handled the steering of the conversation – which I suppose I could have done, with guide in hand, but it would have been a stretch for me as every person more than two at a table leaves me that much more inclined to listen than talk – but I did some follow-up questions and of course the active-listening and note-taking. And then after that was done, we were allowed to follow the participants’ lead and partake of the most excellent Napa wine. (Just one glass though. We were still on the clock, after all.) Group dinner (more socializing), then back to our respective places to pack up and make ready for home…
All things considered, the meeting went reasonably well, and we came back with good notes and findings and I am ridiculously glad to have that part of the project behind me.
And for the trouble, I get to say that I saw a new place; always a win, as far as I’m concerned. Then we were homeward bound… flights were smooth, aside from all the little indignities of the CO-UA merger.
But that’s another story. And no one wants to hear it.