These past few days, I’ve been at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in St. Louis, Missouri. ICRS is the big industry gathering held each year. Although this was only my second ICRS convention, I could noticeably tell that attendance was lower–evident from the number of authors attending, the media attending, and even from the size of the exhibit floor. I’ve heard numerous stories from colleagues about past ICRS conventions and it has definitely changed from the larger (and seemingly more fun and exciting) convention that it used to be.
So with the limited opportunities available at ICRS, why go? To me, it’s all about connections. With the growing technological advances and social media, it’s so easy to “meet” people online. Most of what I do as a publicist is done through email. That’s my main mode of communication with authors, producers, and editors. Then add in the social media aspect, and I’ve been able to connect with other industry professionals, authors, bloggers, writers, etc. through Twitter. While it’s great to make these online connections and to build relationships online, there’s something to be said for meeting these same people in person.
Monday, I arrived at ICRS at met Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, author of The Devil in Pew Number Seven, a memoir about
Rebecca’s life and the persecution her father faced as a small town pastor and how they learned forgiveness through the entire process. I’ve been working with Rebecca to begin publicity for her book, which releases in August. Although we’d communicated through email and an occasional phone call, it was such a joy to meet her in person and to spend time getting to know her and her family. It was then that I could truly see her heart for the Lord and her excitement about her book and this entire publishing process.
I also got to walk around the exhibit floor a little Monday afternoon and happened to walk by another publisher’s booth and saw Pam Farrel signing one of her other books. I worked with Pam, who co-authored Raising a Modern-Day Princess with Doreen Hanna, to do publicity for that title this past January. I waited in her signing line and she was pleasantly surprised to get to meet me after all our email interactions.
Throughout my two days at the convention, I also got to meet other media and people that I’ve worked with in my time at Tyndale. It’s great to be able to put a name with a face when you finally meet someone in person after working with him or her. Even though you meet someone online, I don’t think you can truly know that person until you’ve spent time with him or her face to face. I love social media as a way to communicate, but it still can’t replace interpersonal face-to-face relationships.
On Tuesday, I helped Hayley and Michael DiMarco with their book signing for Cupidity. I could tell from their colloquial writing style that they’re very down-to-earth, but I loved seeing their humorous interactions with one another and the uniqueness of their personalities. And their little daughter, Addy, is absolutely adorable. Right after the DiMarcos, Rebecca Alonzo–who also has wonderful children–had her first book signing for The Devil in Pew Number Seven. You could truly see the power of personal connections when Rebecca’s two children walked around handing out cards and telling people, “My mommy’s having a book signing over there.” You would not believe how many people came over telling us her kids sent them! Those two are publicists in the making!
I know ICRS looks different from others’ perspectives, but from a publicist’s point of view, I was blessed just by being able to meet people that I’ve worked with and making new connections with others I can partner with in the future. God is all about connections. That’s the reason why He created us–to have a relationship with us. And that’s the reason why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ–because we weren’t holy enough to be in God’s presence. What a joy to be able to live as the relational beings God created us to be. It’s an even greater pleasure to know that at ICRS we are all working for the common purpose of serving our Lord and the one true God.
For those who attended ICRS, how was the experience for you? For the rest of you, what value do you place on face-to-face relationships in your life?