By Evan Burrell, Rotary Club of Turramurra, New South Wales, Australia, May 29, 2017, published in Rotary Voices

Evan Burrell and Rotary staff at the 2014 Rotary Convention in Sydney, Australia.

In just a few weeks, the whole family of Rotary will be converging on Atlanta for the annual extravaganza we call the Rotary International Convention.

Those of you who know me know that spending six intense days with a large group of people is something that I really do look forward to. So I can’t imagine a place I’d rather be than in Atlanta with my many friends. But anticipating the event got me thinking about what specifically I look forward to in a Rotary Convention. There are so many things I had a hard time narrowing it down. But here are six, in no particular order.

  1. Having loads of fun and laughs. My best experiences have always been the social events, because you get to see that all Rotarians, no matter their age or background, have a passion for fun, and a fairly unique sense of humour.
  2. Meeting new people. Convention provides the ultimate opportunity to network. Often Rotarians from other regions of the world can become valuable resources for collaboration on new projects. Getting to know new people will spark inspiration and fresh insights.
  3. Reconnecting with some ‘old’ friends (in person). Social media keeps me connected to Rotarians who are both local and far away. However, there’s no substitute for meeting someone IRL (in real life). Conventions allow you to mix and mingle, form new relationships, and strengthen existing ones. Try this over coffee, lunch, or even cocktails in the House of Friendship (You didn’t know they serve cocktails there, did you?).
  4. Sharing ideas. No matter how experienced you are at club business or service projects, you can always learn something new. We can get stuck in our own limited point of view without exposure to others. At a breakout session, you may even find yourself sitting next to a future president of Rotary International!
  5. Visiting places I’ve never been. I don’t necessarily have a sightseeing plan, I just try to experience as much of a new city as I can. I like heading to places where locals hang out, you can smell the food, and get a vibe for your location. You may even discover something not in the guidebook.
  6. Getting more involved. When you’re sharing the same space with thousands of Rotarians, you can’t help but discover new ways to get involved. Sometimes it’s about taking a selfie with someone who’s influenced you, or sharing an idea with someone you admire, or making a connection that leads to a new project or activity.

Can you tell I love Convention? I know registration, plane ticket, and meal and lodging can make this an expensive proposition. But the convention really is a one of a kind event that will show you the internationality of Rotary, challenge you to grow, and allow you to make new friends. Once you’ve been to one, you’ll want to come back for more.

Register for the 2017 Atlanta Convention and learn about Host Organization Committee events