I am sitting in the San Francisco airport on a Sunday. What should have been a quick four-hour flight home is turning into an entire day at the airport, thanks to unexplained “technical issues” with the plane. The wireless is spotty, so I can’t download a movie on my iPad, and email is not coming or going. To top it all off, the solitary bar in my terminal is not showing the one football game I want to watch.
Despite this mediocre Sunday, I am in an incredibly good mood.
That’s because I’m heading home from the annual DDI Forum, which took place Sept. 13-15 in Napa Valley, Calif. If you’ve never been to Napa, first of all I would certainly recommend you go, and second of all, I’d recommend you go in September. This, in wine country terminology, is harvest season. Each morning, the wine growers rise in the early hours, testing the acidity and sugar levels of the grapes, trying to determine the exact right moment to pluck the entire vineyard of every juicy nibble. And once that moment comes, the grapes come flying off the vines, filling barrel after barrel in preparation for their future life as a bold, but delicate bottle of luxurious Napa wine.
The same might be said for the conversation at this year’s DDI Forum. What began as a quiet room of high-level executives from the design, architecture, branding, store planning and visual merchandising community quickly ripened into full harvest as the first comment was made. Soon the room flowed with dialogue, back and forth exchange of ideas, and point/counterpoint conversation. The grapes couldn’t fall into the barrels fast enough.
I think it’s safe to say that I am not the only DDI Forum attendee heading home feeling refreshed and reinvigorated. Yes, the beaucoup amount of red and white wine that was poured does help to relax the soul. But it was the handshakes, the hugs and the “how’s the family?”s, coupled with the introduction to new faces and names that brought the event full circle—whether in the conference room or over a glass of rosé. The conversation was hearty and intelligent, with subtle nuances that lingered and provoked additional thought. In wine speak, this audience had “legs.”
Thank you to all of our speakers, attendees, staff and sponsors for making this my favorite DDI Forum to date. Oh, and did you hear? For those of you who missed this year’s event…we’re heading back to Napa in 2013. Set your calendars for Sept. 26-28, 2013, when the DDI Forum heads back to California wine country for another three days of connection. The grapes—and the conversation—will be waiting.