ABMP's Director of Education Anne Williams oversees the 13,000-plus participants in Monday's ABMP Back Pain Summit.
Before I became a massage therapist, teacher, and director of education—first for a school and then for ABMP—I was an actor and a wannabe playwright. A great show feels alive, spontaneous, edgy, and magical. It feels like it is happening—for the first time—right now! Here’s the thing that’s interesting: there is absolutely nothing spontaneous about what’s happening. As an audience member, you respond to a compelling story (a good story is essential) and to the extreme structure and preparation that underlies the action.
On Monday, as I sat at my computer and participated in the ABMP Back Pain Summit, I felt the excitement of opening night again.
ABMP’s President Les Sweeney supplied the compelling story. Nearly one year ago, he suggested we create a massage and bodywork summit and focus on back pain. Back pain affects 8 out of every 10 people in the United States at some point in their life. Massage therapists are key to managing this condition.
I didn’t hold auditions for my cast of players. I knew exactly who I wanted. Some were established marquee stars, while others have flown just below the national radar, focusing the majority of their attention on thriving professional practices; a few are emerging talent who will likely be the next big thing. Clint Chandler, Whitney Lowe, Til Luchau, Diana Thompson, Heath and Nicole Reed, Drew Freedman, Rick Garbowski, and Douglas Nelson brought down the house with spectacular performances. Many of these presentations were simply the very best online work I have ever witnessed.
In theatre, a lot of exciting action is happening backstage, and the ABMP Back Pain Summit was no exception. My friend and collaborative partner from the World Massage Conference, Eric Brown, had called me over the weekend. I could hear the mingled excitement and anxiety in his voice when he said, “Registration has jumped from 9,000 to more than 13,000 people! I’ve added servers. I have a team of people ready to respond if things crash, but Anne, the entire site could go down with the load. When thousands of people all log on at the same time Monday morning, I can’t tell you what will happen.”
The first 30 minutes of the summit were the most excruciating of my life (I’m not kidding). I thought I might have a heart attack at any minute because my blood pressure was so high. I would get intermittent text messages from Eric that said simply, “It’s holding,” or “We’re still up!” and sometimes, “Hold on!” The system slowed down a few times, but Eric’s team kept it running. We did have to adapt on the fly. This inconvenienced some therapists, but we knew we could extend access to make sure everyone could get their CE certificates.
In the end, we made history. We had 13,727 people register and thousands of people online, live, at any given time. The chat room only shows the number of people who have been actively participating in chat for the last 15 minutes. It tallied between 1,000 and 2,200 people sharing their thoughts in real time with chat boxes moving so quickly I could hardly keep up with what I was reading. It was the biggest event ever in the massage profession. Literally thousands of people, coming together across space and time, to learn, share, inspire, excite, and connect with one another for the good of our clients.
On opening night of a show, there is always a big party to celebrate. As the ABMP Back Pain Summit signed off, I didn’t have a party to attend, but I had something better. I sat in a silent office (by this time it was afterhours) and read the goodbyes on the chat screen from participants, many who had been with us all day. I read things like, “I loved it!” “I learned so much!” “The Back Pain Summit was awesome!” “Thank you ABMP!” “I can’t wait to watch the replays,” “That was the coolest thing ever!” The messages went on and on for 20 minutes after the summit ended, and I stayed watching until the very last person signed off.
I’ll admit it: I had tears rolling down my face at the end. What a show!
—Anne Williams, ABMP Director of Education
The ABMP Back Pain Summit live event is over, but you can still access the replays for 7 days after the date of the conference. Visit https://worldmassageconference.leadpages.co/backsummit/ to get your free pass.