EAST PEORIA — Stepping out from behind dating apps and social media, a small group of single people of all ages spent their Saturday afternoon spilling their hearts out and finding new perspectives at the Local Singles Conference at the Embassy Suites in East Peoria.
“It gives people the chance to communicate with each other, to learn from one another and it serves as somewhat of a therapy session,” said Roy Beckham, who organized the event.
Six speakers stood up to share their ideas about love and relationships, but there was not a hard line between them and the audience. Instead, the conference served as a starting line for open conversation and discussion.
“That’s the most amazing part about it — that it’s manifesting itself as we’re moving,” said Donielle Ross, founder of Love Always Wins. “It’s organically flowing.”
Ross helped to organize the conference and said her passion is creating spaces for others to become the best versions of themselves. During her time with the microphone, she spoke of energy and the role it plays in relationships.
“To build, to cultivate energy, to move forward, we have to focus on self; we have to transform ourselves; we have to build ourselves," she said. "Because if we don’t build and we’re not recognizing and we’re not aware of ourselves, then we cannot even bring anybody else to the table.”
Other speakers, like Julie Jacobs and Patrice Foster, shared stories of heartbreak and the shifting role relationships play.
“We’re all on a time clock, so make sure no one’s wasting your time,” Foster said. She stressed the importance of communication in every step of relationships.
With about 20 attendees including speakers, the room was not full, but people were taken out of their comfort zone and together created the kind of intimacy Beckham said he was hoping for.
“We can come out and meet people face-to-face instead of just flipping through our phones, scrolling down the screen and communicating that way,” he said. “I don’t think we should let meeting people face-to-face become obsolete just because there are dating apps and we have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.”
Each attendee put forth a topic for discussion, and although they didn’t always agree, they spent hours talking about cohabitation, divorce, hookup culture, finances, gender roles and even the simple question of how to walk up and talk to someone they’re interested in.
It’s unclear if anyone found love at the conference, but by the end of the day, the attendees spoke to each other like old friends.
“It’s been amazing just to be in this small knit of people, to hear people’s perspectives, to hear people’s relationship views and we’re learning more than we’ve probably learned in our entire lives,” Ross said.
For more information about future singles conferences and events, go to localsinglesconference.com.
Kelsey Watznauer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kwatznauer.