A Weekend in New Orleans at the Dad 2.0 Summit

I’ve only just gotten back from New Orleans, Louisiana having attended the terrific Dad 2.0 Summit for the third year in a row. I’ve written about the conference before, but I’ll say again, it’s the only conference I’ve ever attended where it nurtures my heart rather than feeding my brain. Which isn’t to say that there’s not a lot to learn, but when I compare it to my other favorite conference, CES 2014, the differences are stark: CES is about stuff. Dad 2.0 is about people.

Originally I planned on flying to New Orleans a few days early to enjoy the city with my photographer daughter, but when that fell through — school comes first, always — I picked up last minute tickets and landed just after noon the day the Summit started. Which worked out great. I got to the hotel, the beautiful and perfectly situated J.W.Marriott, hung up my clothes, washed my face, and it was time for a terrific walking tour / photo walk of the French Quarter, sponsored by Starbucks and hosted by Mary, an amusing and spunky old gal. She was full of colorful anecdotes, but was hard to hear with our boisterous group.

Take a few minutes and enjoy my photo essay of New Orleans:

There was an opening reception about an hour after we returned, and it was wonderful to connect with all the Dads I’ve met and grown to respect and admire in the community. I won’t name names because I’ll forget someone and they’ll be disappointed, but I’ll just say that there are dozens of guys who I am honored to call friends and compatriots! Afterwards groups of us went out for drinks, exploring the French Quarter by night.

Christian Toto, speaking at Dad 2.0 SummitFellow Coloradan and close pal Christian Toto was my roomie and due to the terrible weather conditions I’d left just hours earlier, he ended up flying in late, getting to the hotel about 12:30am. We then chatted for an hour or so, of course, so the next morning I was pretty tired, but I got up early anyway, for a 7am bike tour sponsored by Dove Men+Care. That was really fun, even if the seat on my cruiser bike was loose the whole time. :-)

The Summit opened with conference front man Doug French welcoming us, followed by Christian reading a poignant entry from his blog to the audience (see pic). Nicely done, mate!

Then there was a warm and sweet welcome by Rob Candelino from Dove Men+Care, followed by a discussion between Jim Higley and Parenthood creator Jason Katims. They ran a number of different clips from the show that were quite touching and certainly made me want to start watching the show. It’s such a surprise when I get to enjoy smart, thoughtful writing that treats fathers as key elements of a family.

I won’t recap everything because this would become an ebook, but there were great panels, great talks, powerful readings from different Dad bloggers, and plenty of good food along the way, with lunches and snacks sponsored by Kraft. Another fave of mine, Jamba Juice, was at the conference too, making a variety of different fruit only or fruit + veggie smoothies available to attendees. That competed directly with the free lattés that Starbucks was handing out, but really, too much of anything can be problematic, right?

Friday afternoon I had a straight-edge shave from the barber hired by Dove Men+Care, something I’d never experienced before in my life. Actually it was three shaves, first with a trimmer, then an electric razor, then the straight edge. Very pleasant. I expected to have some red and irritated skin afterwards, but was quite comfortable and now I have a rather more urban goatee than I had when I landed in New Orleans.

Friday night we had another cocktail reception, with some very interesting bourbon-based drinks, followed by a small group of us heading to the Palace Cafe for a very good dinner. Saturday opened with a very interesting keynote talk by CNN reporter Josh Levs, whose name you might recognize due to him suing Time-Warner due to the unfair-to-Dads postpartum leave policy. He’s courageous to be a whistle-blower, in my opinion, and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.

Saturday afternoon I moderated a panel that had the rather long title of “It’s A Marathon and a Sprint, With Plenty of Hurdles” but that I referred to as “Parenting doesn’t end when your child becomes a teen”. The speakers were splendid: Paul Raeburn, Charlie Seymour Jr and Al Watts. David Stanley was scheduled to join us but some health issues prevented him from making it to New Orleans. We missed him.

The discussion was wide-ranging, including talking to teens about sex, our relationships with our own fathers, how to model good father/child relationships and dealing with the Internet and technology. The lively audience had plenty to add too and our 75 minutes went by quickly!

Oh, and did I mention that I won a Starbucks Instagram competition, with a $500 writer’s grant prize? Yup, just for posting a photo of myself with a cup of Starbucks coffee. Even better, they told me they’d send me a Verismo coffee maker too. You’ll hear more about that one once it arrives! I was already a big Starbucks fan, and had even visited Starbucks #1 while in Seattle just a few weeks earlier, but $500? That’ll buy a lotta cappuccinos. Very nice.

That evening was the closing reception, always sad because it means things are winding down and we’re all shortly going to have to go back to reality and the day-to-day grind of our lives. Following that, a cabal of dads went out for a superb meal courtesy of Collective Bias. A great group and a wonderful conversation. Best meal of the conference, actually.

national wwii museum logoDuring the week I also snuck away at various times to enjoy some of what else New Orleans has to offer, including two visits to the famous Cafe du Monde for beignets (see the video for a wonderful photo) and a short visit with my friend Bruce Sallan to the National World War II Museum. The latter was well worth the time, and perfect timing since two days later I was at a press screening of the film The Monuments Men, set in WWII.

Sunday morning I woke up at a ridiculously early 5.30am to grab a 6.00am taxi to the airport. An easy flight home and I was back to reality, back in Colorado, hosting a Superbowl party for my friends, with K-, my 10yo as special guest star.

I adore my kids and was very happy to see my friends and my house, but honestly, I’m already primed for the next Dad 2.0 Summit, February of 2015…

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