Talking with your children while at a trade show

I’ve been on the road for a week now here in Las Vegas, first for the Consumer Electronics Show, then a geeky event called WordCamp Las Vegas (focused on WordPress users), and finally at the Affiliate Summit. That’s a long time to be hanging out in Las Vegas, breathing in clouds of second hand smoke and listening to the incessant bing! bing! bing! of slot machines.

Samsung booth at the Consumer Electronics Show

It’s hard to remember the kids at a trade show…

More importantly, of course, it’s also a really long time to be away from my kids, particularly as we are still riding the roller coaster of divorce and trying to have it all settle down in their lives so we can all relax and be a happy — albeit rather reorganized dual home — family.
It’s just really hard to keep track of what’s happening at home when you’re on the road for business, and that’s what I want to talk about in this blog entry…

From years of attending trade shows, I’ve come to the conclusion that any time you’re on the road and away from your home and family life it’s just difficult to keep track of what’s going on and what’s important “back there”.
By the nature of business travel, you’re typically also being bombarded with new sensory experiences, whether it’s adjusting to a strange hotel room, eating out far more often than you’re used to, socializing with other travels or just the change in the daily grind, moving from a quiet office environment and comfortable home life to the chaos and whirlwind of a convention.
Add to that the dozens, hundreds or even thousands of other people with whom you are probably sharing the experience (CES had over 110,000 people attending from around the world!) and collectively it’s no wonder everyone gets temporary amnesia and can’t remember much of anything about their home lives!
I know I did it: last week, while I was here in Vegas, my little girl had a birthday and while I kept reminding myself to call, I in fact spaced completely until about 10pm and then realized that, like a doofus, I’d completely missed the chance to wish her a happy birthday.
I called the next morning and sang to her, and fortunately Linda had told her that I was thinking about her all day (which was true!) and it’s all good, but, darn it, I really had wanted to call her on her birthday! It’s just impossible to keep track of that kind of thing in the swirl and chaos of a show.
More than anyone else, though, my 8yo son is missing me this week. I know that because he calls me once or twice a day. Not to say the obvious “I miss you, Daddy, when are you coming home?” but to just hook me in to what’s going on there in his life, to tell me about things, share an adventure he’s had, and, sometimes, to triangulate and ask me to intervene with some issue between him and his Mom.
What’s difficult is that he’ll call me while I’m in the middle of something and then not really understand why I can’t pay full attention to our conversation and sometimes not even hear him at all.
Yesterday, for example, I was sitting in a very busy Starbucks, talking to a group of colleagues when the phone rang. G- wanted to know if I had a spare pair of earphones for his new iPod shuffle. I do, but shifting my brain into “home mode” was an effort with all the noise, discussions and ideas already jammed in my tired brain. Like some ghastly Baby Einstein experiment, I was way overstimulated.
One thing I try to do is physically get up and walk to a quieter spot to refocus my attention on the phone call, but even that can be difficult: on the CES show floor, for example, there is no “quiet spot” for thousands of yards in any direction. A “gotcha, call ya back in a few” is oh, so easily converted into an “oops! I never called back. Darn it!” too.
The other strategy is to call back from the hotel room that evening, but at just about every trade show I attend, I don’t make it back to the hotel room until late, often crazy, outta control late, so that’s not a big win either: most people back on the home front don’t appreciate late night calls from semi-inebriated road warriors demanding to say goodnight to children that are long since asleep!
Do you travel to trade shows, conferences or exhibits? if so, what’s your technique for keeping plugged in with your children and partner?

6 comments on “Talking with your children while at a trade show

  1. I wonder how this will pan out when I am a parent. My husband has very much an “office job” and I purposefully chose a career that would allow me stay-home flexibility. But, I wonder about travel. Business travel is great, but what about kids?
    Would you ever consider taking your kids with you when they are older Dave? Maybe not to Vegas…but other places?

  2. Don’t answer the phone.. and make a mental break between things like lunch.. dinner.. bed.. so before dinner you think, “home”
    If kid calls while it’s work time.. say, “I’ll be happy to talk to you before dinner” which is home time..
    If colleague is talking to you between convention event and dinner (even if dinner is a convention event) say, “I’ll be happy to talk to you in a moment. I like to have a home moment before dinner.”
    Try not to worry too much about the birthday thing.. you always have next year.

  3. I sooo can resonate with your post. Up until 8 months ago, I was a road warrior (over 200 days in one year) and frequented trade shows. It absolutely is a tough balance, one that I never perfected. I found myself often feeling as if I’m disappointing someone: family, clients, or myself.
    So what do you do? Well in my case I learned to prioritize and communicate with my daughter and husband. Instead of trying to be superwoman, remembering every detail of what was on the home calendar along with working 12-15 hrs a day while on the road, I learned my limitations and communicated them.
    I know it’s tough to forget your child’s birthday, but I’m sure that you’re there more often than not, and that’s what they’ll remember. You’re only human after all.

  4. you can’t control what they’ll remember.. but I’m bettin’ missing a birthday is one they’ll remember… yes .. you’re only human.. so are they.

  5. Since you ask, Dave, when I got home I had a teddy bear I’d picked up at the show (thanks Shareasale) and left it for her at her Mom’s house, then the next day we had a mini-birthday party and she got her real present from me. I think she won’t prove to be permanently scarred from me missing her 5th grade birthday party, which was apparently complete chaos anyway. 🙂

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