I’ve attended trade shows for my entire working life, and for many years that was my journalistic beat, trade shows and expos, so I’ve probably been to well over 100 shows. 100 expo floors. 100 agendas with talks and speakers, keynotes, and confusing time management tips. 100 trade show badges (most of which I still have, as you can see in the photo) and 100 hotel rooms.
I’ve learned that not all shows or conferences are created equal and that while some are focused on what happens from 9am to 6pm, others are more about the evening and nighttime events (like SXSW) or about often-extravagant sponsor parties (like CES).
And then there are what I consider “social conferences” like the Dad 2.0 Summit, coming up next week in New Orleans. They have sessions and speakers — I’m moderating a panel — but the event feels a lot more like a group of friends hanging out and shooting the breeze, sometimes talking about business, but just as often sharing notes about parenting, marriage, women, dating, sports, women, and even tech.
One factor is the size of the event. The bigger the conference, the harder it is to be intimate or cozy, which seems rather a de facto truth, but it is true, a monster event like CES with its 150,000 attendees is a marathon, an endurance test, even if you go with a team of your own. Dad 2.0 is a neighborhood BBQ with a few hundred attendees. A small enough group that we’ll all fit into a room to sample the latest bourbon or whiskey from a sponsor. Or, this year, the latest concoction from sponsor Starbucks (and yes, Starbucks, I’m ready for you to shower me with gift cards to offset my daily habit 🙂
Which leads to the question:
What should you bring to New Orleans if you’re heading to Dad 2.0?
First off, bring your sense of humor. It’s going to be fun and everyone’s there full of camaraderie and cheer, but we’re a diverse lot — and there are also plenty of really cool women who attend, so don’t be surprised if they’re enjoying a shot of whiskey at the bar too — and we won’t agree on religion, politics, or, probably the most controversial of all, how to parent children. It’s okay, stay cool and aim at having a good time, not converting people to your perspective.
I also recommend you bring business cards, however old school they may seem. Fact is, all of the many sponsors who will be participating want a way to track who stopped by and get in touch with you again. Not to mention the rest of us attendees. And a business card is still the easiest and most efficient solution for that.
In that light, I suggest a professional card for your dad-related business (if you have one) that has a blank back so it’s notes friendly. My approach is to also write the conference name on the back of biz cards when I meet someone so I know months, or even years later where we first met. A handy tip.
Third thing is wardrobe. Dad 2.0 Summit isn’t the World Economic Forum so you can safely leave your suit at home, but if you’re heading to New Orleans to possibly gain professional benefit from attending, I suggest that business casual dress is appropriate. Button down shirts or polo shirts rather than t-shirts, or nice t-shirts rather than that ratty t-shirt that screams “I work at home and don’t have a webcam” work well. Jeans vs slacks? That’s your call. I’m a jeans guy, personally.
Otherwise, I also bring a book to read at night and a nice bluetooth speaker when I travel because I find it useful to occasionally hide out in my hotel room for some down time or just to recharge after a packed day of face time with people. I do work at home, now that you mention it.
That’s all I can think of for the upcoming Summit. If you’ve been to Dad 2.0 before, what would you recommend to other attendees?
Hat tip to Charlie, Paul, Al, David and Doug: We’ve been chatting about this very topic in email…