Dad 2.0 Summit: The Value of IRL Conferences

Category: Weekly Columns

Dove Men Care was the big sponsor and I got the best haircut in ages here!

I’m sitting in my hotel room at The Four Seasons in Houston after attending a three-day conference, the Dad 2.0 Summit 2013. It was their second year and it was a fantastic event on just about every measurement you can imagine. I attended the first one and that one was also terrific, but as with most things like this, they either grow and get better or wither away. Happily it was the former and this conference just took the best of the last one, added more, and probably has become the standard-bearer for Dad Social Media conferences hereafter.

Ted Rubin truly speaking from the heart

But, the point of this column is not exclusively to wax poetic about the great job Doug French and John Pacini – the conference’s co-founders – and their staff did, but to remind everyone of the VALUE of real life interactions. Yes, I learned a bunch from the impressive speakers and panels. Yes, I enjoyed the Happy Hours and times in the bars at the end of the evenings. And, yes I ate too much. But, it was the one-to-one time with so many great people that made this event for me.

Many conferences serve simply as a venue for partying. The larger ones that take place in Vegas and other such locales can have literally thousands of attendees and sponsors/booths. The Dad 2.0 Summit is much more intimate. Perhaps there were 300 attendees and 20 or so sponsors. The result is that I literally interacted with every sponsor and probably 2/3 or the attendees. I re-connected with friends I’d met last year and at other related events. And, of course, I made new connections.

Jeff Pulver speaking

Being the bashful, shy, and unassuming guy that I am, I worked hard to get out of my shell and reach out. It’s not hard because most everyone there is there for exactly the same reasons: to make connections, perhaps do some business, and to learn. Having fun is just the bonus.

I thought I’d list the many of the terrific men and women I re-connected with or met for the first time, but given my horrible memory, I’m bound to forget someone I shouldn’t forget so I’m going to forego that list. If you’re curious, just google “Dad 2.0 Summit” or click on the link in the first paragraph and you can find the speakers and sponsors and I’m sure many other blogs that might have lists of attendees.

I was “working” the room!

Suffice it to say, it was an impressive group of speakers and sponsors, including internationally known brands, major authors/experts, as well as internationally recognized PR firms.

Attending these conferences – and I’ve now attended quite a few – is a marathon, an endurance test. The days are long and the nights can be exhaustive. I tend to bow out shortly after dinner because I want to be on my best game the next day. I love the opportunity to meet the kind of people that come to these events so a hangover wouldn’t suit those ends.

Brene Brown speaking

Besides, I’m usually one of the speakers and I want to deliver on the privilege of having been included. This year was especially intimidating since my panel was scheduled near the end of the event. I had the fortune – or misfortune depending on how you want to look at it – of hearing one after another wonderful presenter speaking extemporaneously and with wisdom sauced with just the right amount of humor.

The subjects this year included a look – deep inside – at the human brain from a neurologist’s expert point-of-view. On the other side of the spectrum was the incredible talk about vulnerability from a professor who had been studying it for years. The panel subjects were equally diverse but also included a very practical one in which various brand and PR reps candidly shared their visions for the future of their marketing strategies. That meant we learned the things we writers/bloggers/Social Media folks need to know to best work with them.

My friend, Christopher Lewis, was a cook-off competitor

Laced into many of the private and public discussions – after all this was a parenting conference – was the curiosity and fear of how our kids were utilizing technology and perhaps losing the art of conversation, the art of schmoozing, and missing the joy of talking on the phone. We all knew or knew of kids whose lives seemed to revolve around their smart-phone. We were experiencing the incredible value to face-to-face interaction, even as most everyone was huddled over his or her laptops and phones.

There was one special moment that occurred that I thought was just a perfect coda for this event. As with many such conferences, there are often prizes to be won. In one case, an iPad Mini was being given away – in a drawing – and the rule was that the winner had to be present. A card was pulled, the name drawn, and the winner – one of the dads in attendance – wasn’t in the room. Shortly after, it was learned that that he had been in the bathroom changing his baby’s diaper. Within seconds, this was tweeted around the room and the “rule” was amended so that he indeed did win.

A short video from my panel

My panel with, from left Matt Schneider, Missy Maher, me, Jim Silver, and Lance Somerfeld

I have an image in my head of the last dinner I attended, when an ad-hoc group of about twenty of us went to a local legendary BBQ joint. One of my good friends – who I met at a conference a couple of years ago – was completely engrossed in his smart-phone in the same manner we’ll see a group of kids who are physically together, but practically don’t need to be, given they’re all huddled over their phones. This particular guy is as engaging, funny, and smart as they get and he “gets” the balance of using technology with putting it aside and looking at someone eye-to-eye and connecting. Of course, moments later he did put his phone aside and enthusiastically jumped into the conversations.

That is ultimately my point. People really do need people. And getting out from behind the comfort of our desks and tech devices brings unexpected pleasure and rewards. Do it!

The Last Supper – eating Bar-B-Q at Pappas in Houston

How about skipping that $5 Starbucks latte and splurging $2.99 (for the Kindle on Amazon) or $2.79 for the PDF of my new e-book? Enjoy my own informercial for it! This e-book is really a virtual journey. It’s filled with 100 photos, 7 original videos, and links to many of the stops on the trip. Click on the book cover image below to find your purchase options: