How can you choose your favorites among the stars? When I think about it at first, that’s how I see my experience in Washington DC at the Dad 2.106 Summit. So very many bright spots of connection, appreciation and fun.

But, upon reflection, there are moments (in some cases, we might call them themes) that shine so big and bright in my mind, I know that I’ll remember them always.

Here are my six favorite moments of this year’s can’t-miss Dad conference.

I’ve Seen You Before

Last year’s conference was my first everything. I was so stressed out.

I know that it was due in part to the fact that I didn’t know anyone, so I was pretty much overwhelmed by everything and everyone – and walked around, shut down in “polite mode.”

But this year, it was like a family reunion. I saw people I knew from Dad 2.015 in San Francisco and from the At-Home Dads Network in Raleigh. I was like, “Hey! I’ve seen you before!”

SIDE NOTE: Going to At-Home Dads in September was an important touch point, I think. By then, I had lived through a couple of other conferences, and was more at-home with the responsibility of making good use of conference time. There’s also something about Cards Against Humanity that just breaks the ice, no matter who you’re with…

I saw people I sort of recognized and then remembered, and we hugged it out. I saw people that I had worked with during the past year on projects, and people that I wanted to work with – but just evaluated from afar.

And for many, it was hugs all around.

“How are you? How have you been? I am so glad you’re here. How are the kids?”

Like family.

Here to Learn

It’s impossible to attend a Dad 2 Summit event and not learn something. At least, that’s my opinion. I’m not a seasoned attendee (only 2 on my record so far), but still, I feel like you’re either going to learn something in session or by talking with someone. And most likely both.

Even though my engagement at Dad 2.016 was more intense than it was at last year’s event, I think my attitude (being more relaxed and accepting of bumps in the road) was a huge help.

I caught up with connections and heard about how they’ve grown in the last year. I bumped into people I’ve been following online, and confessed a little awe in the meeting – and was inspired by their stories. I shared tables with complete strangers – almost forgot to swap names – and, because of their mission and direction, felt empowered to tackle my own.

(Tip: Keep moving forward is the connecting theme.)

I sat through the afternoon of Round Tables and was challenged to think through language and inclusion to embrace today’s modern family, which comes in every kind of combination. I learned details about YouTube’s family vertical market, and how I might be able to create content to build a community. I took notes when I sat at a sponsored table highlighting the “Internet of Things” theme. It’s not really my thing, but I’ve got friends who may appreciate knowing it’s a growing space for content creators. And finally, I heard about podcasting. And felt that figurative kick in the ass – again. Podcasting has come up before, but I haven’t done it yet.

Space to think and grow. And to ask questions. And to feel inspired.

First Annual DadSLAM

The first annual DadSLAM…was awesome.

I wasn’t on time (I could kick myself for that now), but I still got to stick around all the way to the end – even when we had to move to a different room (as long as we promised not to move anything).

Having the opportunity to “meet” Dad bloggers through their readings was just the coolest thing ever. John (spelled with an “h”) knows what he’s talking about. DadSLAM has been on his mind, and I am so glad that he worked with the admin staff of Dad 2.0 to make it a reality.

BASIC RULES: If you wanted to read a post, you dropped your name into a hat. Names were picked at random. And it could even be something you were work-shopping.

It was funny. It was sad. It was heart-felt – and so real. I don’t want to get too mushy here, but it was just a delight to see everyone express themselves without holding anything back.

I say first annual, because it needs to happen again. I can’t really imagine a conference without it now.

Holy Buckets! Talking Points.

<enter little snickers and giggles and chuckles>

I got to be on stage. At a kick-ass conference. Like, actually talking in front of people – and saying important-type stuff.

AND I DIDN’T MESS IT UP.

On stage at Dad 2.016 sharing about the Step Up and Stand Out program.HOORAY!

I wish you could have seen me practicing my talking points in the hallway telephone room. Just working and re-working the words so my mouth would get used to them. Really trying to deliver controlled passion to the wall. Really hoping that I wouldn’t flub it up.

Confession: I stole the clicker. I was so excited about hitting all my talking points without making a big mess of the information (and without letting my Latina enthusiasm run away with me), that I literally skipped off stage. With the clicker in my hands.

Apology: I am really sorry, Jim. You didn’t have the clicker because I took it.

To all my connections at Dad 2.0 – thank you for your friendliness. I kept looking out and finding friend-faces with kind eyes, and the words unfolded as they were supposed to.

Thank you.

These Are Words You Can Say

And after the work was finally done (or done enough). And after I ate another Peanut Butter Pattie (should I have given my box to Michael Strahan?!), I joined the group in the lobby bar around 11:30pm Saturday night.

I sat down next to a friendly face, a fellow sponsor representative, and we started gabbing the night away.

Location. Love life. Work. What wasn’t up for grabs in the conversation?

We started talking about my experience having worked in both the start-up / small business environment and the mammoth corporate world. Pros and cons to both. There was a 10 year difference between us, and she was facing challenges in her work environment that I couldn’t have even imagined at her age.

I was so proud of her already, but I also encouraged her to ask questions, to take the lead in defining expectations and to initiate follow up. I gave her examples: “These are words you can say. These questions are totally appropriate.”

And it hit me, I can’t help but be a mom. Those words have come out of my mouth often enough when talking my son through a challenging experience.

Pros and cons. Evaluate them. Make a decision that improves your professional development, and leave the rest behind. You control you. Be awesome. Keep learning.

She had tears in her eyes when we hugged goodnight, but I have a lot of hope in her fight. She’s going to be brilliant and develop in really wonderful ways!

Saying Goodbye Takes A While

I said goodbye with every intention of heading up to my room, but then – there was the after-goodbye party.

Brilliant minds. Kind faces. Funny stories. Individuals who show up in bathrobes for photo opportunities. (I mean, it would have been a real shame to miss that after-hours delight.)

And, of course, what’s next. Now that Dad 2.0 is officially over and the song has been sung, what comes next in our paths? And when will we see each other again?

What are you up to – and can we work together in the future?

It might have been 2am by the time I walked wearily to my room, but my heart and mind were full, and thankful for last, big hugs and information to marinate on until next time our paths cross.

Are you familiar with Dad 2 Summit?

If Not, You Should Be