Last year, I took the advice of a friend and started attending blogging conferences to increase my visibility with brands and connect with other influencers. My first conference was Mom 2.0 Summit (held that year in Orlando) and it was incredible! I learned a ton, met so many amazing bloggers, and got to have face time with several brands that I'm a fan of. The best part? I was able to do it all with Finn on my hip. Yes, it IS possible to go to a conference and schlep along your little one. Here's my tips for attending Mom 2.0 Summit with a baby:
First, make peace with the fact that you've got a baby and that means you can't do or enjoy everything that the conference will be offering. It's just the way things are. I really wanted to attend and make notes at so many sessions but just couldn't because Finn was fussy or wanted to be held the whole time. I was still able to go to a lot of them but either couldn't make notes or had to leave early to deal with a dirty diaper or whiny little man.
I learned to snag the presenter or panel's business card(s) before the session started and ask for a link to their slideshow. This allowed me to follow up with questions after the conference. Also, don't stress about bringing your baby into a session. Every single one I was in, people were very sweet and understanding about the fact that I was a mom and had to bring along my guy. In fact, I will never forget how, at one session, the presenter (Erika Nicole Kendall) made a point to let me know that Finn was welcome and not to leave if he started crying. I really, really appreciated that.
Bring a stroller and and carrier or sling because you'll need both. You're going to be doing a lot of walking and moving around plus sitting so having the option to put your baby in a stroller or a sling/carrier is a must. Plus, a stroller will give you a place to put all the stuff (baby AND conference). I found that 75% of the time, I was able to keep my stroller with me and, when I couldn't have the stroller or had to park it due to space, I was grateful to put Finn in his sling so I was hands-free.
It can be overwhelming to bring a baby to a conference so don't be afraid to ask for help – either from the staff or fellow attendees. I cannot tell you how many times other attendees offered to hold my baby so my arms could have a break or I could go to the bathroom alone. It was really lovely and made me feel like I was a part of a community instead of a nuisance.
I also was very grateful for how nice the conference staffers were to me and my baby. Everyone from the ground up (yes, even co-founder Laura Mayes!) took the time to make sure that I was doing okay and had everything I needed to enjoy the conference while juggling a baby.
Along those lines, definitely ask the hotel staff for help if you need it. Finn had just started eating solids and sitting in a high chair. The staff at the hotel where the conference was held made a point of having a high chair available at meal times for me. One of the morning staff members even made sure to have a small box of Cheerios and a banana just for Finn at each of the breakfasts. It really made a positive impression on me and helped make meal times a bit more relaxing since I didn't have to hold him on my lap or worry about messing with baby-friendly food.
Don't stress out about nursing, pumping, or bottle feeding your baby. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there's always a dedicated spot for breastfeeding or pumping moms to do their business privately while at the conference. That was a nice option for anyone who does best when in a quieter, more secluded area.
For me, a boobs-out-and-proud nursing mom, I can honestly say that no one cared AT ALL that I nursed Finn during the event. At sessions, at meal times, at parties, in partner suites – no one batted an eye. In fact, while nursing at the Best Buy suite, one of the partners made a point to bring me a glass of water and an extra pillow to prop up my arm.
Pack all your baby stuff in your luggage instead of shipping or ordering it. This is for y'all checking a bag. You're going to get A LOT of swag (especially if you stay on site at the hotel). Like, good stuff and a bunch of it. You're going to want to bring it all home with you so you'll want to make sure and have space in your luggage (or run the risk of having to rush out and buy a second suitcase!).
And what better way to do that then to fill up your bag with baby necessities on the way to the conference? For example, I while packing for Mom 2.0, I made sure to put a container of wipes, a pack of diapers, and some age-appropriate snacks in my checked bag. Since those items get used up and disposed of during the conference, my luggage then had plenty of space for me to pack my swag for the trip home.
Be shameless and use your baby. I mean, it's a conference aimed at MOMS. And many of those moms love babies – as do the brands there. I found that Finn was an excellent icebreaker/conversation starter while at parties and meet-ups in hallways. This was awesome for several reasons:
One, I have social anxiety disorder so talking to people and doing the whole networking thing is THE WORST for me. But, with a baby – it made all that initial small talk and chit chat easier because everyone talked to Finn and asked questions about him. I was able to connect with some really amazing bloggers just from commiserating over the trials of being a working mom.
Also, brands LOVE babies! They really love it when babies are in front of them or their branding. They will trip over each other to get pictures of said babies with their products or signage. Y'all, shamelessly take advantage of that. After all, you're trying to earn a living and make that baby's life better, right? U S E T H E M (obviously in a way that makes you comfortable and fits with your brand/privacy levels). Don't be afraid to be known as “So and So's mom” or “that lady with the cute baby” to brands that you want to work with.
And last but not least, HAVE FUN. Mom 2.0 Summit is a professional conference but there's a lot of laughter, silliness, and fun to be had so relax and have a good time. Bring cute outfits for your baby, dress them up for parties, have them “crawl” the red carpet at the Iris Awards. Take pictures with them at the different suites and brand booths. Grab a car seat and have them join you on a ride in Kia car. Have them photobomb people's Facebook Lives. Whatever. Just have fun and enjoy having this experience with your baby!
Will you be attending Mom 2.0 Summit with your baby this year? I'm bringing both Melanie AND Finn (and a nanny this go around). Hope to see you there! Feel free to connect with me on Instagram or Twitter if you have any questions are just want to say hi.