Driving to D.C. for a Seat at the Cool Kids’ Table

I recently made the drive from my home in Ohio to Virginia to attend an event planning conference that was being held in Washington D.C. Since I am relatively new to the world of event planning, I figured that it would be a golden opportunity to learn more about the career field that I have grown increasingly more passionate about.

It was a rather uneventful trip, but I did learn a few lessons. So in my typical, bolded font loving way, I will share them with you, my readers.

Staying in the suburbs is lovely, but the commute is awful | I have a dear family friend who lives in the suburbs of D.C., and she was gracious enough to offer me a place to stay during my trip. I was thrilled because her house is like another home for me whenever I visit the area. However, I did not consider how wearying the commute would be when I made plans to stay there. The conference was in downtown D.C., so I had to drive through congested, rush hour traffic each morning to get to the conference’s opening sessions.

I was by no means a fan of this, but it did give me the opportunity to study the minute details of the interior of my rental car, to learn how to muscle my way between a Mercedes and a Maserati on a crowded highway, and to realize that just because Apple Maps directs you to an airport access road doesn’t mean that you should drive down it.

Overall, the drive was frustrating, but you can’t beat the feeling of returning to a warm home rather than a sterile hotel room after a long day.

Being the event planner for a conference full of event planners must be a nightmare | From the minute the conference began, people in the audience complained about the details of the event. This makes sense since it was a room full of people who plan events for a living, but the whole scenario made me feel bad for the people responsible for putting on the conference.

There were comments about how the registration process could have been more efficient, how the refreshments weren’t adequately proportioned, how the A/V equipment could have been set up in a more user-friendly way, etc.

The whole experience taught me that a) I would never in a million years want to put on an event for people whose livelihood centers on doing the same thing b) I was surrounded by real professionals from the field from whom I could glean loads of helpful information.

A conference can sometimes be like a middle school cafeteria | I arrived a little late to the first full day of the conference because of the aforementioned commute. This meant that the table full of people whom I had sat with at the previous night’s sessions was full. I panicked for a moment but did my best to suppress the feeling while making my way over to one of the few tables that had an open seat.

I approached the table and cautiously asked if I could join them. The most talkative person in the group said that I could and emphatically motioned for me to join them. We made the usual small talk about where we were all from and then turned our attention to the presenter who had just begun speaking.

Throughout the morning, I asserted myself as the funny person of the table and came up with such memorable lines as “Tupac the nuns” and “Cluster-cuss.” Neither of those is an inherently witty line, but that didn’t matter to my group. They laughed uncontrollably whenever I quipped about something and elevated my already dangerously high ego to a new level altogether.

Once the morning sessions had concluded, “the group” (as I had taken to calling us) made plans to head to a nearby Shake Shack for lunch. They, of course, made sure that the popular people of the table were for sure joining, and we made our way downtown in a group similar to The Plastics from Mean Girls. The whole scenario felt a bit cliquish, like middle school, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying my seat at the “cool kids” table.

I am now a midwesterner | I have prided myself for quite some time on not being raised in Ohio. Whenever people asked where I was from, I would proudly tell them that I was from New York (leaving out the Western part) and follow it up by saying that I “resided” in Ohio. Well, like it or not, that doesn’t seem to do the trick anymore.

I met quite a few people during my time at the conference, and I was consistently shocked and horrified by how many people would act so unsurprised when I told them that I was from Ohio. I had people say things like, “Yeah, that totally makes sense” or “I definitely pegged you as a corn-fed guy when I saw you.” Hearing statements like that bordered on being full-blown traumatic, but I would always do my best to smile and compliment them on their keen, state-guessing sense.

I guess that the lesson learned from these cringe-worthy moments is that you can do your best to disassociate from a place that you don’t think is especially cool, but in the end, people are going to make assumptions about your background regardless of what you say. So I guess that you may now refer to me as Dan the Ohioan.

So that was my trip in a nutshell. There were many more practical lessons pertaining to my job that I learned, but I figured it best to save those for a debriefing with my supervisor rather than my blog. I left the conference feeling more confident to tackle my upcoming events and buoyed by the fact that I have begun establishing a network with professionals from my field who I can rely on when I need advice in the future.

Let me know what you think!