This weekend I was at Write! Vancouver, the second conference I’ve attended in the past month with Jade. Being there with a baby made me appreciate how easy it was to attend last year by myself! Jade received lots of compliments for being a cute and quiet baby, and while having an easy baby does help, here are a few things I’ve learned about going to conferences with a baby.
1. Get there early. This gives you time to find your way around and to grab a good seat. I sat by the door so I could scoot out quickly if Jade started fussing. Sitting at the back of the room is also a good idea so you can breastfeed discretely or pace with the baby to keep her quiet. You’ll also want to find out where the washrooms are (and whether they have change tables).
2. Go with a friend. This way you have someone to hold the baby if you need to use the washroom or to watch your stuff if you have to take the baby out. Your friend can also share her notes with you. My mother-in-law went to a writer’s conference with me when Sunshine was a baby and was a huge support during the day.
3. Dress comfortably. For BloggersBrandsYVR, I was worried about dressing to impress the brands I wanted to work with—and also being able to breastfeed. I shouldn’t have worried about looking professional; the brands wanted to meet me, not a businesswoman in a suit. I ended up wearing what I usually wear and didn’t feel out of place among fashion bloggers, mom bloggers, and others. Be yourself, dress comfortably, and have a spare shirt in case of spit-up or accidents.
4. Stroller or baby carrier? This depends on you and your baby—and the venue. For BloggersBrandsYVR, I took a stroller because I didn’t want to carry Jade and the diaper bag all day. However, the venue had stair-seating and the stroller was very awkward in a crowd. Plus, Jade preferred to be held and only slept briefly in the stroller.
For Write! Vancouver, I took my sling. The venue would have been stroller accessible, but Jade slept through most of the sessions on both days in the sling. When my shoulder got tired, I just held her on my lap or found a couch for her to play on. If you can, research the venue ahead of time and decide what to take based on the age and preference of your baby.
5. Pack light. I love my cloth diapers, but for Write! Vancouver I took disposable diapers. I took a very small notebook that I could hold in one hand (or on those small tables that flip up from some chairs). I still ended up with a few things I didn’t use, like a blanket for Jade.
For BloggersBrandsYVR, I took my Netbook (after much debate about it) and used it for only half a session because it was too awkward to hold Jade and type (taking notes by hand is easier with a baby). I couldn’t access WiFi there and didn’t have time to, so I wished I’d just left it behind and saved myself some weight.
6. Be realistic. With a baby, you probably won’t make it to the late night networking session and you might not catch every workshop. Prioritize what you want to make it to and plan ahead. If the session you really want to go to is in the late afternoon when baby is grouchy, consider skipping an earlier session and finding a place to take a rest (or return to your hotel if possible).
7. Keep business cards handy. I started off with my cards in my bag, and then after fishing for them a couple times, just put them in my back pocket. You want to be able to pull them out quickly and easily while chatting with people (especially at a blogging conference or during networking sessions).
8. Have fun. I often feel self-conscious with a baby at conference (especially at Write! Vancouver, when I was the only mom there), but everyone was gracious about her. Even when I thought she was fussing and I had to pop in or out several times, people smiled at me and said she was such a good baby. She was a great conversation starter as everyone wanted to know how old she was (and since I’m a bit of an introvert, it’s easy to have someone walking up to me starting a conversation about something I love talking about, instead of me trying to start a conversation with a stranger!).
Have you attended a conference with a small baby? What tips would you give to other moms?