Sunday, October 4, 2020

Dad 2.0 Digital: The Takeaways

As mentioned in an earlier post, I spent this past weekend at the Dad 2.0 Digital Summit.  It was a three day affair, and overall was a great success, so I wanted to take a minute to celebrate the Dad 2.0 crew for creating a small intimate conference where men could meet, have heady discussions, share their writing, meet sponsors, and have an excellent time furthering the conversation of fatherhood.  

I have been to two or three digital conferences since the pandemic began, as well as EVERY Dad 2.0 Summit.  I'm a big fan of Doug French and John Pacini and the whole XY Media company that produces Dad 2, and I think they did a great job of adapting the original conference to a digital format while maintaining the spirit of the physical conferences.


At the closing toast, Doug and John asked for feedback on this new format-- what worked, what didn't- and  hinted that they expected that some of the innovations that occurred during the Digital Summit may make it into other summits (or that they may adapt the digital summit as a portion of their offerings)

For the most part, especially considering this was the first time they did it digitally, they did a fantastic job.  I had some minor ideas for tweaks, listed below.


The Programming.  I thought the programming was (as always) excellent.  Below this section I've gone through in greater detail about some of my favorite parts of the conference.  From a programming aspect, every aspect was well done.  The presenters were all great, and the fact that I got to go to everything (all on one track) was greatly appreciated.

Three panelists (and the moderator Doug French) from the Freelance Writing panel.

The Intimacy: I also loved the intimate nature of the event.  There were about 100 people registered, and I saw some of them on the first day, but most of the Zoom calls I saw had between 20-35 people on them.  Most of them were previous attendees, so I  knew most of them, but there were a few new guys (and at least one guy dialing in from France, and I think another from India!)   Very quickly, there was a good feeling in the Zoom chat, and lots of questions and puns and dad jokes throughout the event.

Tom & Lucy Riles
have a new book
available on Amazon

This was about 1/3 of the people who typically attend Dad 2.0.  This may not be enough people to make the conference viable, but the small number of people that were there made it feel very cozy and intimate feel like the experience we shared together was special.  I don't know what the top number of people would stop me from feeling that way.

The Comradery: More than the programming, I always love coming to Dad 2 for the comradery.  There's a good feeling in the room,  nobody's a real jerk, and people are very generous with their time, their energy, and their friendship.  This came through, especially in the happy hour, hosted by Tommy Riles and his wife Lucy , and the annual Dad Voices event, where people share their writing.  That's always a special part of the event, and it remained so in the digital version.


The sponsor activations
  There was an hour each day to meet with the sponsors, and it both wasn't enough (I had to cut about three meetings short to make sure I got to everyone so that I could get my special scavenger hunt code from them, to put me in the running to win an Amazon gift card (I am in the running, tied for first-- I think it will be a random draw)   and it was too much.  At most of the zoom rooms that I went to, I was the only person there, and the people jumped on me.  I'm not sure what can be done, but I did not feel like I got the same quality introduction/experience with the sponsors that I might normally get at the conference, and I'm guessing the sponsors might feel the same.   And even though I'm in the running for the prize for the scavenger hunt, not sure that I like the way it was handled.  
I think it could have been done in a more fun way. (see below for an idea)

Life gets in the way:  This is something else, I'm not sure how they could do it differently. Usually, when I go to a conference, I go somewhere else, and I have nothing else to do but go to the conference.  That's my full agenda.  Going to a conference while having to get lunch for my kid, take him to skating practice, help with his homework, do laundry, make dinner for the family, etc.-- all of those mundane things got in the way of me feeling even more engaged in the conference.  Perhaps if the conference were only one day long it would help.  (but then there wouldn't be the same kind of energy)

Add personal interactions:  I would have liked to see something added into the mix,  where you got to make more personal connections with people.  Maybe it's using the Zoom breakout rooms to discuss some of the issues, and then come back to the main session with your group's ideas? Or a scavenger hunt event, where there's a speed dating group to meet the sponsors, and your team wins sponsored prizes for a judged "interaction"  or quick video?  I would like more opportunities to hang out virtually with other guys and get to know them better.  If they could sign a chain restaurant sponsor (or a delivery sponsor) maybe that could happen over a small group lunch or dinner?)

These are minor quibbles. Overall, I had a great time, and can't wait to attend the next one.  


Doug French, who handles the programming for Dad 2.0, always does a great job of curating the programming.  This year was no different.  I especially liked the fact that they changed the format so that there was only ONE TRACK. I got to attend everything!  (Typically there are multiple tracks, and at each workshop slot or panel slot there are two or three of everything.)   Because of the digital format, there was no need to do that, and so there was just the one track.  Each of the workshops and panels had something interesting and/or useful going on.  

And there was a good mix of theory and practicality. The programming broke down into three different segments --  Workshops, Panels, and Keynotes.  (There was also a Happy Hour/free for all and a Dad Voices, which is kind of a Dad Story Slam.  That might be my favorite part of the whole weekend, from a comradery perspective.)  There wasn't a session I didn't like, but here are a few of the sessions I thought were particularly good. 


Dai Manuel's Excellent Book

Dai Manuel, Canadian fitness and lifestyle coach exstraordinaire, started out the conference each morning with a session.  The first day was a fitness session, mostly about stretching.  The second day he focused on meditation, and the third day he focused on nutrition.  Dai is such a nice guy (I've seen him at a few different Dad 2's, and am a member of one of his facebook groups.)  He's also very knowledgeable, and a pleasure to start the day with. 

I especially loved Adam Cohen's (Dadarocks) workshop on Hacking your search to build your audience.  Adam is a super savvy blogger, and he shared a lot of smart little hacks.  Sadly, it was the one workshop I was in the car for (I listened to it on Zoom on the way to my son's skating practice.) so I didn't get to watch his presentation, only listen to it.  But my son typed my question for me into the comments, and Adam answered the question. 

I also really loved MediaVine'SEO Like A CEO workshop that explored using various tips for Google Search Console and some mediavine tools.  And the workshop on Gaming Trends 2020 (which was really more of an intro to the upcoming Intellivision Amico) was great.  It looks like they have a great old new platform that they are building.  And Patrick Quinn of PRHacker gave us a comprehensive and insightful agency perspective in his workshop on How To Survive After COVID.  

David Stanley gave a great workshop on How To Pitch Anything.  It was less a practical workshop on the mechanics and more a much-needed cheerleading session on why you are worthy to pitch and how you shouldn't feel bad if you get rejected- that's part of the business.   (And it went well with an earlier panel from Beau Coffron, Jorge Navaez, and James Lopez on Crafting the Counterpitch)   David was very well organized, and he even put up his notes on his blog:

I was surprised by how much I learned from the session on How To Hire A Virtual Assistant (put on by Mark Savant. I went into that workshop thinking this isn't for me, but really saw some possibilities as he went on.   I would have probably given this a miss at the live conference, but I was glad I didn't.


And I was simply amazed by Alec Lace, who is the dynamo behind the podcast FirstClass Fatherhood.  He is a railroad mechanic who works the third shift, has four kids, and still manages to produce 5 shows a week, and has produced 400 episodes in the last 2 years with A-list football players, motivational speakers, and Navy Seals.   His workshop on Podcast Marketing was great.


Available on Amazon

The panel I loved the most was Raising Boys To Be Good Men.  Inspired by Aaron Gouveia's book (but sadly Aaron had a work event and couldn't attend)  this was an uplifting and powerful session talking about the work that three different non-profits are doing in the space of changing the conversation about the role of men in our society (specifically anti-violence, pro-parenting, and pro-equality)  We heard from Gary Barker of  Pro Mundo, Neil Irvin of Men Can Stop Rape, and Hector Sanchez-Flores of the National Compadres Network.  It was inspiring.

The other panels included an inspiring one on counterpitching (mentioned above), and another one on Freelance writing.  All of them were great and had lots of good points, and moments where I thought to myself "yeah, I should definitely be doing that!"



Available on Amazon

Although there were only two keynotes listed on the schedule, there were really 3.  

Michael Ian Black gave the opening keynote, and I was surprised at what a thoughtful guy he is.  As a comedian/comic performer myself, there is an urge to be on, and to be funny, and he really was being authentic and soulful rather than funny at every opportunity.  He surprised me.  

He was supporting his book Being A Better Man: A Mostly Serious Letter To My Son.    And after listening to him, I think I am going to add this book to my rather long Want To Read List.

 On the second day, Stuart Reynolds (Canadian comedy vlogger known as Brittlestar) gave a video compendium/talk about why it's important be everywhere and to protect your brand.  Although this was listed as a workshop, it was really a keynote address. He's presented at Dad 2 before, and his presentation (video clips/etc.) was perfect for the digital format.  He's wry, funny, and prolific.  He's got a great take on how and why to do work, and he present it very entertainingly. (Is that a word?)

Here's a video he presented (a project he did for Rogers Cable with Hell's Kitchen chef Gordon Ramsay)

The final keynote wasn't announced until the second day, but it was a doozy.  They scored character actor Richard Kind, who held court for about 90 minutes, telling funny stories about his dad and about his kids.  He got some bon mots in and was generally the same nice and slightly neurotic guy that he portrays on television. 

 He's about 10 years older than I am, but I felt very simpatico to him.  He told a story about how he went to New York to do acting for a year to see if it would work out, and it just kept on working out.   His parents hounded him for a long time about whether or not this was the right career for him, and that he should get a job.  I have the same story, although without the stunning material success that Richard has had.  

Maybe someday!  

All told, it was an energizing three days.

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