The Time I Took Part in a Birthday Conference (Yes, Conference)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Any press is good press, they say - whoever they are - and my friend Emily whole-heartedly embraced that bit of wisdom in the lead-up to her 30th Birthday Conference, which took place earlier this month. You read this right: birthday conference.

Emily is a lady who knows what she loves, & among the many things she loves is conferences. Nametags, schedules-at-a-glance, learning sessions guided by PowerPoint: They all make her swoony. So as her big 3-0 approached, Emily wondered: Shouldn't birthday parties be a celebration of the people for whom they, um, celebrate? Thus, the idea was born for Emily's 30th Birthday Conference. She got some press for it, including a great NPR interview, a neutralish HuffPo piece, & a scathing bit of commentary from Fishbowl DC. But yes, all press is good press, & in the end, Emily's conference had 100 attendees (plus 11 children, referred to as "tiny humans," who were welcome to attend with their parents & guardians).

I was thrilled & honored to be asked to be presenter at the conference, speaking on social media alongside radical doula & feminist extraordinaire Miriam Zoila Perez. We were up against some stiff scheduling competition, including a massage how-to & a social justice session from Jews United for Justice with the quirky title "No Boogers in my Burgers."  Nervous Nellie I so often am, I feared no one would attend our little social media session - but we filled the room almost to the gills! Our PowerPoint centered around Emily's own social media presence, dissecting her personal brand as a means of individual marketing. You can find the whole presentation here, if you so desire, though it will not quite convey how fun it was in person.

What else happened that day? To name a few:
  • A session comparing the birthday girl's two favorite cities, DC & Austin, which involved free tiny bottles of Tito's Vodka to sway attendees into voting Austin
  • Lunch catered by DC Empandas, a food truck that distributed three tasty pockets of dough & fillings to all conference attendees
  • A mini Minnesota State Fair session run by two bonafide Minnesotans, complete with authentic Sweet Martha's cookies, accompanying glasses of milk, & a very loud round of group karaoke
  • Free (!!!) headshot sessions with DC area photog Pam Rutter, who took the lovely photo of yours truly that you now see at the top of this blog
  • Swag bags filled to the brim with sponsored goodies, including caramels, cookies, stickers, & more, all presented in a customized #EPGis30 tote
  • Customized nametags that read, "Ask me about ___," filled in accordingly for each attendee to serve as conversation starters. (Mine said, "Ask me about sandwiches!" though I can really only answer questions about hot sandwiches, as cold sandwiches are explicitly not my jam.)
  • Additional sessions on cookie decorating, inbox organization, sailing (taught by the birthday girl's father!), flower-arranging, yoga, & Cranium. The winner of the Cranium session got to name a new flavor at DC froyo fave Mr. Yogato!
  • A table staffed by a Planned Parenthood volunteer who offered free condoms, dental dams, & lubricant while educating attendees on the importance of safe sex & related advocacy work
  • A rousing group rendition of "Happy birthday" at the end of the event, plus cupcakes for all!

So yeah, that all happened. Was it wacky? Yes! In a good way? Most definitely. It may have been an unconventional way to celebrate, but Emily has never exactly been conventional. I, for one, thought it was a fabulously creative way to ring in 30 with all the people, activities, things, & brands she loves. And speaking of love, I loved being a part of it & wish Emily would turn 30 every day. Is that too much to ask?

Also, I turn 30 next August. Just sayin', Em. We've got a little more than a year to plan!

A note: All photos come from excellent event photographers (& friends of the birthday girl) Tosha Francis & Pam Rutter. Ain't no way yours truly could take such great shots!

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