Depending on your age, sooner or later you will end up at one convention or another. For some people, this is a yearly migration full of can’t-miss opportunities. For others, it’s three days of questionable decisions and most likely, a lot of fun. Welcome to Episode 104: Conventions – The Best and Worst of Times
[Note: If you are reading this via email, click here to access the on-site audio player]
When did you start going to conventions? jump to 5:36
Andrew and I had different paths to our “convention careers” and how they started. Andrew’s first convention was an AIA National convention that took place in San Antonio, Texas when he was 7-years out of school. The fact that it was only 3-hours away from where he was living was a fairly strong motivator. I didn’t go to any conventions for a really long time because I was only able to attend once I had the support of my firm that not only allowed me to go (without taking vacation days) but actually financially helped support my ability to attend.
Andrew has only missed 1 AIA National convention in the last 11 years – which is a far better record than I have … I think I’ve missed 3 in that same time period.
What conventions do you consider attending? jump to 8:53
I have been to every one of the conferences/Expo’s/Conference listed below except for three and I don’t think I can recall regretting a single one. There is so much to be said for getting out of the office and surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who have the same interests as you. The opportunity for inspiration, comradery and creative rejuvenation is almost unmatched. We singled these events out below because of personal experience and/or desire to attend. If you are new to the process, this is as good a list to start as you can find.
Texas Society of Architects (El Paso, October 27-28, 2022)
CEDIA Expo (Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association – Dallas, Sept 29 – Oct 1, 2022)
KBIS/NAHB (Las Vegas, Jan 31 – Feb 2, 2023)
London Design Fair (Sept 21 – 24, 2023)
There are also a lot of specialty conferences like:
NOMA Conference (Nashville, Oct 26 – Oct 30, 2022)
NIBS – National Institute of Building Science: Building Innovation 2022 (Washington DC, Sept 26-28, 2022)
SketchUp Basecamp (Vancouver, B.C. September 26 – 30, 2022)
Greenbuild (San Francisco, Nov 1- 3, 2022)
ASLA – American Society of Landscape Architects (San Francisco, November 11-14, 2022)
These go on and on – there’s literally a convention, conference, or EXPO for everything.
Why did you start going to conventions? jump to 18:12
In the beginning, it was all about getting the required CEUs (continuing education units) to maintain state licensure requirements, which might explain why I didn’t start going to conventions until later in my career – I needed to get my license first – and that didn’t happen until I turned 30-years-old. Obviously, CEUs are important and if you are in a younger firm, going to a convention is one of the few ways you can easily get them. These days my firm is big enough to get an endless stream of Lunch-n-Learns at the office, but that isn’t normally the case for smaller firms.
Both Andrew and I eventually started being asked to present at conventions. Andrew used to present on software applications that benefitted architects and with the growing popularity of the Lifeofanarchitect.com website, along with various forms of social media, I started presenting at conventions all over the country. This allowed both of us the opportunity to go to conferences and conventions that we might not normally attend – which was great because it allowed us the opportunity to meet new people all the time.
How has the convention experience changed for you over the years? jump to 29:18
There is an obvious answer and a not-so-obvious answer.
Now that we are both 20+ years into our careers and for the most part both of us have been heavily leveraged in leadership positions with the AIA, our social circle has expanded nicely and it’s about seeing friends and going on building tours so you can get all the behind-the-scenes information not normally. This was a far cry from my first few conventions when I didn’t know anybody and I spent most of my time looking for somebody – anybody – that I knew so that I would have someone to talk with – those times were rough and I’m glad they are behind me.
Getting the opportunity to see people that we rarely get to see due to geographic distances is a special thing that I didn’t actually think I would ever experience in my life. There is a by-product of writing this site that puts both Andrew and me in a position to put ourselves out there in what I hope is a realistic and meaningful personal manner. This makes those moments of meeting people interesting because folks tend to behave as if they know us … but we don’t know who they are. What this means is that every introduction has a backstory to it of who the person is, how they got here, we talk about the website or the podcast for a bit and next thing you know, it’s been 10-15 minutes and we have 30 more groups of folks to go chat with. Fun … but it sometimes feels like work because we feel like we are working a wedding reception line and despite the potential for an amazing conversation, we feel obligated to cover as much ground as possible.
(this is my way of saying that I’m sorry if I didn’t get to chat with you at length or at all – we simply need to have more events!)
Here is the picture [click here] of the toilet room I mentioned at the 39:53 mark that I described as “the most intense bathroom I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s the kind of bathroom that 100% there was a gun tapped to the back of the tank at some point … and that hole in the wall was 100% caused by somebody’s head going through it.”
The importance of a convention (wife) buddy jump to 0:00
I wrote a post in 2015 titled “Convention Wife” and I know that it created problems for Andrew (even though that was not really my intention). The truth is that without Andrew’s company, I don’t think I would have gone to as many conferences as I have … I can guarantee that I wouldn’t have had as much fun. We talk about this experience for a bit but you really should check out the entire article if you want to really get the full story. I will, however, leave with reason #4 as to why a convention
wife buddy is so important:
4. Can be your mental unload and sounding board of the day’s activities
There is a lot of information and stories being shared during a typical convention and sorting through which ones are worth moving from short-term to long-term memory is a bit of a chore. Sometimes, you think you get it but while you are talking to your convention wife, they had a different take on things and all of a sudden you realize that what you thought was a terribly boring general session lecture, actually had some interesting ideas. This is also something that you could say happens in everyday life but I am going to say that it’s slightly different with your convention wife. This person, who typically tends to be a lot like you (for those of you who are looking for your own convention wife), and has typically earned enough of your respect so that when they hear the same thing as you – but have come to a different conclusion – you are more likely to actually listen to their reasons for why you *might* have missed the mark (other than the fact you *might* have been reading emails during the presentation).
What the Rank jump to 53:36
Everyone has their favorite and from what I’ve been able to ascertain, once you’ve locked the decision in as an 8-year-old there is no changing your mind.
How would you Rank the Top 3 Animals at the Zoo?
|Andrew’s Top 3 Zoo Animals||Alligators||Gorillas||Tigers|
|Bob’s Top 3 Zoo Animals||Tigers||Gorillas||Spider Monkeys|
I know Andrew struggled with answering this question since he had no time to think about his answers (he told me today that he cut out about 2-minutes of audio of him verbally thinking through his list). While I was prepared to concede that Andrew could choose “Big Cats” as an animal rather than having to single them out individually, we both felt like a single animal had to be selected.
As a bonus to those who listen, listening to Andrew make the most realistic Gibbon howl sound ever at the 58:12 mark … it’s worth checking out.
I also took some time to dig out a photo of me as a child from the story I shared 59:39 about riding an elephant …
Think you can guess which kid is me??
Ep 104: Conventions – The Best and Worst of Times
So Andrew and I both believe that attending conventions is a significant part of your professional development and life. While we admit it can be more difficult as a younger or new person in the profession, it should be on your list to attend a conference or convention as soon as you can manage to make it happen. We have both met, made, and reunited with lifelong friends and colleagues during these three to five day adventures. It can become the highlight of your year (at least professionally) to attend. While they may change in the personal focus you have for them over time; conventions are simply a worthwhile endeavor. Making the journey can provide a great way to get inspired and excited about the possibility of architecture, cultivate a more extensive network of colleagues, and create lasting memories that you may or may not be able to share with the public at large. However, there is no doubt that they should be a part of your professional life and that they are always better with a friend.
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