APDT 2010 - The Joys of Networking

Like several other DSD bloggers, I thought that the recent 2010 APDT conference (my 10th) was one of the best ever.  We had great attendance and some wonderful speakers that I’d never seen before.  The many hands-on workshops filled up early and generated tons of enthusiasm.  My only complaint was the number of time slots that forced me to choose between 2 or 3 “must-see” presentations.  APDT raised the quality of the official program to a whole new level this year, but my favorite part of conference was the same as always:  hanging out with other trainers. 

Seeing friends I’ve made at conferences past, putting faces to names that have always been email signatures, and meeting brand new people are all highlights of my year.  There’s nothing like talking dogs into the wee hours or grabbing your laptop in the bar to get feedback on video of a new technique or a dog who stumped you from as many trainers as can crowd around your screen.  It seems like every meal I eat, every beer I enjoy, and even some elevator rides involve meeting a fascinating new person or getting a great new idea.  Maybe it’s different for people from large progressive dog training communities, but as a Midwesterner with few like-minded trainers in my area I find being around hundreds of people who share my passions incredibly exhilarating.  I come back from conference energized and full of new ideas every year – and informal networking often supplies as many or even more of those ideas than the official program.

The educational value and just plain fun of networking with our peers sometimes feels like the best kept secret of the APDT conference.  Conference is exhausting.  After a morning of dense challenging talks, taking a break at lunch might sound better than attending a roundtable discussion.  After a full day of absorbing new information, a quiet dinner and an early bed time probably sound better to a lot of people than dining with a big group or a night cap in the hotel bar, but you miss out on a big part of conference when you go that route. 

I’d encourage anyone attending future conferences, to push yourself a bit.  Attend the receptions and entertainment.  Go to the round tables.  Introduce yourself to strangers.  Gather a group for lunch or dinner.  Hit the hotel bar in the evening as people return from dinner.  I’m not normally a social butterfly.  I don’t tend to initiate a lot conversation with strangers.  At the APDT conference, however, it’s easy to be a social butterfly.   No matter who you say hello to, you should have plenty to talk about.  You’re almost certain to have some fun and to learn something.  You can sleep when you get home.