Boca Raton was my fifth AAF National Conference in a row. I attended Orlando, San Diego, Austin, Phoenix, and now Boca Raton. I’ve come to enjoy this time with colleagues very much. While we all work at different companies - perhaps client side vs. agency side, maybe rivals with fierce competition -, we set those differences aside for four days. We become comrades championing the same cause. For four days, we are friends raising spirits. For four days, we are one. We are the AAF.
Each conference I’ve attended has provided a very different experience. These experiences mirrored where I was in my career or in my own AAF journey as a board member for the Rochester Advertising Federation (RAF). In all cases, I’ve found ADMERICA! to be a very positive experience and one that has enhanced me professionally. (cue Idina Menzel and jazz hands here…)
In Orlando, I was the bright-eyed newbie, flying solo without even understanding what or how large my own district (District 2) really was. I’m not ashamed to be transparent about my naïveté. It was my reality and we all start somewhere, right? I was a sponge that trip and tried to attend as many workshops as I could. I feverishly took notes and talked to as many people as I could, but I missed out on a lot that year simply because I didn’t know what I needed to do to get the most out of the experience. That said, I left Orlando feeling inspired, and I entered my first term as the RAF president with a focus and drive that propelled the RAF to make some radical changes.
SAN DIEGO 2011
Now into my second term as the RAF president, armed with a better understanding of what was expected in that role, I entered San Diego with a well-prepared agenda. I looked at the conference line-up in the weeks leading up to the start and determined where I would spend my time. I reconnected with District 2 (D2) and my extended AAF family (read: some of District 4 and all of District 5), and forged connections that have turned into dear friendships. I placed a focus on club achievement and set a goal for my RAF board: Submit to club achievement for the first time in years and win a least one. From there we can build on the momentum and grow.
My third year in a two-year term as RAF president (yes, do the math) landed me in Austin for my third straight ADMERICA! National Conference. The RAF was financially better-off than before and, as a result, budgeted for the Vice President, who would be the incoming President of the RAF, to also attend. Here, my role was to take my pal T.C. and show him the ropes. I introduced him to the D2 board, and steered him to the workshop and round tables that would best benefit him when he became president. My role was to be a mentor, to make sure that he was notthat naive president that I was in Orlando. During ADMERICA!, T.C. and I worked together to carve the program slate apart to bring back valued information to help fuel our club. I also found my interactions with the attendees leaned toward entrepreneurs and individuals that forged their own way in the ad business. I was inspired beyond words and those interactions gave me the confidence I needed to step into traffic and start my own agency with my good friend Courtney. That year, my RAF board also delivered on my goal from San Diego to win in Club Achievement. We won 3rd place in Programming, in part because of our speaker series and our new and very successful event, 20 Minutes and a Beer (20MAAB). This event has now been modeled all over the country, and we take pride in knowing that we inspired other clubs to start their own versions of 20MAAB.
No longer the RAF president, and only serving the board on the ADDY committee, one would question why I attended this conference at all. I questioned it myself. At this point, I was a co-owner of Brandtatorship, a boutique advertising agency that helps companies take charge of their brand. I attended the conference not as a board member, but as an entrepreneur making connections. I also was an eager volunteer to the AAF, and had interest in giving back on a more national scale. Our ADDY show in Rochester is pretty badass - we have a strong and vibrant creative community that knows how to throw an ADDY-inspired celebration that embraces technology, social media, and is not afraid to take risks. So, I raised my hand with our ADDYs as the icebreaker and joined the National ADDY Committee as an ad hoc member. My bluff had been called, and I was all-in.
BOCA RATON 2014
Now on the newly renamed National American Advertising Awards Committee (NA3C), I attended ADMERICA! as a participating board member and business owner. I also scored a sweet gig as one of the official AAF bloggers. My experience this year was, again, very different. I was working, tweeting, blogging and focused on promoting ADMERICA!, while volunteering my time to strengthen the AAF. I had very little time in the sun or networking opportunities like I had in years past. But, don’t play any tiny violins for me – I loved this new perspective, and it’s something I would totally do again.
Five years, five different ADMERICA! experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. (Well, maybe a Major League Baseball play-by-play announcer gig. That’s a dream.) Over this five-year span, I have become a business owner, I’ve been a club president, ADDY producer, regional ADDY judge, NSAC judge, helped administer District ADDYS, and serve on a national committee. My arc both personally and professionally tracks like a one-way elevator without a top floor and I’m eager to find out what’s on the other side of the AAF door when it opens next. ADMERICA! is more that just a four-day conference. It’s a four-day connection hub, confidence booster, social explosion, well-stocked bodega, Manhattan cocktail, Shareapalooza, inspirational overload, fresh perspective celebration, professional development playground and most of all, an Italian kitchen when our industry gathers. For four days, we are friends raising spirits. For four days, we are one.
See you in Vegas.
This blog post was originally published on June 5th, 2014 on the AAF Blog and can be found here.