Bringing a baby to a conference

Bringing a baby to a conference

Hands up who’s seen a baby at a financial planning conference. Anyone? It’s not a normal scene I will admit. I mean, what do you envisage when you hear ‘financial planning conference’? I am sure a baby is not on anyones list.

Thankfully the times they are a-changing, as evidenced by the cutest participant at the inaugural Less Talk More Action (#LTMA19) Conference… three-month-old baby Felix. For those who didn’t attend LTMA19, it was a great chance for the ‘new breed’ of planners to have a platform to add to the new wave of change that is sweeping through the financial industry. When Steve Crawford from The Advice Movement was planning LTMA19, I am sure he was hoping to get in with the young crowd. Not sure a three-month-old was what he was expecting though.

As a newish financial planner, I have a deep love for learning and growing my skills. Like most, I am wanting to learn from as many different people as possible and hear what others have to say. So when the invitation came my way to attend LTMA19 held in Melbourne this year, I was in. One tiny bump though. Well, it was a small bump. Then it got bigger. So much bigger. Looking at the calendar, I knew that one way or another I would have a three-month-old baby. What do I do?

Having never seen a baby at an industry conference before, I didn’t know whether this would be within the rules. However, my options were seriously limited. He is far too young to be without me and my partner doesn't lactate so my options as they stood were:

  1. Not attend; or
  2. Bring Felix along.

After reading the conference’s anti-harassment policy, I figured that if any conference was going to be cool with a baby, it would be this one (other conferences, make an anti-harassment policy and promote it). So I reached out to Steve and pitched him on bringing Felix along. Lucky for me he was totally comfortable with the idea and we both agreed that we’d just see how it went on the day.

Fast forward to the conference. I walk in with my hefty pram, a tiny baby and a big nappy bag. Unsure of how this was going to be received by the other participants. I made sure I only arrived with a few minutes to spare before the conference started so I wasn’t standing around awkwardly for too long. I shouldn’t have worried though. Steve came up and had a quick chat, and Steve’s wonderful wife Melissa also took a moment to let me know that if I needed anything at all to just ask and she would help.

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Nerves put at ease, I started to relax and enjoy the first day. At first, I stayed up the back as not to draw too much attention to myself (also because I didn’t know how Felix would behave, if he would make lots of noise etc), but once we broke out into separate rooms to hear different speakers, my fears of distracting everyone had subsided and I headed right to the front to get the best view.

Turns out though, Felix did end up distracting everyone, but in a good way. So many people (both male and female) came up to talk to me about being a parent and being an adviser/running an advice business. It was a great opportunity for me to quiz as many people as possible about their thoughts on the industry, running their own businesses or being an employee and many other topics. I’d say Felix helped me connect with more people than I would have otherwise. Turns our babies are a great ice breaker. Who knew!

By the second day, many of the participants started warming up to Felix. I am not going to name names, but it did seem that some of the attendees were fighting over who got to hold Felix during the day. Winning! Hands-free time for me to get my learnings down on my laptop.

I was told multiple times how wonderful it was that I was bringing a baby, and how my commitment to this industry was incredible. I was also told that bringing a baby seemed to set the mood at this brand-new conference. After all, how can you take things too seriously and be rigid and boring when there’s a cute baby in the room?

I hope that by my bringing Felix to the LTMA19 Conference I’ve done a tiny bit to inspire other women to feel more comfortable about being mothers and advisers. I hope that I’ve shown the industry that mothering and advising don’t have to be completely separate, and I hope that I’ve helped employers see that just because parents have young families and take time off to be there for them in the early days, that they’re not also completely committed to progressing, growing, learning and doing our part.

I wanted to give a big shout out to Steve Crawford from The Advice Movement for going ahead and saying ‘yes’, instead of living in fear and saying ‘no’.

All that said, here are Trish’s rules to conferencing with a baby:

  1. Ladies, take your ‘babes in arms’ to industry events. The more people do it, the more normal it will become.
  2. Bring wipes for all the drool from the open mouth staring… and your baby.
  3. Event co-ordinators, set out a clear anti-harassment policy and make sure you’re being specific about how inclusive you are. If you’re not inclusive, check yourself.
  4. To the industry as a whole, one way to support women to get into the industry might be as simple as making women feel included in these events. Tell the woman how fantastic they are to bring their babies, and offer to help before she needs it (so she knows who she can go to when she does need it).

Trish Gregory is a financial planner with AGS Financial Group

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