I stepped out of the Uber at 8:45 a.m. sharp the morning of my first GAIN conference- or really, my first ever conference- and was met by the chilly fall air. The Capital One Hall building before me was massive to say the least, and I felt a sense of nervousness accompanied by excitement as I ascended the escalator to the fourth floor and toward the entrance of the GAIN conference. I checked in and was handed a blue lanyard with my name printed on it. I felt, for lack of a better term, so “official.”
The room was incredibly lively, full of people sipping on coffee, munching on breakfast pastries, chatting, and greeting friends or old colleagues with smiles and hugs. I sat with a few of my teammates from ArtForm, including my CEO Janet Waring and our Director of Business Development, Tom Williams, at a large round table, where they introduced me to several of their own friends and connections from past jobs and partnerships. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting when I entered the conference hall that morning, but warm smiles and cheerful, “How have you been?!”’s were not at the top of my list.
Eventually, we were ushered into a side room with a large stage where Dr. Zoe Chance, a professor at Yale University, gave her humorous, yet insightful, opening keynote speech. She spoke of “gators” and “judges,” a theory which explains how humans process and interpret information. A photo of a bunch of alligators flashed across the screen behind her and, of course, I had to snap a photo because, well,as a graduate of the University of Florida, it’s always, “Go Gators!” Am I right? The day was off to a great start, and I knew it was only going to get better.
We followed Track A in “The Vault” that day and listened to conversations about “The Next Government Goldmine” and “Digital Marketing Evolution.” Digital Marketing Evolution was especially interesting in that it focused on LinkedIn and its ties to B2G marketing. The strategy and workshop sessions were interesting and educational, especially as a young professional who is still getting my bearings in the government sector. (Off the record, I think I was probably like, the second youngest person at the conference. This made me feel even more badass, especially accompanied by the lanyard around my neck. It had a QR code to my LinkedIn profile and everything!)
There were a few things I really loved about this conference, and I’ll outline them for you here.
First,, it was quite neat to hear about B2G marketing from so many highly-respected individuals in the industry. I knew they were highly-respected by the way that people greeted them throughout the day (yes, I observed every interaction I could), or by the attention they drew when they entered a room. I sat there and absorbed all the information I could like a sponge. Interestingly, the information at hand was thought provoking- not necessarily all an objective truth, but rather bits of subjectivity for the audience to ponder overtime.
My other favorite part of GAIN was the abundant opportunity to interact with so many like-minded individuals. These people all share the same interests I do, and as much as I want to hear what they have to say, they also want to hear about ArtForm, my role in the agency, and what we can do to mutually support each other. Now I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a social butterfly, so the networking breakout sessions felt like my chance to shine. ArtForm had a sponsor table set up, so I used every opportunity I could to greet passers-by with a smile from ear-to-ear and a firm handshake. Some people I knew, others were strangers at the start of the day. Some inquired about our company, others were complimentary of our incredibly well-branded colored pencils and notebooks (shoutout John Waring). Either way, this was certainly the highlight of my day.
As a first-time GAIN attendee, I can say without-a-doubt that I will be coming back for the next GAIN Conference. And I WILL be bringing a bigger bag to carry all the swag I’ll be taking home.
Savannah Howard, reporting (sort of) live from Capital One Hall, GAIN Conference, October 2022. Till next time.