As a first time attendee of the 2015 APDT Annual Educational Conference & Trade Show, I was known as a “Conference Puppy” and I was thrilled to bits to travel all the way from Barbados to Dallas, Texas, USA to gain knowledge about dog training, behaviour and the business aspect of the dog industry.
Another important part of this conference, for me, was the networking. It was wonderful to meet my Facebook friends – Casey Lomonaco and Robin Bennett of the APDT’s Board of Trustees; guests I had on my Chat Time Interviews – Roger Abrantes, Michael Shikashio, Grisha Stewart and Josh Pitts; my Texan friends Abby Merlot, Jolynn Payne, Kevin Glowski, and my roommates Cheri Spaulding and Karen Reilly and so many others. Greater bonds of friendship have been made by spending our free time together and I truly value meeting them in real life.
The Sheraton Dallas Hotel, located in downtown Dallas, was huge, with lots of walking to get around. It was beautiful and the staff very friendly and helpful. The food was good and I ate from a variety – Peets was great to grab yummy Starbucks coffee (loved the Pumpkin Spice Latte) and a quick bite; I had the buffet breakfast at the Kitchen Table Restaurant, which had such a variety to choose. Most of the socialising was done at the Draft Media Sports Lounge. It was the perfect atmosphere with great music but you could still have a conversation, watch sports on their large screen TV’s, or play pool.
I found the schedule of things to do and see to be completely filled each day. The APDT even had an early meetup – AM Riser, Get to know your Neighbourhood Walk, from 7 – 7.45am. Errm I like my bed so that was too early for me and I didn’t make those meets. LOL.
On Wednesday, day 1, the keynote speaker was Dr. Stephen Ledoux. He gave a talk about, “Helping Our Canine Friends By Helping Ourselves With Science.”
Each day from 8am to 5pm, there were the Live Animal Workshops. You could also choose the General Sessions which consisted of four Shorts to choose from, where speakers talked on a variety of topics for 45 minutes. They ran from 8 to 8.45, 9 to 10.30, and 10.45 to 12.15.
Lunch was an hour and a half, but even during lunch there were roundtable discussions and demos of freestyle, Hollywood dog or you could browse the vendors at the trade show.
The presentations started back from 1.30 to 3pm and again at 3.15 to 4.45pm. Thankfully there were breaks of 15 minutes to get to the other presentations and stretch your legs.
Even after the speakers presentations, there was still something to see and do from 5 to 9.30pm – Toy Making, Scientific Poster Session, more doggy demos and on Friday night was the APDT Foundation Reception and Auction which was great.
There were 3 tables full of mostly doggie items to bid on, ranging from dog toys, collars, personal sessions with Roger Abrantes and Sue Steinberg to name a few, as well as trips to the Caribbean. There were hors d’oeuvres and music, to which I danced a lot and managed to get the DJ to play some good modern pop music.
On the last day, Saturday, I was very sad, knowing this was the last day I would see my friends for another year and I was all teary eyed. Roger Abrantes gave a wonderful closing talk on, “Animal Training My Way,” which touched on our relationship with animals – bonds and respect.
“All we need do is control ourselves, our thoughts, our emotions and our behavior. If we do it correctly, we will produce the changes in others that exist, not against their will, not by force or manipulation of the truth, but because they want they want it.” – Roger Abrantes
If I had to choose who was the best speaker, it would be extremely difficult. A lot of interesting information was shared, some I already knew a bit about, so it was good to get it explained further and I also learnt new things.
However, where I think I truly benefited was in the business topics, since we dog trainers tend to want to learn everything we can about dogs, but neglect the business/marketing side of things.
My favourite speakers were the Dogtec duo – Veronica Boutelle and Gina Phairas, who had a variety of presentations – Newsletter Marketing, Start Your Business On the Right Paw, Put More $ In Your Pocket, and more. It was great to meet them and they are as nice in person as they were to deal with, when I was so fortunate to have won the APDT 2013 Business Makeover.
Overall, I found everyone to be friendly, even the Ph.D’s, those brainy folks, were nice and humble. They didn’t talk down to you at all and the “famous” folks, the big names who have written books or put out DVDs, were quite welcoming. I didn’t encounter any snobs there at all, no one thought they were better than others. It truly was a great atmosphere.
Oh, here are some tips for those attending conferences that I learnt the hard way –
1. Wear warm clothes, as it seems the powers that be like to keep you cold which apparently keeps you alert. I just shiver and quake.
2. Don’t overpack. Most people wear the same clothes from morning till night and it’s usually casual – jeans, shirt, sweater. Less clothes, means more room for dog books and toys. Oh and take a portable scale for your luggage; you don’t want to be overweight from all the goodies you buy and pay extra for your luggage.
3. Wear comfortable shoes since you will be walking all over the hotel, with warm thick socks. I made the mistake of wearing boots with heels the first day and my feet hurt from all the walking I was doing. Lesson learnt. I then wore my fluorescent orange sneakers everywhere. A friend said, “if you cannot find Lisa, just look down at the shoes.”
4. Have extra batteries and/or chargers. In one day my camera, cell and laptop died, grrrrrrr.
5. If allowed, take lots of pictures instead of writing notes from the Powerpoint Slides, you will always miss something. And put your camera on silent, so as to not disturb others.
6. Be organized. Know which speakers you want to see and print out the daily schedule in advance, so you are organized. Most hotel rooms don’t have free wifi, so you won’t be able to access the website.
7. If the Conference has an app, download it. This is very useful, since it has all the info about the Conference on it.
8. If you are traveling from another country, like me, phone calls and texts will be charged at an international rate, so it will be expensive. If possible, buy a SIM card with data. You can get one at the airport, but it would be cheaper from a local store.
9. Know where the Speakers will be located and how to get there. You will probably still get lost (I did, many times), but you can always ask others and follow them.
10. Get out there and talk to people; no sense in being a wallflower. Conferences are a great opportunity for networking, to meet new people, to exchange ideas, to make contacts with people in the industry. And DO remember to bring business cards and exchange them with other people.
With such a great experience at the APDT 2015 Conference, will I be attending future Conferences? HECK YEAH!! I am already planning on going to next year’s conference in Las Vegas.
Hope to see you there!
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