An expo postmortem

Me, at the expo. I was across from a chiropractor who was checking postures all day, and he was probably horrified by mine.

The first time I had a table at the Twin Cities Birth & Baby Expo, I shared with two other postpartum doulas and I’m not sure any of us got one bit of business out of the deal. But that’s okay, since part of an expo is networking and getting your name out there. The “not getting business” point was rendered irrelevant for me, regardless, as it wasn’t too long after that I became pregnant with twins and, well, I’m sure you can imagine what that did for my free time.

This was the fifth year of the expo and, my, how it grew. The organizers did an incredible job, the venue was a good match, and it seemed like there were many, many more attendees than in previous years. Here are some of the highlights (and lowlights) for me.

I was thrilled that there was not one bit of formula company advertising that I could see. Not only do I object to the aggressive and predatory marketing that formula manufacturers do on a personal basis, but, professionally, I cannot be associated with any event that would have such sponsors or exhibitors. There were some items on display from a WHO-Code violator (but not the presence of that manufacturer itself) and there was a booth from a Prolacta-affiliated milk bank but, in the grand scheme of things, that’s minimal, and, to some extent, I don’t mind. (For information on why Prolacta raises some eyebrows, read this blog post: “Swindled: The Ugly Side of Milk Donation.”) In contrast to this, there are several baby expos that happen in the Twin Cities area that are underwritten almost entirely by formula manufacturers. And—guess what? They don’t exactly invite lactation professionals to exhibit (not that we could do so ethically).

There was much less of an emphasis on “stuff,” and more of an emphasis on services. I’m a big believer that babies don’t need a whole lot of stuff. Sure, there are some adorable diapers out there, and it’s fun to have baby carriers to match various outfits, but the greater need is for support, whether during pregnancy, birth, or postpartum.

Attendees seemed to be flocking toward the presentations. The halls were crowded between sessions! My presentation on breastfeeding multiples, which obviously fills a narrow niche, was attended by five moms expecting multiples. That blew me away, especially considering that I had the first slot of the morning in the breastfeeding room. There were a wide variety of presentations on board, and I think they were a great addition to the day. It’s possible that there were too many, and that there were certain bound-to-be-popular events like the World’s Largest Blessingway, that were scheduled during presentations and might have pulled viewers away. I also wasn’t aware that I was to wait until after 10 a.m. to begin presenting, to allow people to make their way into the room (the expo began at 10). Luckily, I either talked fast or I didn’t have as much content as I feared.

Answer the question! The only prize is your sense of pride if you are right.

An interactive display helped to draw in attendees. While I didn’t have a raffle to enter or lots of swag to give away, I did pose a question to the audience and give them some food for thought. Inspired by this image, I asked, “How big is the stomach of a newborn baby?” (to clarify, I meant on day 1). Is it the size of a chicken egg, cherry, walnut, or apricot? Many people answered “walnut,” and even the people who knew that it was a cherry (like all of the lactation professionals I was sure to quiz) were surprised at how very little that actually is when faced with 1/2 of a teaspoon of milk in a container. This display ended up generating a lot of conversation.

Speaking of displays, mine was kind of sad. If I do more baby expos in the future—assuming I can find any that aren’t sponsored by formula manufacturers—I need a better display.

It is fun putting faces to names, and sure makes you feel good when people compliment you on things they’ve heard from you. It’s also quite a compliment when someone comes by and takes a whole lot of your postcards and business cards to hand out to their clients or friends!

What a big, vibrant, caring, smart community we have in the Twin Cities. I’m so glad to be a part.