Blog Post

“Connective Tissue” What I learned at NAFDMA pt 1 of 3

Did you get to ride the Mini-SuperMegaSlide in the booth?! Many dared and most survived at the NAFDMA Expo – Biggest ever?!

What a convention. NAFDMA in person was a wild ride of a family-reunion-dance-rave-business-masterclass-dinner-party with some of my favorite people in the world.

Someone asked, “Why is NAFDMA so different?”

My answer was the structure of the convention that has been in place since my first convention waaaaaaaaay back in 2000. Put the Bus Tour first.

The Bus Tour allows a huge convention to shrink first from 600 to 55, then to the people next to you. You are immersed with your Bus Group at each stop, learning, talking, bonding, and sharing.

By the time the conference comes around, you’ve 55 friends, plus their friends from other buses. At meals, you can sit down with anyone and join the conversation.

It’s learning magic.

Just like any living organism, the NAFDMA convention has different strengths. The keynote speakers are like the primary muscles, pulling the group in a new direction. The sessions are like calisthenics, working out targeted muscle groups. The meal times are like yoga, stretching, and cooling down your brain as you recharge from a day of work.

All that is wonderful, healthy, it is good work for exercising your brain, pushing your thinking, stretching your mindset, but that’s not the most crucial part.

It’s the Connective Tissue.

  • You walk past a booth at the expo and do a double-take.
  • You see an old friend in the hallway after hours and talk for an hour.
  • You see exactly what you need as you walk around a corner on the bus tour.
  • The bakery stop has the perfect pie-making machine you’ve been looking for.
  • People you don’t know welcome you into their conversation circle at the bar.
  • The presenter comes clean, admitting failure, and suddenly, you don’t feel so bad for yours.

It’s the things that happen in the moments in between, in person.

I’ll admit it – I’m still tired. My brain is still fried. I’m processing the whole experience, writing down notes, typing in notes, making lists, finding pictures, working to make sense of it all, and capturing the moment.

It would have been easy to go to bed, to shrink from meeting new people, to stay off the dance floor (and many would have appreciated it), to not share your failures (should have been in the Events Panel – you’d have heard mine), to sit with people you know every night for dinner, 

but… that is not the way forward.

This was a convention of people who risk, dare, fail, share, laugh, tell stories, pass out beers, and dream big. The magic is in the little moments, the hallway conversations, the new friends, the reunion of old pals – it’s in the connective tissue.

It would be easy to stop there. “Yeah, yeah, NAFDMA is great & Hugh likes it,” but that isn’t the critical message.

The message of connective tissue being the lifeblood of relationships is more extensive.

  • You might think that being present at graduation is the pinnacle of parenting, but I’d submit that it is those times when you pick your son up from a meet that didn’t go well, and you talk it through on the way home.
  • It isn’t attending the big concert, but it’s the act of pressing the button for the 114th time as she tries to get the perfect audition recording.
  • It isn’t the crazy school tour day as buses stream in when you build your staff’s resilience. It’s the silly banter as you work, side-by-side, shoveling mulch in the July heat.
  • It isn’t the wedding day bliss that builds a marriage, but holding him when his mother passes away seals the couple’s bond.

In a world full of hectic days and endless to-do lists, this connective tissue of humanity, of compassion, holds us together.

That’s the lesson: To look specifically each day for an opportunity, not to eke out the last drop of productivity, but to strengthen, build, maybe rebuild the humanity that brings meaning to all this work.

The hidden secret is that it is free to build this connective tissue if we take time to look for everyday opportunities in regular conversations, moments of encouragement, and kind words.

You can’t build resilience in your family or team when you need it. The work begins, piece by piece, starting today.

Thanks for connecting, more soon,


PS Today is the FINAL DAY to book your Super Mega Slide for 2022 June delivery. Please call 717-862-4691 or click

PPS Thinking about a Sunflower Festival? What if you could work with a group of motivated operators and have access to 5 YEARS worth of vendors, best practices, seed discounts & LIVE meetings to ensure you grew your event? Check out the Sunflower Mastermind group CLICK

Look at the sheer intensity of the event panel Q&A! What a fun session in which I got as many ideas as I shared. Did you get to hear about our historic event flops? Maybe later…

Related Posts