A Nerd’s Eye View of the Nerd Prom
In high school, I wasn’t fortunate enough to attend my senior prom. It wasn’t for a lack of trying but I ran with the nerd crowd. And in the 80s, let’s just say geek wasn’t exactly chic.
Thirty years later, I finally made up for it. Last weekend I attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner — aka the “nerd prom.” I was an invited guest of the Associated Press. (Disclosure: in my role with Edelman I worked with AP to help run some sponsored content programs for clients over the years.)
This is an extraordinary event where ordinary nerds like me get to mingle with the powerful and be “in the same room” with the POTUS and FLOTUS. The event, which celebrates the hard work journalists do every day, has become a spectacle over the years on par with the Super Bowl or a major awards show.
A few folks have asked me to write up my personal take on the experience. So here goes.
First, the most impressive aspect of the event is the sheer number of celebrities that are in the hall and how accessible they are. Government dignitaries, social media stars, Hollywood types, industry titans were everywhere.
During the night I had a chance to talk briefly with former NSA director Michael Hayden, Ariana Huffington, DJ Khaled, Jim Cramer and more. Everyone was really nice given that I am a nobody.
I am a super facial recognizer. I never forget a face and I have a knack for spotting celebrities anywhere I am. (Names and circumstances are another story.) This event put me on overload.
Every time I scanned the crowd I was in shock just how many famous faces were nearby. In this photo of Madeline Albright and yours truly you will just happen to see AOL CEO Tim Armstrong in the background. That’s what this event is like. Crazy.
I had no idea what the protocol is here in asking for selfies or taking photos. I am hardly shy — so I went a little crazy. It turns out everyone was really accommodating. I don’t know if I will get to go to this event ever again. So, I went into a “pics or it didn’t happen” mode. (Feel free to chuckle. Please know that no one laughs harder at me than me!)
Second, the event is packed and the room is loud but not in an annoying way. The tables are practically on top of each other.
It’s a logistical feat that 2600 people get served a three course meal. And that the Secret Service was able to get everyone through security in such an expedient manner. This is even more amazing when you consider that this year not only were the President and First Lady in attendance, but so was Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Kerry. This was business for everyone involved and they all do an amazing job.
Also, it’s worth noting that the room at the Hilton is yuuuuge. And there’s a good chance you are sitting far from the action. But, then again so are A-listers. It’s quite something to be at an event that makes so much news.
Third, while the event is a spectacle, the pre and post parties are even better for schmoozing with the rich and powerful.
I had no idea that there were events on Friday night so I didn’t head to DC early. But I was fortunate enough to attend both the Yahoo ABC and AP pre-events. I nearly fell over when Bernie Sanders walked into the AP cocktail hour and happily shook everyone’s hand. He really seemed like everyone’s Uncle Bernie. Yes, I felt the Bern.
Here are some of the photos I took at the event. For a nerd at heart who never made it to the big dance in high school, at the so-called prom for nerds I felt at home — even as I dined with people I will never meet again! Enjoy.