Whew! I’m tired. I hit two blog conferences in the last two weeks (and was a bridesmaid in a wedding – love you, Kate!) so I’ve been busy busy busy. I’ve been to quite a few blog conferences by now and they all have their own style, but these two were about as different as they come. So, I’m going to recap them together:
This was my 5th Alt conference, but my 1st as a speaker! Alt has a serious soft spot in my soul because it’s the first blog conference I ever went to and I completely credit it for making the difference between hobby blogging and professional blogging in my life. It’s also a whole lot of fun every single time because the entire event is designed to inspire you and give you space to figure yourself out. You can pick up some skills at Alt, but you’re more likely to pick up new friends and a burst of energy for a project that hits you out of the blue.
I went easy on myself fashion-wise for this Alt conference. It can be a bit of a runway show but it’s all in fun and lots of people show up in regular everyday clothes so when the weather took an unexpected turn toward rainy nights, I went ahead and went casual. I am a little bit bummed that I didn’t dress up more only because Alt is photobooth central and I usually use those pics as new headshots (so cute or professional clothing works better), but I’m very happy that I didn’t stress about my clothes even a bit this time.
I also went the easy route for my business cards. At Alt Summit in January, I crafted 200 business cards on rings with hole punches attached so everyone would get a rolodex to take home from the conference. The best part about that idea was that I gave almost every card out (and got rid of the stragglers at this conference) and I met a ton of people who were looking for me to get a hole punch. That being said, they were expensive and heavy to carry around and since I was speaking this time I didn’t want to stress about my cards. So, I picked up an Instax camera, some mini-film, a Sharpie, and some round mailing labels and did homemade Instax shots with people at the conference.
I also gave out some standard business cards and honestly nobody gave me a hard time for the lack of creativity. There were, of course, some serious standouts and I love that people spend so much time crafting their cards. It matters, people! It’s the only impression of you I’ll 100% hang onto after the conference!!
Love Hilary Rose // J. Sorelle // Jetsetting Fashionista // The Planned Adventure // Hopabout // Brooklyn Berry Designs // Ingrid Farmer // Red Poppy Photo // Mouse in Your House // Jane // Ave Styles // Art of Being Me // Janna Wilson
Fry Sauce and Grits // Celine Navarro // Getty Images // Marionberry Style // Style of Sam // Cyndie Spiegel // Cherish Everyday // Wendys Hat // Your Marketing BFF // Thrift Me Pretty // Twenty Something Plus // Our Style Stories
Socially, I was worried that I was going to be a bit of a dud because I didn’t spend a lot of time looking into who would be at the conference, but this was my most social Alt to date. It’s the perfect breeding ground for talking to people you’ve never met before and I walked away (again!!) with the loveliest of new friends. I also had the chance to spend time with people I had met at previous Alt conferences and other blog events, but I forgot (again!!!) to spend much time at the photobooths so too many meetings went unrecorded. I really need Justin Hackworth to just follow me around at these things.
The events were lovely: over the top but comfortable. I started the conference with dinner sponsored by Silhouette, who was generous enough to give us each a Silhouette Portrait and a whole bag of goodies that I’m eager to try now that I’m home. We had dinner at The Melting Pot and I snagged a seat at the smaller table so by the end of the night I was quite in love with all of my dinner companions. Seriously, Alt brings the best people together!
There were also two large events: an outdoor food truck gathering that I ducked out of early because it was a little too loud and I was a little too tired and a garden party that was so wonderfully relaxing I could have stayed for four more hours. That event made me want to go back in time and replan our wedding. That’s how wonderful the details are. (And you guys know I loved my wedding!)
Overall, there were some big differences this time. This conference was smaller than the big winter Alt conference here in SLC so I didn’t meet quite as many people. We also had the best keynotes ever (in my opinion – no offense past keynotes) so I can now say that I’ve been in the same ballroom as Martha Stewart and I’ve awkwardly pressed Joy Cho for a photo and then made her sign it because I’m a dork and I love her blog at an inappropriate level.
So yes, I loved it and I especially loved speaking. I thought I’d be intimidated, but instead it was a perfect excuse to talk shop for hours with smart people. I was lucky enough to be a roundtable speaker instead of a panel speaker which means I just sat at a table and people had the option to come and chat with me for as long as they wanted about my topic. So fun and relaxed! Hopefully it was helpful for those who stopped by…I’m already brainstorming what I’d want to speak on next time…
After the rush that was Alt, it was on to Phoenix for:
This conference was a whole new ballgame and marked the first time I’ve been to a Disney Social Media Moms event. These events have gotten a lot of attention because the big event usually consists of bloggers and their families heading off to a Disney park or two for some special treatment and a behind-the-scenes look. Who wouldn’t want that?
Well, there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll get an invite to that big conference, but rumor has it that attendees who make it to the On-the-Road events might be more likely to get picked so most of the conference attendees I talked to in Arizona had made the trip just in the hopes of jumping onto that magical blogger list.
I’m also interested in the bigger conference of course (hello! Disney!!) but I had additional motivation for making it to #DisneyOTR this time around. I keep running into a lot of the same bloggers at blog events but by and large they aren’t blogging about Disney, which means I rarely get to chat up my two Disney blogs (the regular one and the weddings one). I also wanted to meet mom bloggers who did regular family trips to Disney so we could swap tips and maybe guest post for each other and I knew that the people who were interested enough to hit up an On-the-Road conference for Disney Social Media Moms were also exactly the people I was looking for. And I was right!
I shared a hotel room with three other bloggers so we were able to start talking Disney love as soon as I got to Phoenix. I try to tone down the pixie dust most of the time so it was fantastic to geek out with other writers who are as passionate about parks, events, and merchandise as I am. We ended up socializing with quite a few of the conference attendees over drinks at the resort and I made contact with a ton of people that I’m now planning on collaborating with. I won’t showcase all business cards since there wasn’t as much of an emphasis at this conference as there was at Alt, but here is some link love for just some of the women I met:
Mindy Joy Media // Inspired by Dis // Jindy Garfias // Horsing Around in L.A. // Main Street Tales // The Lovebugs Blog // Mostly Mommyhood.com // Suzanne Prevost // Stronghold Mom // Our Mini Family // Celebrating Family // Disney Sisters // Tracey Clark // No Guilt Life // Points and Pixie Dust // Nancy Foote // Half Crazy Mama // Sparks of Magic // Sweet Shoppe Mom // Magic Memories Mayhem
(And yes, they were all women. It was a man-less conference. Is that not the oddest? I mean, I know it was a mom conference, but there isn’t a Disney dad conference so…)
The actual conference was only 5 hours long and about as different from Alt as you’d think. We got a swag bag with a bunch of nice stuff, but there wasn’t anything over-the-top in it which was actually kind of nice. Whenever swag becomes the focus, I feel like that’s where you get into weird competitive blogging territory. Instead, we got fun stuff with a Disney theme and some other treats from companies like GoGo squeeZ and HP.
Instead of hopping around, the conference all took place in the same ballroom so we had a chance to settle and chat with people over breakfast before we saw a series of speakers. I wasn’t sure what to expect since it was likely to be a big commercial for Disney (and it’s not like I need someone to sell me on that) so I was pleasantly surprised with how interested I was in all of the different sessions. Both Michele Himmelberg,the Director of PR for Disneyland, and Erin Glover, the Disneyland Social Media Director, were there and they gave us some insight not only into new things coming to the parks but also to their process and how they work to reach people interested in Disney. It was so funny to see how simple some of the strategies were – when I think Disney I always assume that everything must be high tech and crazy organized but their process is a lot like mine!
We also heard from Lori Lorenz, the Senior Director of Direct Print Services for HP, which was a lot of fun for me since I’m part of the HP Smart Moms Panel and I love all of the innovative things they’re doing. HP had a treat for everyone who attended the conference and some special bonus treats for a few of us, so I was thrilled when I received a canvas wrap gallery print of a photo I had sent in from Eva’s first trip to Disneyland. Completely cherished!! I’m definitely going to order a few more to go with it.
Then Tracey Clark (part of The Disney Sisters) did a session on cell phone photography and I could have listened to her all day. I had heard her speak before at an Alt conference (small world!) so it was no surprise that her session was great. In fact, the most consistent thing I heard after the conference was over was that people couldn’t get enough of her and we all wish that she’d had more time. I honestly could have done a 5 hour morning session and then three more hours in the afternoon just of Tracey!
The rest of the conference was a mix of mom entrepreneurs and media personalities, including Lisa Cash Hanson from Snugg Wugg, Romy Taormina from Psi Bands, Allyson Phillips from Tilty Cup, Maria Bailey from MomTV.com, Nadine Bubeck from ExpectingPerfect.com, and Grumpy Cat. Yes, even Grumpy Cat loves Disney.
All in all, the On-the-Road conference was much different from Alt but just as inspiring and useful. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an invite someday to the conference at the Disney parks, but in the meantime I’ll definitely be signing up again for the On-the-Road since I very much felt like these were my people. It was also nice to get some larger perspectives from moms who moved beyond the blog and turned themselves into a product and/or brand since I do feel like I tend to get stalled in blog-only mode. I’m just hoping that the next conference isn’t in Phoenix. You guys, it WAS SO HOT OUTSIDE!!!
Next up: BlogHer ’14 in San Jose in three weeks. I’m taking numbers and writing down names, friends, so if you’re going to be there you’d better let me know!!