Gatherings Podcast

Jessica and Chrystina from Gatherings Podcast

Photo by Julia Dent Photography

Hi everyone! It’s about time that I officially announce to y’all that I just started a really cool new project with my friend Jessica from Sweet Love & Ginger.


It’s called Gatherings Podcast. Jessica and I talk about – and interview people about – hosting parties and entertaining in everyday life. We like to keep it simple. We like to focus the conversation on the people and the logistics, and leave the sometimes over-the-top Pinterest decorations to the pros.

If you’d like to listen, but don’t know how to find a podcast. Leave a comment and I’ll help you figure it out. We have three episodes right now. You can listen to them all on our website.

What are we trying to accomplish?

We’re trying to make parties more approachable for people who haven’t hosted them and provide a space for people who love hosting parties to talk about it, all of its nuances, and things we’ve learned along the way.

Who is this podcast for?

Admittedly, Jessica and I still need to sit down and really have this discussion, but I can give you a good start. If you (a) like parties and are looking for inspiration to host more, (b) like parties and are looking for somebody to talk about all of the logistics and details with, (c) want to start hosting parties, but don’t know where to begin.

What can you expect from the episodes?

In each episode we will pick a topic to either talk among ourselves about or to interview somebody about. The topic will need to do with hosting events and parties. We will be answering questions that have to do with logistics, dealing with awkward situations, and tips and tricks learned along the way. At the end of each episode all parties involved will answer a series of 4 questions:

  • What are you planning right now?
  • What’s going on in your kitchen?
  • How are you staying in touch this week?
  • What are you into right now?

Right now, we will be releasing episodes monthly. Each episode is about 50 minutes. If anything changes, I’ll let you know. And we would love some feedback in the meantime, so don’t be afraid to reach out. Here’s the rundown of our first three episodes:

  1. Episode 01: Our Party Hosting Styles – Jessica and I talk about our who we are and how we met, our party hosting styles, and why we started this podcast.
  2. Episode 02: Our Ideal Dinner Parties – Jessica and I talk about our ideal dinner party setups, rules that we live by (please note: we don’t have many), and how to keep the conversation going.
  3. Episode 03: Networking Events with Lauren Caselli – Jessica and I chat with Lauren Caselli from Lauren Caselli Events about life stories, event planning, benefits of facilitation, and all the things.
Gatherings Podcast - Episode 01 - Party Hosting Styles
Gatherings Podcast - Episode 02 - Our Ideal Dinner Parties
Gatherings Podcast - Episode 03 - Hosting Networking Events

What makes this podcast unique?

I looked for a podcast about real life party planning for a long time. I came close to finding it with Awesome Etiquette, the podcast put out each week by the Emily Post Institute, but they talk more situationally rather than logistically. (Still HIGHLY recommend that podcast.) Victoria from A Subtle Revelry had a podcast about parties (called The Party Podcast) for a little bit, but it didn’t last more than a few episodes. If anybody knows of any others, let me know, but for now, we’re one of the few party planning podcasts out there.

This is all about party hosting from the point of view of two late 20-something female engineers. That means we’re living on a budget, we worry about logistics before decorating, and we’re at that point in our lives where things are starting to change – people are getting married and having kids – and it changes the way that you stay in touch with people in your lives. That said, even between just the two of us, we bring some variety. What do I mean?

  • I live in the city. Jessica lives in the country (suburbs?).
  • I live in 850 square feet with minimal outdoor space. Jessica lives in a much larger house with a large back yard.
  • I am a type A planner, Jessica is far more spontaneous.
  • I love talking about relationships and how to stay in touch with people. Jessica loves talking about sustainability, permaculture, gardening, and hunting.
  • I have a boyfriend. Jessica has a husband, chickens, and a baby on the way.

So needless to say, there are definitely times that we will bring different perspectives to the conversation.

We would love for you to check out the podcast and follow along. We would love for you to leave us a review on iTunes. We would love for you to recommend some of your favorite party planners to be interviewed. Let us know what you’re thinking.

101 PG13 Never Have I Ever Questions

101 PG13 Never Have I Ever Questions for your next event via Chrystina Noel

Something that you may know about me if you’ve been reading my blog for a long time is that I love ice breaker games. They’re my favorite way to introduce people to each other at a party. I find that it makes things less awkward (since everybody is playing) and gives everybody some common ground to start on (even if that common ground is – wow, Chrystina really needs to get a new hobby). Over the years I’ve narrowed down my usual list to my top 5 ice breaker games. One of those games is “Never Have I Ever,” arguably, my favorite ice breaker game of all time.

What is Never Have I Ever?

There’s a chance that you have heard of Never Have I Ever in the context of a drinking game, but it is good for so many more things than that – especially an ice breaker for large groups of people who haven’t met each other before. Essentially, there are Never Have I Ever prompts, which either the host writes down ahead of time or the guests come up with on the spot and one person reads the prompt and anybody who has done the prompt needs to complete an action. This action could be anything from have a sip of your beverage, to eat an M&M, to put up a finger, to take a step forward – essentially, you’re looking for any visible sign to let the rest of the group know that you have actually done whatever the prompt is (whether you’re embarrassed by it or not). You can see how letting guests come up with their own Never Have I Evers adds an element of unknown to the game, which can be fun, but not always. If you’re (a) trying to keep control of the direction the game is heading, or (b) trying to keep the pace moving quickly, it’s better for the host to come up with a list of prompts, at least to start the game off to get things rolling.

Benefits of Never Have I Ever as an Ice Breaker.

There are a lot of ice breaker games out there to choose from, but there are two qualities this one has that make it wonderful:

  1. It’s fast-paced. Sometimes when you’re playing ice breaker games people can get bored. Something like never have I ever is fast-paced enough that people stay engaged.
  2. It can be whatever you need it to be. It can be used for teenagers at a slumber party, it can be used for kids during a school function, it can be used for twenty-somethings as a drinking game, it can be used at a corporate event, and more. The prompts that you use during the game can be adjusted to fit any age or demographic.

Examples of how to use Never Have I Ever Questions:

Throughout my life, the game of Never Have I Ever has come up in multiple ways. Here are just a few I can think of:

Never Have I Ever as an RA

When I was an RA I once wrote the Never Have I Ever prompts on sheets of paper and taped them to the hallway of our floor. My residents walked up and down the hall writing their names on the sheets where they had done the whatever the sheet prompted. It was a good way to get people moving and to meet new people from down the hall.

Never Have I Ever at a large party for kids

The dance school I attended, starting in middle school, had a Christmas party every year for all 200 dancers, ages 3 to 18. During this party, we would play a version of Never Have I Ever where everybody started the game standing up, then the dance teacher would read prompts that she pulled out of a bowl. If the prompt applied to the dancer, she would have to sit down. The last person standing won a price. Fun fact: I once couldn’t figure it out if my dad had a beard or not. The question was, “if your dad has a beard” and I genuinely couldn’t figure out the answer. He did apparently.

Never Have I Ever at a large 21st birthday

During my 21st birthday party I had over 80 attendees that each only knew about 20 people (max) there. I put pieces colored construction paper on the floor in a circle and had each guest stand on one sheet of paper. Then I read prompts over the microphone and every time one of the guests had done the prompt, they stepped ahead to the next sheet. Whoever made it back to their original sheet of paper first won.

This was a fun idea because (a) people were overlapping each other, which meant that had to meet new people as they went around the circle, and (b) I had the opportunity to call certain people out with certain prompts – which in many cases is done maliciously if this becomes a drinking game, but I just found it cool to say things like “never have I ever sequenced DNA” knowing that all of my high school friends would need to take a step forward. During a party I recently was able to use an equivalent of “never have I ever invented a board game” to showcase another cool thing that a few of my friends had recently done. Also, I definitely wanted to make sure that the game stayed PG13 because my friend from church choir’s parents were DJ-ing and I didn’t feel like being embarrassed in the future.

Never Have I Ever in a corporate setting

One of my favorite icebreaker games in a corporate setting is to play networking BINGO. To setup the game the facilitator writes one “never have I ever” down in each square of the BINGO board (besides the free space). To play, people need to find somebody who has completed each one of those Never Have I Ever prompts and write their name in the box. The first one to fill in five boxes in a row wins.

Never Have I Ever as a typical drinking came

Everybody sits in a circle with a beverage. People take turns offering Never Have I Ever prompts and if you’ve completed the action, you take a sip of your beverage. Please note: it’s totally acceptable to play while drinking water. Also please note: it’s still very unclear whether you win or lose if you finish your drink first. Most of the time it’s just an interesting way to learn new things about people rather than “winner” or “loser.” Remember, drink responsibly.

If you have a different way you’ve utilized Never Have I Ever prompts, I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

101 PG13 Never Have I Ever Questions

Today I want to focus on finding questions that are appropriate to use in a large group setting. (Because I have faith in all of you to come up with your own inappropriate questions.) Feel free to post additional PG13 Never Have I Ever questions below, I’m always looking for new ones to add to the list. Some of these can’t be used for kids parties, but it will at least get you heading the right direction.

  1. …jumped out of a plane.
  2. …jumped off of a cliff.
  3. …camped in the woods.
  4. …been a girl or boy scout.
  5. …played in a marching band.
  6. …played on a varsity sports team.
  7. …been to a debutante ball.
  8. …baked brownies from scratch.
  9. …made homemade jam.
  10. …made tomato sauce from scratch.
  11. …read all of the Harry Potter series.
  12. …seen the original 3 Star Wars movies.
  13. …watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
  14. …read The Hobbit.
  15. …seen The Exorcist.
  16. …broken a bone.
  17. …gotten stitches.
  18. …traveled outside of the United States.
  19. …traveled to Asia.
  20. …traveled to South America.
  21. …been on a cruise.
  22. …been to Disney World.
  23. …been to the Great Wall of China.
  24. …been to Machu Picchu.
  25. …sang karaoke with a live band.
  26. …rickrolled someone.
  27. …been in a dance recital.
  28. …ridden a skateboard.
  29. …bounced on a pogo stick.
  30. …down a flip on a trampoline.
  31. …shot a bow and arrow.
  32. …skated backwards on roller blades.
  33. …ridden on a motorcycle.
  34. …hitchhiked.
  35. …flown an airplane.
  36. …been in a helicopter.
  37. …sailed a boat.
  38. …sequenced DNA.
  39. …won a spelling bee.
  40. …competed in chess competition.
  41. …gotten a piercing.
  42. …gotten a tattoo.
  43. …used a magnifying glass to kill ants.
  44. …eaten a bug on purpose.
  45. …bought a house.
  46. …remodeled a kitchen.
  47. …done a cross-country road trip.
  48. …named your car.
  49. …played the original Mario Kart 64.
  50. …beat Super Mario 64.
  51. …played WOW for longer than 12 hours in one day.
  52. …done yoga with goats.
  53. …golfed 18 holes.
  54. …made a half court shot in basketball.
  55. …snuck into a movie.
  56. …used all 7 letters in scrabble.
  57. …rolled Yahtzee.
  58. …played canasta.
  59. …bowled a 250+.
  60. …lied about your age.
  61. …lied about your birthday to get free dessert.
  62. …skipped school without being sick.
  63. …got detention.
  64. …changed a grade on a report card.
  65. …ran away from home.
  66. …given someone a fake phone number.
  67. …gotten your braces stuck on someone else’s.
  68. …attempted to chug a gallon of milk.
  69. …attempted to eat a tablespoon of cinnamon.
  70. …eaten a whole pack of oreos.
  71. …licked all the way to the center of the tootsie pop.
  72. …spent more than $50 on cheese in one sitting.
  73. …bought a bottle of wine for more than $100.
  74. …sat in a VIP box at a sports game.
  75. …been to the Olympics.
  76. …been to the Super Bowl.
  77. …played soccer.
  78. …played squash.
  79. …played roulette.
  80. …has a black belt.
  81. …completed a triathlon.
  82. …completed an Iron Man.
  83. …collected baseball cards.
  84. …collected Pokemon cards.
  85. …had your tarot cards read.
  86. …used a Ouija board.
  87. …sewed a quilt.
  88. …knit a scarf.
  89. …embroidered.
  90. …been a flower girl or ring bearer at a wedding.
  91. …sang the national anthem at a sports game.
  92. …caught a foul ball.
  93. …been on the jumbo tron.
  94. …been on television.
  95. …been on the radio.
  96. …been on a podcast.
  97. …changed a tire.
  98. …driven for a ride-sharing service.
  99. …seen every episode of Friends.
  100. …seen every episode of Cheers.
  101. …seen every episode of MASH.

I hope you enjoy your Never Have I Ever experience and use it as a way to get to learn more about the people you know and build even more connections in your life. Or at least that you have fun at the bar on Friday night with it.

Now tell me, what’s your favorite ice breaker game?

The Bridal Shower Question Card Game

Bridal Shower Question Card Game via Chrystina Noel

Now that it’s May, if you’re a twenty- or thirty-something you’re probably finding yourself in the middle of Bridal Shower season. If you’re in the bridal party, you may even be responsible for planning one of these bridal showers. One of the most popular bridal shower games these days is the Bridal Shower Question Card Game. Why? It’s not overly embarrassing, it’s low energy, and it kind of reminds all of us of those quizzes we used to love taking online. Today, I’m compiling all of my resources for the bridal shower question game in one place. This post will answer:

  • What is the Bridal Shower Question Card Game?
  • How do I execute the Bridal Shower Question Card Game?
  • What questions should I use for the Bridal Shower Question Card Game?
  • How do I make my own Bridal Shower Question Game Cards?
  • What is another idea for a Bridal Shower Game?

Get a FREE Bridal Shower Question Card Game Printable

What is the Bridal Shower Question Card Game?

The Bridal Shower Question Card Game is a game used at bridal showers where you ask the groom a series of approximately 20-30 questions before the shower and then ask the bride those same questions during the shower and see if she can come up with the same answers the groom did.

This is a great game to get to learn more about the couple that’s not super over the top or interactive.

Bridal Shower Question Card Game via Chrystina Noel
Bridal Shower Question Card Game via Chrystina Noel

I was first introduced to the Bridal Shower Question Card Game by my friend Marie. Above you can see photos of what her Bridal Shower Question Game Cards looked like. You will see from this post that you can dress the cards up, or dress them down based on your needs (and the amount of time you have).

How do I execute the Bridal Shower Question Card Game?

  1. Choose a list of 20-30 questions about the Bride and Groom’s relationship, the Bride, or the Groom.
  2. Ask the Groom these questions ahead of time.
  3. Decide what’s going to happen if the Bride gets a question right or wrong. If she gets it right, she might just be safe, she might get a piece of candy, get a dollar, or she might get to take a happy-face photo with the card. If she gets it wrong she might have to add a(nother) piece of gum to her mouth, eat a Bertie Bott’s jellybean, get a pie in the face, or she might have to take a sad-face photo with the card itself.
  4. Transfer the questions and answers on to cards to be read during the bridal shower.
  5. Sit the Bride down in the chair of honor and read her each question asking her to guess the Groom’s response.

Feel free to spread the cards out among the guests so everybody gets a chance to participate.

What questions should I use for the Bridal Shower Question Card Game?

  1. What is the first the Groom noticed about the Bride?
  2. Where was your first date?
  3. What is the Groom’s favorite meal the Bride prepares?
  4. What is the Groom’s least favorite meal the Bride prepares?
  5. What is the Groom’s favorite color?
  6. What and where was the Groom’s first job?
  7. What was the Groom’s first car?
  8. When and how did you start dating?
  9. Where was your first kiss?
  10. Who said ‘I love you’ first?
  11. How many children does the Groom want?
  12. How many children does the Bride want?
  13. What is the Groom’s favorite thing about the Bride?
  14. What is the Bride’s favorite thing about the Groom?
  15. When did the Groom know it was love and the Bride was ‘the one’?
  16. What is the Groom’s favorite band?
  17. What would the Groom say is the Bride’s most annoying habit?
  18. What would the Bride say is the Groom’s most annoying habit?
  19. Who proposed? How and where did it happen?
  20. Is the Groom right-handed or left-handed?
  21. What nickname does the Groom hate being called?
  22. What was the first movie you watched together?
  23. What is the Groom’s favorite dessert?
  24. What was the Groom’s favorite toy as a kid?
  25. What’s the Groom’s favorite restaurant?
  26. When the Groom was little, what did he want to be when he grew up?
  27. What was the Groom’s first job?
  28. What high school did the Groom attend?
  29. Did the Groom have any pets growing up?
  30. What is the Groom’s favorite game?

How do I make my own Bridal Shower Question Card Game Cards?

Making your own Bridal Shower Question Cards is very easy. The only things you need are card stock in a color that matches the Bridal Shower colors and a marker. If you’re looking to jazz them up a little bit you can buy ribbon, stickers, glitter, or watercolors to match them to the bridal shower theme. Here are a few ideas I came up with when making my own:

DIY Bridal Shower Question Card Game Cards via Chrystina Noel
DIY Bridal Shower Question Card Game Cards via Chrystina Noel
DIY Bridal Shower Question Card Game Cards via Chrystina Noel
DIY Bridal Shower Question Card Game Cards via Chrystina Noel
DIY Bridal Shower Question Card Game Cards via Chrystina Noel
DIY Bridal Shower Question Card Game Cards via Chrystina Noel

If you’re not into the DIY scene, you can use these pre-made Bridal Shower Question Game cards for your own shower. They are the size of half sheets of paper and have the 30 questions listed above on them.

Bridal Shower Question Game Cards

Bridal Shower Question Game Cards

Get a FREE Bridal Shower Question Card Game Printable

What is another idea for a Bridal Shower Game?

Another favorite bridal shower game is the “What’s in Your Purse” game. The premise is that you come up with a list of items that everybody might be able to find in their purses. Right before the game starts, everyone grabs their purse, and then the game facilitator reads out a list of items. The first one to find the item in their purse wins. It’s also pretty low key, no one is put on the spot, and it’s always kind of fun to see what kind of treasures you can find in your purse. You can learn more about the What’s In Your Purse game here.

Planning the 2017 Blog Connect Conference

Planning the 2017 Blog Connect Conference

Photos by Tim Becker Photo

Well, I think it’s pretty much confirmed at this point. If you want to plan a conference you must be at least a little bit crazy and a heck of a lot of stubborn. Lucky for me, I’m both of those things.

What a conference.

In case you’re a little bit behind, last month was the second (annual?) Blog Connect Conference. We went from 52 tickets purchased year one to 81 tickets purchased year two. We added a kick-off party the night before. We flew in our keynote speaker from San Diego. We made even more great connections in and around the city. And we were able to bring together a kick butt group of people from around the United States. Well, that last part wasn’t different from last year, it was just really cool to see all over again.

With a new year of conference planning came a new year of challenges. We made it through them all. And as a blogger, it is (clearly) my responsibility to document these challenges, lessons learned, and how we handled them. Maybe they’ll help you plan your own conference, and maybe it’ll help me figure out how to go forward from here.

What it looks like to be really sleep deprived and really adrenalined at the same time.
Photo by Tim Becker Photo

Sometimes it’s best to stick with what you know.

At the very beginning of our planning process this year we spent 2 months looking for a conference venue. We felt like since we were doubling our number of attendees, knew that we would need to purchase chairs, and just for variety’s sake we should probably mix it up for the second year. After looking at many other venues, I realized that we weren’t going to find a better location than the one we used the first year, the Saxbys headquarters. They were, and are, absolutely wonderful. The team is amazing to work with. And there’s free coffee all day.

On top of that, we knew how it worked. We knew the space. We knew all the breakout rooms. We knew what we were and weren’t allowed to do in it. We knew how to get in and out of it. We had built enough trust over the past year that we were able to collaborate the entire way. This was invaluable.

Start planning early.

Before we knew we were going to choose the Saxbys headquarters as our location for the second year of the conference, we were looking for a venue for 100 people for a full day conference in April. What does that mean? We were competing with wedding season. Which meant we were competing with wedding prices. How the heck did that happen?

We also lost a few key sponsorships from the previous year because we didn’t reach out to them with enough notice and they already had their schedules filled out for the year. Lesson learned. Start early.

Planning for 100 is way different than planning for 50.

The first year we started our sponsorship planning by reaching out to some of the larger brands to see if they wanted to sponsor our conference. It was year one of the conference. Nobody knew anything about us. It wasn’t always an easy task.

This year, after some discussions among the team, we decided that we wanted to try to keep the sponsorships local – so we made a list of our favorite places and adorable boutiques in the city. Unfortunately, when you’re planning for 100, sometimes it’s not always possible for local shops to give you enough product to sponsor the conference. And we worked around that, and found some different ways to work with sponsors, but we found ourselves at the end of the process reaching out to some of those larger brands that we did in the first year. This time with a little more success. It’s all a learning experience, right?

Photos by Tim Becker Photo

You’re going to need a flexible schedule to make it happen.

Dear Lord. I can’t tell you how much time I spent on this conference in the two months leading up to it. Middle of the day phone calls, late night phone calls, morning meetings, early morning pick-ups, late night drop offs, weekdays, weekends, holidays – the list goes on. I’m so lucky to have a job that can be flexible. If I need to be somewhere in the morning, I can pick up a few more hours in the evening so long as I’m making deadlines. I was also able to take the Friday before the conference off to run around like a crazy lady. Never in a million years would it have been possible otherwise for me.

(That said, if you don’t have a day job, this probably isn’t a problem.)

It’s not possible to do without a team.

The Blog Connect Conference Team Photo

The team.
Photo by Tim Becker Photo

On that same note. I never could have done it without a team. Our amazing creative director, Sarah from smoorelovin (in gray) killed it with the branding, website, and entire creative vision. Melissa from Skinny Affair (blue dress) and Sarah from Shades of Sarah (blue dress with denim jacket) killed it on the sponsorships. They were doing all of the reaching out for our team, keeping track of our promises to the companies, and all of the contracts and logos. And Priyanka from Paint the Town Chic (black dress with gingham shirt) did a great job coordinating the party at ellelauri the night before (those ladies were also absolutely incredible to us).

That said, managing the team was more complicated this year. More people meant more people to keep in the loop, more people to make decisions, and more complicated to make sure that we were all on the same page. This is something I’m still learning. We were able to simplify our email chains, got better at using Google drive, and had much more of a process in place around everything, but as somebody who’s always trying to gain team consensus before making a decision (for better, for worse?), it made it a little tricky. That’s a personal problem though. Yay for growth opportunities?

The amazing swag bags coordinated by Melissa and Sarah.
Photo by Tim Becker Photo

If it feels wrong, it’s probably wrong.

There were a few things about planning the conference that just didn’t feel right. Some of them we caught at the beginning. The location we were originally going to hold the kick-off party at was taking weeks to get back to us with information. We finally figured out that they were not the right collaboration for us at the time and we were so happy working with the amazing ladies from ellelauri. HIGHLY recommend checking out their shop if you’re ever in the Rittenhouse area.

That said, a few people we tried to collaborate with that didn’t understand our group. A few people we emailed that didn’t appreciate how we operate. Every one of those situations that left a crappy feeling in my gut eventually evolved into something that I wasn’t happy with. Things fell through, it created hours of extra work, and I felt like I had lost control of my own conference for some time there. Lesson learned for next year?

ellelauri was the perfect backdrop – and excellents hosts – for our party.
Photo by Tim Becker Photo

Keep pushing through. Good things will come.

There were definitely moments during the conference planning that were so draining, but every so often something incredible will happen to blow your mind. One of the biggest days of planning was the day we got a text message that said Erin Condren wanted to provide planners for each of our attendees. What a win. The planners were absolutely gorgeous, with tabs built in, and sections for everything – and the team was able to personalize them with our conference logo. Other big days included solidifying our amazing monetary sponsors. A huge thanks to Creative Business Accounting & Tax Services for sponsoring us two years in a row – go visit Tamara, she can help you with any of your accounting needs and she’s wonderful. And thank you to Verna Law – Anthony (Verna) was in the same church choir as me in college, and it turns out he specializes in advertising law, trademarking law, and copyright law – and he’s super nice. Other key highlights included finding out ellelauri boutiques wanted to provide a 20% discount for our party attendees, and reading the email from Sarah Morgan saying she would love to be our keynote speaker.

The lesson learned here? Keep on going. Keep sending emails. Sooner or later you’ll find your people.

The amazing planners courtesy of Erin Condren.
Photo by Tim Becker Photo

Friends are actually the best.

The week leading up to the conference the messages started. People from all walks of life wishing me well. Emails telling me “Just wanted to say hi and wish you luck on the next couple days of rush that I’m sure ae happening to pull everything together for the conference!! I know how much work can be involved. It will be wonderful 🙂 Thanks for all you do!” Text messages telling me “Good luck today but remember to enjoy yourself. You worked so hard don’t let the experience pass you by.” I had friends who when I posted on Facebook saying I needed coolers and room dividers they came through within 24 hours. There was even some snail mail that wished me well with the conference. Friends are the best.

Sometimes, it is about the money.

This seems worth mentioning somewhere. At the very end of the conference somebody came up to me to ask how I made a profit on the conference. For all the information they got, all the food they got (there’s that food thing again), and all the activities they got to be a part of, how could I have possibly made a profit? I can tell you that I wasn’t actually sure we made a profit until somebody bought a ticket the morning of the conference. There was a grand total of about $200 profit. Which I will probably use to treat my team to dinner. So there definitely wasn’t profit built into this.

That was something that was extra stressful about this year, and seems like not a great way to run a business. I don’t know exactly what this means for next year yet, but it’s something I’m going to have to start thinking about if (a) PHLbloggers is going to continue to grow, (b) my team is going to keep putting in as much hard work as they did for free, and (c) I want to stay sane.

It’s also extra complicated because Eventbrite doesn’t actually pay out for the ticket revenue until 5 days after the conference, which means I was fronting the money for any of the vendors that needed to be paid before the conference. I’m super lucky to be able to afford to do something like that, but the cash flow situation definitely made things really tricky.

It’s important to talk through the plan.

It’s so, so important to have a plan. It’s important to talk through all the options, talk through everything that could go wrong, talk through who’s going where and when, talk about how things are getting from point A to B, talk about how things are getting paid for. This way, when everything goes wrong, you at least have some logic to fall back on. Things you learn when talking through the plan include:

  • When you use raffle tickets, both halves of the ticket go to the attendees.
  • You may have ordered the pizza for an hour too late.
  • One of the speakers can’t actually eat the pizza you ordered for dinner.
  • You were actually supposed to get a hotel room for your keynote speaker.

Yeah… glad we caught all of those things ahead of time.

Our lovely keynote speaker who almost didn’t have a hotel room…
Photo by Tim Becker Photo

Treat yo’self.

By the end of conference weekend I had pretty much hit a brick wall. Lucky for future Chrystina, I knew this was going to happen in advance and took two weeks of PTO immediately following the conference. Sure, there’s still a pretty big to do list for conference closeout (sometimes you can tell I do construction when I talk, huh?), but I’m going to be taking that head on from the sunny shores of Ventura, California. The plan? To be a real person at the end of two weeks off, find some energy, and make a plan to keep PHLbloggers growing – and to make The Blog Connect even better next year.

I guess I got to answer there, huh? Next year. Yeah, you definitely have to be a little crazy, man. There’s just such a space in Philadelphia for a community like this though, and it would be a shame to stop now, just as it’s getting good. As for what it’s going to look like? I have no idea yet. Haven’t even spoken to the team. I’ll get back to you after this upcoming vacation.

But with all the lessons learned, what could possibly go wrong next year, right?