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?

VenturePOP was the coolest.

What I Learned at VenturePOP 2016

As you know, I just got back from a week of vacation in New Orleans. I showed up on Monday, drove to Lake Charles, hung out in Baton Rouge for 2 days, and then crashed in New Orleans until Saturday when VenturePOP began. I booked tickets on a whim after finding out that Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon from Being Boss, and Sarah Morgan from XO Sarah were speaking. The decision took me approximately 4.5 minutes to make, if that.

And y’all. It was 100% worth it. Sometimes you go through a little bit of a buyer’s remorse situation when you realize you’ve bought tickets to a conference out of state, you only really know one other person attending, and the conference price actually called for more consideration than the 4.5 minutes you gave it. But the people were so incredible, the conference team worked really hard to put together an incredible agenda with surprises all over the place (they even brought in a brass band for the after party!), and the speakers were ON POINT. I will absolutely be purchasing a ticket in 2017. (Assuming they keep this going… because it would be a darn shame not to.)

If you didn’t have the pleasure of attending the conference live, I’m going to give you some insight into my top 5 quotes from the event, but first, let me set the scene.

From the very beginning, our awesome emcee, Liz, was talking about us being the “slasher” generation. This means that almost all of us need to put slashes in when we explain what we do in life. For example, I’m a construction consultant / blogger / conference mastermind / photographer / singer. It takes far more than just one word to get all of the components of your life into the same sentence. And that’s really cool. It means everybody has a project that they’re really passionate about in their lives. It also means that we’re constantly trying to juggle these personalities.

My mind was buzzing with ideas when I left the conference. Everything from, I should really try out a welcome gate on my blog to I should really start that community Facebook group for hostesses I was thinking about to omg what if I need entirely new branding again. Not being a first time conference attender I realize that some of these ideas will happen, and some of them won’t, but the fact that my brain can’t stop thinking about all of them is exactly what I needed. That’s why people go to conferences, for that kick in the pants they don’t get while sitting in front of their computer. And of course, to meet cool people.

There are two things I’m super excited to work on though:

  • The first is to research the crap out of Instagram. Thanks to Jennifer Puno, founder of Made with Map (who now has 107k followers on Instagram) I’m hoping to turn my Instagram game around. She put her all into Instagram for 6 months and saw an incredible return on that investment in her following AND community. She commented on 30-50 new people’s photos a day; creates lists of competitors, partners, and influencers; and really tore through Instagram to understand the best hashtags, visual displays, and content. Of course, she had a team of people working with her for some of that, but I still think it’s really cool to see how the Instagram game is actually a lot more analytical than it initially appears for such a visual network. Also, just in general, Puno (as she goes by) was a genuinely awesome person. At lunch the first day she bounced up to a group I was standing with to introduce herself, no qualms at all, which was awesome.
  • The second is to really take a step towards building an online community for hostess friends thanks to an awesome talk by Sarah Morgan (@xosarahmorgan) from XO Sarah titled How to Build a Thriving Online Community. As she pointed out, building a community is a great way to get feedback, to learn something new, and to meet new people. I just need to figure out what the heck this is going to look like now. If it’s something you’re interested in, please let me know in the comments below!

Anyway, I got distracted. Where was I? Ah yes, top 5 quotes from the event.

“They just don’t know how cool you are yet.”

I’d like to thank Shenee Howard (@heyshenee) of Hey Shenee for this quote. Her talk was titled Branding You: Get Paid For Being Yourself. Her presentation started by comparing a beautifully decorated cake with an unfrosted cupcake. They could both be the exact same cake it’s just how you take the time to present it that makes the difference. So after you see that you’re sitting there a little bit nervous because you realize that at best you’re a cupcake with a pretty wrapper, a little bit of frosting, and sprinkles that didn’t all stick to the top (as opposed to the rainbow layer cake with the elaborate piped frosting). But then, she reminds you that “they just don’t know how cool you are yet.” So you’ve got to tell them.

We have to figure out who we help and how we help. We need to figure out our signature story and we need to find the vignettes and feelings in that signature story to determine our battle cry. (And don’t for once think that you can use the word happiness in your signature story, because that is frowned upon. Shenee says to “cross out the words that tell stories and share the stories instead.”)

“Your business starts when you sell something for the first time.”

Right after lunch on the first day Amanda Aguillard (@aguillardacct) of Aguillard Accounting sat down with us to talk about accounting. (As they joked, what a great time to talk about accounting – right after lunch! The funny part was that we totally could have all been happy talking about accounting for the next three hours. Who would have thought for a room of creatives?) When you live in this creative world and walk this fine line of passion project meets side hustle, you are constantly asking yourself whether you have a hobby or a business. And Amanda broke it down really well. “Your business starts when you sell something for the first time.” So that’s when you need get your stuff together, right after (or possibly right before) you sell something for the first time.

Once you become a business you should create an LLC, get a tax ID number, and create a separate business checking account. (Some of which I have done, and some of which I have not done. I’m working on it.) This is similar to the same advice that I got from Elsie of A Beautiful Mess at Texas Style Council back in 2013. Get your stuff in order as soon as possible, it’ll save you a lot of hassle latter.

“I’d love to meet you and just think that you’re awesome.”

This quote is also thanks to the lovely Jennifer Puno (@punodostres). When she was building her Instagram account, she would meet up for coffee with the cool people she was interacting with on the internet. How did she make that happen? She said, “I’d love to meet you and just think that you’re awesome.” How simple! And sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t work, and either way it was a step towards progress.

What a cool way to meet new people.

“Design something bigger!”

I would like to thank Tara Gentile (@taragentile) for this simple, yet mind blowing idea. She started her talk by saying that your business is probably as big as it’s going to get right now because that’s what you designed it to be. So in order to get any bigger, instead of adding an hour to your day or increasing your prices 10% the answer is actually to “design something bigger.” Start thinking about licensing or building an app – and remember, “the profit is in your process.” So even if you’re thinking, but there are a million other people who do this in the world, they don’t have your process. And your process is what’s worth all the profit.

Just going to this conference alone was a great kick in the pants to design something bigger. As a blogger (who’s really not making all that much money, if any from her blog) attending a small business conference your mind is opened up to what could come next. Your brain starts overflowing with ways to take what you’re doing and turn it into a product or service that can really help somebody else. And that’s such a fun space to play in.

“Enjoy the process.”

To set the scene here, this wasn’t said during the conference. This was said at the after party while hanging around with drinks in hand chatting with Emily Thompson (@EmilyM_Thompson) from Being Boss and Indie Shopography. Sometimes when you’re this person with a day job and a side hustle you think that you’re supposed to be hustling towards the side as fast as possible. But sometimes you’ve got a pretty decent day job that allows you to do some cool things in your life and you’re just using your side hustle to add a little more right-brained to your life and you know what, that’s okay. “Enjoy the process.”

That was really great to hear. Because sometimes you start to worry that you’re not doing it right. So when somebody who’s been doing really well at building a business, setting goals, and building a community tells you to see how it plays out, it’s a huge weight off your shoulders (that you realize you’re not sure how it ever got there in the first place).

Other cool things that happened during this conference include:

  • Sarah Morgan talking a group of us into going shopping for crystals after night one, so now I am the proud owner of 5 crystals that I really need to look into a little bit more. That was a really fun night. And in general, hanging out with somebody that you’ve taken classes from before and have hung out with over the internet for 2.5+ years is just cool.
  • I spent a lot of time hanging out with Mallory Whitfield of Miss Malaprop. Goodness that girl is cool.
  • My new friend Kathy Rasmussen and I bonded over being first-time conference planners. (And she gave me the tip that when writing emails I should try using “as it turns out” instead of “unfortunately.” Flipping genius.)
  • I met a new coaching friend named Eryn Morgan Goldman who lives in Pittsburgh. We bonded over our love of community.
  • At one point I was standing in a small circle of people that included Emily Thompson, Kathleen Shannon, and Tara Gentile at the same time.
  • I’d like to thank Tara Gentile for putting the idea in my head to possibly do NaNoWriMo this year.
  • They brought in a dance krewe called Move Ya Brass to do a quick 10-minute work out for each of the days. No questions asked that would be my workout method of choice if they were anywhere near Philadelphia.
  • I was reminded as all of the people who were from New Orleans knew exactly what to do and how to dance along with a brass band that we were parading around the streets of New Orleans with that New Orleans culture is flipping awesome.

And that’s it. Those are all the things. It was really great meet everyone! And I can’t wait to stay in touch. Because that part’s my favorite.

5 Things I Learned from Planning a Blog Conference

5 Things I Learned from Planning a Blog Conference

photo by Tim Becker

Holy crap, we had a blog conference. If you haven’t heard yet, PHLBloggers planned its first blog conference two weekends ago, The Blog Connect. Our team was comprised of three people: me (the conference mastermind, a name given to me, not chosen), Sarah from smoorelovin’ (the conference creative director), and Melissa from Skinny Affair (the conference sponsorship coordinator). The best team a girl could ask for when planning a blog conference. I started to think about the idea of hosting a conference last year around October and actually put it into action in December. Once we decided on a headcount goal and venue everything else started falling into place. I remember the moment when I realized that no matter what happened next and what planning did or didn’t happen that we were still having a blog conference. That was very cool.

People keep asking how I think it went. The answer? I thought it went really well. Logistically it went off almost without a hitch (a small microphone situation happened, but after that we were home free), almost everyone knew the conference hashtag before they showed up, and when surveyed everyone said they had enough food and beverage throughout the day (which as an Italian is kind of a big deal in my life).

That’s not to say that there’s not already a huge list of things that we want to change for next year. Actually, we were saying it while we were planning this year. Next year we’re aiming for 100-120 people (this year it was 50); we’d love to have a keynote speaker; we’re considering hosting a party the night before the conference; and we’re already brainstorming the best way to keep all the emails, sponsorships, and other details organized (hint: it’s not all in the same email chain).

4.16.16_PHL_CROWD SHOTS_19

photo by Tim Becker

Everything about planning a blog conference was a learning experience. From beginning to end. I’ve planned 50+ person events before, but they’ve been 4 hours, not 8 hours; I’venever needed to set up a speaker line-up before; and I’ve never has to coordinate multiple vendors before. And I’ve definitely never had a creative director. It was always amazing to me how I would have this very basic vision for something in my head and the next thing I knew everything would arrive in my inbox in tropical colors with innovative execution ideas behind it. It was so fun to watch Sarah’s creative vision for the conference come to fruition. The girl knows her shit.

The Blog Connect Crowd - photo by Julia Dent

photo by Julia Dent

Here are my four biggest key takeaways from planning my first (of hopefully many) conferences:

The conference line-up should look like the group of attendees you’re trying to attract.

We’re about to get real. This was a big one for me. I’ve never needed to prepare a speaker line-up before, so I did it the most efficient way I knew how. I emailed our entire PHLBloggers mailing list and said “hey! I’m planning a conference, who wants to speak at it?!” Well, everyone who volunteered to speak was white. At the time I didn’t think twice about it, especially because it was a pretty fantastic lineup. I said yes to almost every person who volunteered. I figured this was the most fair way to do it.

Well, this line-up caused some not so good feelings outside of the PHLBloggers community. The actual worst part of the whole thing was that nobody was asking me about how the speaker line-up was chosen, they were asking the other PHLBloggers members who had no idea how it had happened, they only knew that I probably had the best intentions.

So then I/we ended up stuck in a conundrum. Do you change the great speaker line-up that volunteered and already committed? That didn’t seem like the right way to go. We ended up changing the overall conference schedule a bit and decided to offer a few more openings to speakers. This time only women of color applied. Our line-up coincidentally ended up balancing itself out, but that doesn’t change the overall message of this lesson.

This is me admitting my own ignorance to all of you. At first I didn’t really understand why the entirely white line-up was a problem. I asked a very diverse mailing list if they wanted to speak; the whole group had the same opportunity. It wasn’t until I started looking at other conferences that I realized what the problem was. If I looked at a conference and the line-up was all women of color, I automatically assumed that my presence wasn’t wanted at that specific conference. All of a sudden it made sense, embarrassingly much so.

And let me pause to say that I really enjoyed all of our speakers this year. They were amazing. They had great content to share, people left feeling inspired, and they all had a fun story to tell. That is not, and was never the problem.

It’s never that I wanted only white people to come to the conference, I just assumed that everybody would automatically know that they were welcome because that’s how PHLBloggers works. But if you don’t know our group, and have never met our people, that may not have been overwhelmingly clear.

What’s going to happen next year? Well, this year I set the entire speaker line-up before the conference was even announced because I wanted to make sure that somebody would want to speak at this conference. Next year we’re going to be opening up speaker applications. If you felt there was a perspective missing from the conference, whether that’s a difference is race, gender, or age, I would love for you to apply to speak, because I would love to hear what you have to say. And so would the rest of our group. And when we go to choose the line-up we’re going to choose the best people for the job, and I guarantee you that the best people for the job are all going to bring their own diversity to the table.

Alright, onto the other things I learned now.

The Blog Connect Workshops - photo by Julia Dent

photo by Julia Dent

When you’re planning a blog conference you’re not attending the conference.

This was something I realized about a week before the event. I realized that I was planning a blog conference, not attending a blog conference. I didn’t expect there to be a chair for me, I didn’t think I would have a bunch of notes on what the speakers said, and I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to meet anybody new. My purpose at this blog conference was to make sure that everything happened when it was supposed to, that everyone felt prepared to do what they needed to do, and to make sure that all of the people had access to the building at all the right times. And that’s how it happened. I barely sat in a chair (by the end of the event I had my shoes off, prom-style though), I have no notes from the conference, and I didn’t meet anybody. That said, I was so glad to know that somebody had logistics on their mind all day.

It’s not possible to plan one of these alone.

It’s just not. I don’t know what I would have done without Melissa and Sarah. Melissa did all the sponsorship outreach and coordinated all of the deliveries of swag bag and giveaway items. Sarah designed everything that had our logo on it – from the logo itself, to the website, to the conference brochures. I literally couldn’t have done it without these ladies. We’re trying to figure out what other roles we want to bring into the team for next year, because we’re sure that as it continues to get bigger we’re going to need even more hands on deck.

It’s not over when it’s over.

So you do all this planning to make sure that the day of the event goes correctly. You get the design stuff down, you drop off everything that you need, you execute the day – and then you’re flipping exhausted when you go home. What you want to do is crash on the couch immediately, but what actually happens is that you need to send out follow-up emails, thank you notes, and sponsorship statistics, which I’m super excited to do all of. And you need to write down what went well and what you would change for next year right after it happens, because it’s going to become a blur very quickly. All that said, next year I might take the week after the conference off of work.

The Blog Connect Panel - photo by Tim Becker

photo by Tim Becker

I love nice people.

This isn’t something that I learned, this conference just reitterated it. The speakers, panelists, and workshoppers were all fantastic. I emailed Schmear It to see if they would give us breakfast for the conference on a whim one evening before I even had any conference material written up yet. And you know what? They said yes. They looked at our PHLBloggers conference, knew it was going to be something special, and said yes right off the bat. I met the General Manager of Snap Kitchen in Philadelphia at a Casino Night event in the city. My friend had mentioned the blog conference to her and the GM within the first 5 minutes of meeting me said, yeah, I’d love to talk about that opportunity with you. My accountant, Tamara from Creative Business Accounting & Tax Service, heard about the conference and immediately wanted to donate to the cause. They sponsored our swag bags (the literal bags) with a donation. At this point I time I hadn’t even considered that businesses would want to sponsor our event that didn’t have a product to sell. I’m pretty sure my jaw hit the floor as she offered. The Saxbys team was SUPER on board from the second it started and were incredibly helpful before and during the event. I couldn’t have asked for a better venue for our first conference. The Philadelphia Brewing Company folks also immediately said yes and reminded us that they make both beer and cider, so we got to work with Commonwealth Ciders as well. And then I emailed Sarah from XO Sarah who I’ve taken classes with before (and had lunch with in San Diego!) to see if she wanted to get in on the fun and she gave copy of her e-book, Double Your Blog Traffic in 90 Days or Less, to everyone at the conference. Pure awesomeness. It was just cool watching all of these things come together. It felt really good. And it made me really flipping happy.

Please note that I didn’t work directly with most of the swag bag or giveaway speakers, that was all Melissa’s jam.

I definitely learned so much more from planning this conference. So many things that are captured in my “Blog Connect Master Plan” document that has been a living document for the last 4 months. Melissa, Sarah, and I are sitting down next week to do our overview and recap of the event and I can’t wait to get all of our ideas for next year in the same place. Thanks again to everybody who came out to the event, I can’t wait to make it even bigger and better next year.

10 Things I Learned about Myself from TXSC15

2015-03-25 10 Things from Texas Style Council 2015

photo taken by the incredible Chelsea Laine Francis

Last weekend I went to Texas Style Council 2015, a social media conference based out of Austin, TX where 200 creatives took over a Girl Scout camp. It was about as awesome and Pinterest-y out of control as it sounds. I meant to write this post on Sunday night, but it turns out there were just too many awesome people to hang out with while I was in Austin to get my thoughts together. Now, unfortunately, it’s back to reality, but not without a recap of how things went.

The conference was incredible. This year it was more about meeting people and building genuine connections than learning about blogging. I had a feeling this would be the case from the beginning, which is why I signed up to be a volunteer. The most blog-useful discussions I had were in the dinner line Saturday night and while setting up the lights for the Jamboree on Saturday night, but that’s how it should be. That said, I did learn (and confirm) a lot of things about myself (some of them possibly more important than others).

10 things I learned (and confirmed) about myself from TXSC15

  1. It is not possible for me to sit still during the wobble. I must get up and dance to it no matter how exhausted I feel in that moment.  Also, getting to see Indiana do the wobble with her adorable baby Lucy all sorts of ergo-babied in was ridiculous.
  2. My brain has not yet been trained for motherhood (please see #1 where I refer to “ergo-babied”). That’s totally fine, but there was definitely a does-not-compute moment when I was handed part of an already peeled banana to pass down the table to hand to somebody holding a baby.  Don’t worry, another mother near me kicked into action.  Thanks, Mary.
  3. For Texas Style Council we had to choose whether we wanted to stay in a talker or sleeper cabin. I chose sleeper because at the end of the day, sleeping when you want to sleep is more important than talking when you want to talk.  I confirmed that this was the right answer for me.  Getting to go to sleep in a quiet room was absolutely perfect, especially after spending the day constantly surrounded by people.
  4. I cannot use a Mac for the life of me. I’ve grown up with PCs from the time I was born. So if I am the one controlling the computer, it will take me approximately 300x longer than the normal person to open a document that was already active. So sorry about that, Erin.
  5. I love making cards – and I’m good at it. Most other DIYs are kind of a mess though. Paper doll making, bow tying, bark decorating, and button design are completely beyond my normal realm of possibilities.
  6. When I say I don’t have the patience for a tedious task what I really mean is that I know if I start it my OCD will kick in and it will need to be perfect taking a really long time. I understand that those two thoughts are not remotely the same thing.  For example, bead painting.
  7. It is very easy for me to approach anybody with curly hair to start a conversation. That said, I usually start the conversation by mentioning how much I love their hair.
  8. I heard a lot of inspiring stories from women with a cause. Between listening to Bethany Joy, director of global customer engagement and community at TOMS, talk about their company’s mission; Kirsten Dickerson, founder of Raven & Lily, talk about how she got the company off the ground and her relationships with women artisans across the world; and Nicole from Writes Like A Girl talk about sisterhood I realized how important it is for people to have a cause. I’m still trying to figure mine out, but I’m excited to find it.
  9. Drinking four Honest Teas in a day is about three too many. I’m the girl who can’t have a cup of coffee without feeling incredibly off her game and somehow I allowed myself to have four Honest Teas (each one has the equivalent of ¼ cup of coffee).  Needless to say, by Saturday night, I felt pretty awful.
  10. I am a shy extrovert. I know to some people this doesn’t make sense, but in the truest sense of the word an extrovert is somebody who gets their energy from being around other people. Just because I get energy from being around other people doesn’t mean that I’m not nervous to talk to them. Big name bloggers, people who appear to be in cliques, and people I know from the internet that don’t necessarily know me all fall in the category of “makes Chrystina nervous”. Most of those I got over, that’s not to say I wasn’t awkward as hell while doing it, Lisa can attest to that.

What about you other TXSC15 attendees, did you learn anything about yourself you didn’t know before?  Or maybe you reconfirmed something? Either way, it was incredible to meet all of you and hear your stories. See you around the internets 🙂