Tips for Attending a Blog Conference (and a Haven wrap-up!)

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You all are amazing.  Thanks for your sweet, supportive comments on my Help-I’m-Going-To-Haven post.  As you predicted, Haven was totally wonderful and I had a blast!

What put this conference over the top was the friendly, approachable atmosphere and niche specific discussion.  This was one place where I could mention Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, contrasting piping, or moroccan tile and whomever I was talking to totally understood what I was talking about.  Unlike my poor husband, who thinks the word ‘fuschia’ is my Boston way of pronouncing ‘future’.  {love you, honey!}

Here’s a few gems I learned at Haven as well as some tips to help those who are attending a blog conference for the first time.  My first piece of advice?  Just do it!  Once I got over my fear of the unknown, here’s what I learned:

  • Centsational Girl really is as warm and friendly as she appears.  She was the one ‘blog rockstar’ I was most looking forward to meeting, and after a big hug and conversation I was kinda hoping she’d take me home and adopt me so I could live in her home surrounded by all that gorgeousness for the rest of my days.  It looks like I’m a stalker in the photo (um, yes I am) but I promise she had just finished hugging me and telling me she wanted to wrap herself up in my gold link necklace.  Love her!
  •  Wear bright, bold colors.  Unless black is your trademark color, go for a bright hue to help people remember you.  As you can tell, my girls in the photo below all did the same thing. 😉  Lots of people wore a beautiful statement necklace or ring, or a bold colored scarf.  It was easier to remember names and faces that way for some reason.  I wore a yellow sweater as a play on “Lemonade”, and people commented on the connection!  And layering is key, it can get chilly so it’s nice to have a sweater.
  • Waffle House is a lot cleaner than when I lived in the south 10 years ago.  And egg whites and hash browns never tasted so good as after a long day of traveling!
  • Approach vendor booths when there isn’t a crowd.  YES, it’s scarier to meet with the rep one-on-one, but that’s when I made my best and most valuable connections.  They’ll get a better idea of who you are, and vice versa.  I have a short list of brands I can’t wait to contact this week, all of which I met with one-on-one.
  • Same rule applies to approaching the big-time bloggers everyone wants to meet.  My tip is to not rush up right when you get there, after a session, when someone is eating, or when they are getting ready to speak to the group.  You’ll get a way better connection and conversation when that person is relaxed and not having to split the focus on something else.
  • Mr. Goodwill Hunting is hilarious.  It’s safe to say I already know a lot about thrifting, but attending his Thrifting 101 session for pure entertainment value was well worth it!
  • On that note, and this is specific to a niche conference like this one– attend a good mix of blog sessions and creative sessions.  I felt overwhelmed with business information the first day, so the Design Studio and Thrifting sessions helped remind me why I came to Haven in the first place.  I mean, I finally learned how to mix fabric patterns the right way!
  • Have interesting business cards.  I handed out a packet of lemon tea with mine, and it seemed to be a hit.  I clearly remember the names and faces of the folks with the interesting business cards, it really does help when you are meeting hundreds of people!
  • 18 people can {happily} fit at one long table at La Paz.  Also?  They make a mean margarita over there!
  • Look up from your phone.  It’s extremely tempting to hide behind it, especially if you feel shy.  But walking up to a table, sitting down, and saying hi was liberating and I met some great people that way.  Connections happened at meals, while waiting in line, in the elevator– had I hidden behind my phone, that wouldn’t have happened.
  • Really think about what you want to ask in sessions.  If it only pertains to you, wait until afterwards to ask your question in private.  Unless you want 200 pairs of eyeballs wishing you’d stop talking, think before you raise your hand and ask about some piece of code that isn’t working on your blog and how to fix it!  I’m going to add that my dad always said to compliment in public, criticize in private.  That doesn’t mean smile to someone’s face and then gossip about them later, but rather focus on the positive while in a group and if you have feedback or criticism, tell that person privately.  There’s nothing more of a buzzkill than listening to someone loudly complain when everyone else is having a wonderful experience.
  • Wear comfy shoes.  Seriously, you can’t have fun if your feet are killing you.  Plus, you never know when you’ll need to walk a long distance (helllooo, Atlanta airport!  Holy cow, it’s ridiculously far from arrivals to baggage claim if you choose to ignore the monorail everyone else is taking…)  I found these {cute ruffled} gold sandals before I left and they were a lifesaver.
  • Leave room in your suitcase for SWAG!  I almost brought a carry-on until Diane reminded me about the swag.  Trust me, they won’t let you carry-on a quart of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint or a Ryobi saw so leave room in your checked bag for that swag!
  • Beckie from Infarrantly Creative is a brilliant business woman.  And that’s all I’m allowed to say about that for now. 😉

Whew.  It’s safe to say I’m having a Haven hangover.  I’m so happy to have met a great group of people, and am already planning on attending next year too.  If you have any questions about attending your first multi-day away conference, please ask… and don’t let shyness keep you away!

If you attended Haven, what was your favorite session, experience, person you met, or event?  What’s the most important thing you learned?  Do you have a list of ‘action items’?  And any conference tips to share?
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