The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind! I mean….school starts this week people! AHHHH! And so before I get loaded down with all things school supply related, I wanted to share my Haven recap with you and some important tips on how to not just survive but THRIVE at a bloggers conference!
Haven conference is a home and diy conference for online influencers (this is for my grandpa who still might not fully understand what a blogger is and might have a distinct belief that I actually make money participating in organized crime). It meets every summer and hosts tons of different bloggers/instagrammers/youtubers/influencers from all over the US and Canada and provides workshops, tutorials, products, and inspiration for the year to come! I actually have been at all the Haven’s (ok ok I crashed like three of them) and this is Jeremy’s second one.
Last year, I was completely overwhelmed with the event….I may have over-indulged myself in all things Haven and it was actually one of those moments where I felt insufficient, spread way too thin and completely ineffective. Last year Jeremy and I built a booth, taught a class, were mentors and were first time official ‘attenders’. Lets just say that crashing in years past was a lot less stressful. BUT the thing I took away at the end was that as much as I felt like an outsider who didn’t really belong (I mean…dude, my day-to-day involves a lot of Matchbox cars and diaper changes), I learned that those moments of vulnerability are actually the sweetest ones because they allow for growth. I realized a lot of things last year. (read that post here)
As a blogger, I learned that Jeremy and I have strengths that are valid and weaknesses that need help. I learned that relationships are something that I always put first and Jeremy’s strengths are being business minded and practical. And so this year we were REALLY fortunate to be able to attend again and put together a list of things that I hope will help anyone out there attending a conference or just randomly interested in seeing a bunch of photos of me clutching my belly 🙂
Have your partner in crime
My first and foremost tip for thriving at a bloggers event is to have a partner in crime. I have crashed in the past and it’s usually along side of my friend Sherry from Young House Love. I loved being with her then and love being with Jeremy now because it means I always have someone to eat with, take photos with and just plain laugh alongside….even when things are awkward or embarrassing. It also helps because if you are like me (I play with children and watch Blaze & the Monster Machines all day) then these events are overwhelming. A room full of smart, capable and beautiful women….that scares the pants off me. Not literally of course but anything is possible. Having Jeremy by my side or even in the same room allows me to be more comfortable. If you don’t know anyone, ask a friend on Instagram who is going to be your roomie or bring a friend or spouse.
Know what to pack
What goes in the suitcase can literally break you at a bloggers conference! Not because it matters if you are the best dressed in the room but because you want to be comfortable and prepared. These are marathons…not sprints. This is a three day event…full of classes where you learn tools (think sawdust everywhere!), cocktail parties (heels are totally optional!), painting and crafts (things can get ruined!) and being on your feet all day (hello exhibit A….swollen feet). Your eyes will be puffy from late nights and the weather can be brutal! Conferences mean early morning classes and late night socializing. And luggage will be lost. So prepare a carry-on with versatile pieces.
We have always been locals for Haven so we can just drive but if you are flying, it’s not a terrible idea to bring a medium sized bag with your things and then another bag to take all your swag home….and there is always swag! A lot of the brands give away things at the end of the event and it can be as big as a skill saw or as small as a sample of paint. Be prepared.
It’s also a good idea to make sure you have your notepad & pen (for the copious notes during SEO sessions and video making tutorials), phone charger (it will die. guaranteed.), business cards (so you can connect later with other influencers and with brands), and your schedule of events.
Plan your dinners out (and bring your snacks)
This year we had dinner plans every single night and yes, that made me feel really really special. Kinda like getting asked to prom….although I don’t technically know what that feels like…I can imagine 🙂 The very first night we went to an event hosted by AdThrive (our ad network) and it was so fun to see so many friends there who we literally NEVER get to see. The second night we were invited to the Home Depot dinner. Home Depot is the premier sponsor at Haven and invited a group of people out to dinner and somehow we made the list. Alternate universe….that’s where I live 🙂 And then the last night we went out with Ryobi and I think I ate my weight in Italian food 🙂
It’s such an honor and a thrill to be invited to these events because these are such swanky dinners and the brands always do it UP. But also because it means that I get to hang with some of the coolest people – like Kelly from A View Along the Way! If you don’t have dinner plans arranged going into the event….make plans asap. Doing a little research of local places to eat is what we did in the past and we would tag along if invited with a group. Those suppers are a great time to figure out who you can really connect with and who is someone that is gonna be a life long friend!
The last part of this is bring your snacks. I know people that literally arrive early to get wine and snacks. Hello my kinda people. It’s never a bad idea to be prepared because you will get hungry and tired and hotels some times don’t have bananas. If you met me in the hotel on night two, you know I was frantically running around like a minion asking for a banana. Leg cramps are real people.
Be a FanGirl
Okay. So it goes without saying that these conferences are loaded with people. People you may have never met but you feel very connected to. It’s okay to be a fangirl. I have been known to FREAK THE HECK OUT. I scream. Out loud. And I’m a hugger. And I will go nuts on your butt. And this year was no different. I freak out every time I get to see Brian Patrick Flynn…one of my favorite designers. And he was there this year! And he designed a really great space as Home Depot’s booth. I will always make a fool of myself over him. I also got to see some of my longtime blog reads….people who I have literally followed forever….like Kate from Centsational Girl and Stefanie from Brooklyn Limestone. And there were people that did the same for me….which is always such a shock that someone follows Bower Power but it makes my whole DAY. I mean I go to bed with a smile on my face when someone says that they are a fan.
And so the point is….if it’s Andrew Shu from Melrose Place (Jeremy was DYING!) or a friend of a friend of a friend that reads your blog or just someone that you love….it’s okay to say Hi…I’m such a fan! And then get a photo. I do it. Other people do it. It makes everyone’s day. You might meet some of the coolest and funnest and sweetest and funniest people ever. Just fangirl and be embarrassed later. It’s worth it. I promise.
Get all the cards and the info
So it can be really weird and awkward to ask for info or offer it. I get it. I assume that nobody knows me and nobody has heard of Bower Power. But if you are in someone’s mentor group….ask for a card and offer yours. If you are visiting a booth, get the cards and enter a raffle. If you are interested in a product ask all the questions. I have been known to go up to a booth and ask for detailed step by step instructions on how they made something featured in the booth. It’s a learning process and showing that passion toward a brand’s product is what they want to see! It’s why the brand is there!
Take for example that concrete counter top. I was obsesses with the white speckled look….it totally is coastal and rugged and cool. I had the Quikrete guys walk me through it and I can’t wait to try it at home. And I also ga-ga’d over the Liberty hardware knobs…loved seeing the new designs along with busting out laughing at the gold painted man. I’m still gonna suggest that Jeremy does that next year….you know…just for fun 🙂 The point is – getting connected is a big part of the conference. Leave the card and get the card so that can actually happen after the onslaught of the conference is over.
Remember to get pictures with friends and actually BE a friend
This is one thing that we stressed with our mentor group last year….being YOU and being the weird, quirky and authentic version of you is SOOO important. Get those friends and make the connections and take the pictures. It’s called BEING a friend. We live in a weird world where people share birth stories to everyone on the internet and we call complete strangers to pick us up in their cars and take us places. The internet has changed the game people. So being a good friend is looking more and more untraditional. But if you can be kind, helpful and encouraging….be that! We are constantly shown that kind of love by friends – like Jen of House of Wood, Jamison & Jamie from Rogue Engineer, Ben Uyeda from HomeMade Modern, Jaime of That’s My Letter, Brad from Build This, Fix That, Traci from Beneath My Heart, Amanda & Corey from Love and Renovations, and Corey From Sawdust 2 Stitches. They showed up when they didn’t need to. They invited us in when they didn’t have to. They do the little things…say the encouraging but honest things…and be there whenever we need.
We also were able to meet a bunch of new people this year that we can not wait to follow. The point is….we know that success is a goal for so many. But success is weirdly vague. Being kind however is not. Make those relationships and keep them later on social media, email and arranging time to connect.
Don’t forget to call home
This might seem like a DUH reminder…but it’s true. Conferences can be so jam packed that you might forget certain things….deodorant, a brush, calling the kids. It’s important that you write it into your schedule and find a spot where you have enough of a signal to get those kiddos on the phone. It’s amazing how much it grounds you and brings back reality while being in a very sereal situation.
If a blogger does a keynote or closing speech…GO!
I don’t know how to stress this. But imagine me grabbing your cheeks and holding your face about eight inches from mine as I scream this into your eyeballs. If a fellow blogger does a keynote or closing speech….make sure your butt is in that room. It is UNREAL how much encouragement and how much information and how much inspiration you will receive. There is nobody that understands the journey like a fellow blogger. There is nobody that understands the struggle and highlights and everything in between like a fellow blogger. Even if you are not in the same place in the journey…it is SO worth it to listen. I don’t care if they have experienced less than you or more than you….listening to them share their heart unlocks things in your own experience in a way that can change you forever. KariAnne of Thistlewood Farms NAILED it this year. We laughed, we cried, we were reminded of life lessons and she earned that standing ovation.
When a brand asks you to interact…say YES.
This year I was asked by Ryobi to teach a class with Jenn from Build Basic. It was such a learning experience…everything from planning the class project (something small enough for people to take home but used all the tools!) to how to prep for a class (who does the examples, who does the slideshow, how many tools do we need, who is buying the supplies, etc.) to what are the significant safety points. It’s UNREAL how much information and planning goes into a single class and it gives me a huge appreciation for all the people who have taught in the past. I am so glad I said yes because that public speaking experience is so huge! It’s also amazing because I got a new friend out of it. Jenn is literally one of the sweetest girls ever.
And speaking of public speaking, both Jeremy and I were asked to participate in Ryobi Nation Show interviews. This is where we look around the room thinking that they are talking to someone behind us. It’s such an HONOR! It’s also where I also learned that I need to improve my intro skills. I was asked to describe Jenn and I said “She knows all the facts.” Wha? Who says that? I mean….girl has mad skills. She has amazing building plans and has worked for industry giants like This Old House and About.com. So yeah….never would have thought to work on that if I had never been put on the spot! As someone who has a smidge of experience with being on camera, I know that talking with a live tape rolling is hard. So getting a chance to do it for a brand, is really a big moment for us. You don’t want to embarrass yourself or them or seem boring or crazy (that’s the one that gets me every time!). The point is…if a brand asks you to do something even if it’s something you completely botch….just say yes. It’s better to know what to improve than to never put yourself out there.
In conclusion….2500 words and 60 photos later….Haven conference this year was amazing. It was super fun for us personally and such an honor professionally and I’m so glad that we were put in a wonderful mentor group (shoutout to Jamin and Ashley of The Handmade Home for being such rockin’ mentors!). I got to see friends that live close (hey Sarah!) and friends that live far (hey Haneen!) and ones that I wish would just move back to Georgia (I’m lookin’ at you Jamie). I learned so much about myself and what I’m good at….and the things that really need a lot of work….and just had such a nice vacay from kid duty!
The ladies announced that next year it will be in Charleston….will I see you there? Jeremy and I already said that we wouldn’t miss it! And what is your best tip for attending a conference? Don’t drop something on a friends foot and turn the most beautiful foot black and blue? Because that is one I could have used this time around. Seriously. Sorry again Rachel. I’d love to hear all the words of wisdom.