I didn't even know blogger conferences existed until last month when I heard about
Blog Elevated through Texas Women Bloggers and started following Blog Elevated on Facebook. Me, a blogger who has been blogging for 3 years had never heard of such an amazing conference where you would meet other bloggers from around the country, connect with mentors and experts in various professions, and learn how to grow your blog, grow professionally, and be inspired to take things to the next level. Let me tell you what, I was hooked. I wanted to be involved and connect with others in the blogging industry through this conference and their community, and so I started to embrace a little change to move ArtSea Chic forward.
A week before the conference hosted at the Moody Gardens Hotel on Galveston Island, I was graciously given a free conference ticket. Of course I was absolutely shocked beyond belief of the kindness and consideration that was shown towards me, a newbie :) Thank you Bobbie and Lisa!! Along with my extreme excitement, I went into panic mode at the same time - what on earth do I bring, wear, handout, etc to a blog conference?! After scouring Pinterest for other blogger's experience recaps, I put together a checklist for myself of what I needed to bring:
- Business cards printed same day through PrintPlace.com (where I work haha)
- 5 printed media kits with business cards attached to them
- 3 ring binder including a pencil case for markers and pens, folder, content calendar, pencil case for storing business cards, and stickers to put on the back for partner promotion
- Printed conference agenda
- Business cards of current ArtSea Chic partners to share with other bloggers in the same niche
- Business casual colorful island attire paired with sandals and heals (maxi dresses, dress shirts and skirts). But ALWAYS have a backup set if the weather decides to change on you at the last minute!
- If staying overnight somewhere: comfy PJs, makeup and hygiene basics, hand sanitizer, personal towel to make yours stand out against all the white towels, little gifts for roomies, and whatever else you need to feel at home!
If there was one thing that I could recommend to any blogger going to their first conference not knowing a single person - it would be to take the initiative to REACH OUT and CONNECT with other first time conference bloggers, experienced bloggers, whoever you feel you want to get to know better and plan to meet up at the conference and share the experience together. I can't tell you how extremely nervous I was to ask bloggers who I had never heard of before, and they certainly had never heard of me, to connect and get to know each other during Blog Elevated. Best decision I made was coming out of my little scallop shell :)
I packed up and made the 5 hour road trip down to Pearland to stay with Mr. ArtSea Chic and his family so I wouldn't have to worry about hotel costs. I only have to drive an hour in each day of the conference, so it was pretty convenient. Beautiful drive onto Galveston Island! Blog Elevated was in my kind of area, can you tell? :)
Even though I have been to Galveston multiple times, I had never been to Moody Gardens or the hotel so I wasn't sure what to expect when arriving. But WOW, this place is gorgeous y'all!! It's covered in lush landscape, plenty of parking, has amazing tropical views, less than 10 minutes to the nearest beach, and an organized layout of the grounds.
I felt right at home. The atmosphere the Moody Gardens Hotel has is one of adventure, island time relaxation, and immersing yourself in the beauty of the island. They recently did $20 million dollars worth of renovations too. Add that to meeting so many amazing bloggers over three days, and this was truly an outstanding experience for me.
Thursday night we were treated to the sweetest welcome reception hosted by Imperial Sugar, with light food and s'mores by the bonfire, drinks, mingling, and DIY beauty scrubs (lips, hands, and body)! So fun, I was sure to use every single scrub when I got home that night. They worked so well, thanks Imperial Sugar for raising awareness about homemade beauty products that are affordable and safe for our skin, I appreciate that so much :)
I also gotta give a shout out to the rest of Blog Elevated's sponsors below featured in our welcome bag of goodies because without these amazing brands and people, I would've never had this life/blog changing experience!
I had such a fantastic night getting to know everyone, but Friday morning started the real crackdown on learning! We kicked off the day with a keynote by Dayna Steele, which really got me excited about what was to come, and really spoke to the ups and downs that I have personally had in my blogging career.
"Don't be afraid to fail... Believe. Passion. Knowledge. Networking. Appreciation. Get out of your comfort zone!" "You never know where this is all going to go...but keep doing it." ~ Dayna Steele
After meeting with bloggers from our niches, we got the pleasure of hearing a brands to bloggers panel with Kroger's Kristal Howard, Feishman Hillard's Vanessa Astros, and Artful Media Group's Julie Pippert. So insightful to hear what brand's are really looking for in a partnership and how to approach brand's with professionalism and the right information.
"You have to approach... Make an investment into your blog's build." ~ Kristal Howard
"If your readers are excited and continuing the conversation...you are impacting." ~ Vanessa Astros
"I'm going to find where space is available and who to fill it depending on my client..." ~ Julie Pippert
Up next was lunch sponsored by the Galveston Island Visitors Bureau - YUM! We all felt so spoiled with such a feast before us, I mean look at this...are you hungry yet? We also got a chance to learn more about what Moody Gardens has to offer, and that they have over 2 million visitors a year.
After lunch I dove into another breakout session hosted by Marie Bonaccorse of Proctor and Gamble representing brands like Charmin, about how content matters in social media - the right content that keeps you coming back for more and more. She was absolutely hilarious, I loved every second of it!
"If you don't house the inspiration that comes to you, it will be useless." ~ Marie Bonaccorse
Up next we heard Matt Cherry of iBlog Magazine speak about 30 easy changes to make for giant growth. SO HELPFUL. There's so many ways to make improvements, but deciding which is right for you is so important, and what Matt helped us see.
"Don't put hurdles on yourself. They want to hear from you, they have work waiting for you." ~ Matt Cherry
After a long but very informative conference day came to a close, the party was just around the corner!ha I slid off to Galveston Island State Park about 15 minutes from Moody Gardens to see some beach and dig my toes in the sand and water. I had to be back to the hotel before 7 PM for our cocktail party so I made sure to get back a little earlier to grab some dinner with Mr. ArtSea Chic at the hotel's Cafe :)
Come 7 PM we were ready to get pampered thanks to Kroger, CoverGirl, Pantene, Olay, and more sponsors during the Beauty, Bubbles, and Bites cocktail party! There were stations to get your hair styled, nails done, pick some wine and cheeses, information booths, photo booth, and more. Great way to end the night! Thanks Monique for the fabulous hair styling, loved it!!
Being all refreshed Saturday morning for our last conference day felt so good, and Bjork Ostrom from A Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro taught us a few lessons about clapping coordination and paying attention to what you see vs what you're thinking will happen. Very important business lesson right there ;) But aside from the clapping we got some wonderful insight into every day ways to raise income online through different methods and channels. My favorite point he made was that "Affiliate marketing is about TEACHING people about products and services." Being an affiliate marketing manager myself in my full time job, this was so refreshing to hear because it couldn't be more true in order to create the needed relationship between an audience and advertiser to generate loyalty and sales.
"Trust is a more valuable currency than cash...long term it will affect you." ~ Bjork Ostrom
After Bjork's very entertaining and informative speech, we were headed to three breakout sessions and lunch! My first session was with Amy Locurto of Living Locurto to discuss just how much worth we as bloggers have and how much purchasing power we influence. She was very on point about how we should remember just how much effort, hours, material costs, etc we are putting in behind the scenes to price out partnership proposals.
"Women control $12.5 TRILLION of purchasing power worldwide...Bloggers have redefined marketing!" ~ Amy Locurto
My second session was the most informative session during the whole conference for me. We sat down to listen to Helena Swyter from Sweeter CPA about business bookkeeping basics for bloggers and whether we have or will be working towards the right business model for our blogs. I was too busy taking notes and asking questions to snap a pic :)
The last breakout session of the day for me was with Fred Goodall of Mocha Man Style, where he talked about how to represent our own brand as a blog professionally and in the right light that would appeal most to partners. Fred gave us a truly awesome handbook of things to think about when it comes to our blog's purpose, what to think about when working with brands, and even helped coach us through creating our 30 second elevator pitches. Thanks for the opportunity to critique mine Fred!
"Professionalism is the cost of entry for a brand...If they came to you one time, there was a reason. Don't think they won't come back..." ~ Fred Goodall
So I have a confession to make...I was so wrapped up in all these fabulous breakout sessions that I didn't even know I had won a Penguin Encounter from Moody Gardens until they sought me out on Twitter!! Y'all I just about freaked out with excitement!! Penguins are one of my favorite animals :} CANNOT WAIT to return to Moody Gardens to experience this and tell you all about it.
After calming down a bit :) ...haha we concluded the conference with a closing keynote by Kristen Welch of We Are That Family of how we can change the world through our blogs and make a difference in the lives of others around the world. I also want to give a shout out to Susan Wenner Jackson from Ahalogy and Zach Doty from Forthea for offering their guidance and assistance to me and other bloggers!
But my adventure wasn't over yet! I had the pleasure of taking a VIP tour with a couple other bloggers to see the prep work being done for Moody Gardens' ICE Land: Ice Sculptures with Spongebob Square Pants that will be open to the public November 15, 2014 - January 4, 2015! Our group was the first to see inside, how awesome is that :) We were lead through the tent by the CEO of Moody Gardens, John Zendt.
900 tons of ice transported from Houston's Glazier Foods is being transformed into holiday scenes from the Nickelodeon classic show and kept at 9 degrees F. Carvers will be creating ICE Land for about 6 weeks, making sure the colored ice blocks, which have been matched to Pantone colors from Nickelodeon, are placed correctly given that they are about 300 pounds! This incredible effort is a $5 million dollar investment by the Moody Foundation and its supporters.
All you islanders don't go with flip flops or you'll freeze your lil toes (I wore them and only lasted 5-10 minutes)!! Dress as if you were traveling up North for the winter.haha There will be three slides to go down, the famous pineapple home of Spongebob Squarepants, a designated picture taking area, and more! Moody Gardens is expecting to welcome more than 30,000 visitors if not more for this event, so book your calendars now and make plans with your family to experience this unique island attraction this holiday season. I will be!
A big thank you to Moody Gardens for being such a fantastic host location for Blog Elevated, y'all really made everyone feel at home and like we were heard, seen, and appreciated every single day while we were on your property.
For being my first blog conference, I gotta say I was so impressed with the wealth of information, networking opportunities, and coaching I received in just 3 days. It has definitely changed my life and my blog forever moving forward. So much that I already bought tickets to Blog Elevated 2015 for myself and Mr. ArtSea Chic who recently launched his blog DirtyTail Fishing (go check it out!). Can't wait till next year :]
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