Sunday, June 24, 2012

How to Attend Your First Blog Conference (Part 2) – Haven Wrap Up Post

Hey guys!  I just got back from Haven 2012 and I am ready to tell you all about it! I first will ask you to check out my Part 1 – How to Attend Your First Blog Conference (from a small blogger’s perspective).  I’ll share pictures, all the deets, then my 2nd round of DOs and DON’Ts.  It’s a long one, so grab a chair, a sweet tea and enjoy!

I managed to leave work a bit early on Wednesday, which really helped me make it to Atlanta on time.  Coming from Knoxville, it was a quick 2 hours and 40 minutes to the Crowne Plaza.  After checking into my room, I refreshed and restyled (hey Debbie!) and headed down to the cocktail party hosted by Rustoleum.  Enter the first but not last of overwhelming moments!  Luckily SNAP! helped to prepare me for them, and I started networking and chatting with other bloggers.  Early to bed this time for me – what a lifesaver – breakfast and the a.m. opening keynote session started early!

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Thursday was off to a great start, with a great talk by Sherry and John of YoungHouseLove.  They are super cute, and had a fantastic presentation on some decisions they’ve made along their blogging careers that really set the tone for the rest of the conference.

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Haven was designed to offer the same classes both days, so you could catch 2 classes in each time frame.  The 10:00 slot offered I Love Thrifting, I Like Big Blogs, Beginning Paint and Stain, DIY Blog Design, and Power Tools with Ryobi.  I decided to take Beginning Paint and Stain with Chris from Just A Girl and Kate from Centsational Girl.  Their class also featured a rep from Minwax, and I learned more than I expected from a beginner’s class.  I finally mentally understand the difference between polyurethane (oil finish) and polycrylic (water finish).  I also learned the differences between oil based paint, latex, and something new to me – enamel.  The class covered topics such as primer, surface prep, tools, and stains from Minwax.

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After grabbing lunch – which was really well done in my opinion, hotel buffet food doesn’t have the best of reputation and in their defense it’s difficult to prepare and serve well – I returned to the same room for Advanced Painting.  The options for the 2:00 hour were Basic Carpentry, Advanced Painting, Blogging PR, Décor 101, and Design Studio.  This class was taught by Marian of Miss Mustard Seed – and I learned a lot.  She has been one of my favorite bloggers for some time now, and I really admire her style and techniques.

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This class became a bit hands-on at the end; we were able to test paint on some wood blocks.  The photo on the left shows color swatches of her new milk paint line that is coming out later this summer.  On the right, she demos how to mix it up – it comes in powder form – with warm water.

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A close-up of mixing the milk paint.  She taught us how to look at the consistency, and get a ‘feel’ for the paint.  I brushed some on a sample block, and it is thin with a watery application.  The Annie Sloan stockists helped out too, providing paint to sample.  I was excited to try this stuff as it’s been all over blogland for what seems like forever, and now that I know what it looks and feels like in person, I don’t mind dropping money to pick up a quart.

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The 3:45 session options were Photography/Photo Styling, All About Advertising, Slipcovers and Upholstery, and Hobby to Business.  I dared to try the Slipcover class, although I don’t really know how to sew!  Shelly Leer from Mod Home Ec. went through the process of managing wingback chairs.  I will admit to you guys that I did step out of the class early.  I had a bit of a headache, and to be honest the topic, while interesting, is definitely something I need to be doing hands-on.

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The evening wrapped up with another cocktail party to mix and mingle.  A live saxophonist was a lovely touch.

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The next morning I decided to take I Love Thrifting with Rashon Carraway, aka Mr. Goodwill Hunting.  He was a riot!  So funny, fashionable, and friendly.  His biggest takeaway – "Don't look for anything at any particular time, but look for everything at all times!"  Also don’t forget to take the following items with you thrifting: tape measure, hand sanitizer, phone with internet, truck or access to it, and some patience!

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After the first session, it was lunch time and also a good opportunity to network with sponsors.  Ryobi on the left, Annie Sloan on the right.

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A great way to get anyone excited about your booth is to have a game with a giveaway – and Annie didn’t disappoint!  Spin the wheel and try your luck – I came out on top with a quart of Duck Egg!

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HGTV Home was there with Shaw flooring, we got to vote on our favorite new rug samples.  3M’s tekk protection line has lots of new safety equipment, like glasses and non-slip rug grippers.

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No home blogging conference would be complete without the big boys (or should I say girls?)!  Home Depot’s booth provided details on their free weekend workshops (why haven’t I gone to any of these – d’oh!).  Moen’s showerheads had everyone oohing and ahhing – I didn’t win one, but it’s now on the list to purchase!

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Speaking of other big players, Rustoleum was there with a full list of the products they currently offer on the market.  Makes ya want to go spray paint something, doesn’t it?  Frog Tape was there too with the coolest demo of how their product works.  Their technology of PaintBlock is poured in a cup, with water that simulates latex paint added.  The PaintBlock instantly gels and forms this seal so that the 'paint’ doesn’t bleed.  They tipped the cup upside down – nothing came out!  Way cool.

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PureBond is a product I wasn’t familiar with – it’s a formaldehyde free plywood – genius, right?  Minwax’s booth showed some of their new products on the market; very impressive how the water based products are catching up to the quality of oil-based ones.

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Lots of other sponsors in another room: Cutter, Purdy, 3M/Bondo, MirrorMate, Royal Design Studios, Kreg Jig, Homes.com, Fish Foam, and Oreck.  I gave my hand at a filmed interview with Oreck, and at first I was nervous but then I really enjoyed it!  They said I was really good – wonder if they say that to everyone?  Now that I think of it, I had a couple people tell me I should do video…what do y’all think?

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While I had been at lunch, I made a list of people I wanted to try to catch some photos with.  I follow Gail from My Repurposed Life on Twitter, so we snapped this right after she did her Oreck interview on the couch.  Katie and Jon gave me a Sew Woodsy sandwich!  I wished they lived closer, I know they’d be a blast to hang out with.

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Can’t forget my roomies!  Debbie from Refresh Restyle was my original roommate, and let me tell you she is the sweetest cutest person you’ll meet.  Karah is from The Space Between who became our roommate a couple weeks before.  I think I want her life – lounging on the beach in Curacao sounds pretty good to me!  Speaking of roommates, had to get a pic with Viv from The V Spot, my roommate at SNAP!.

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There’s my bloggy mentor, Brittany aka Pretty Handy Girl!  She told me about Sandra from Sawdust and Paper Scraps – who’s a local Knoxvillian!  Is that right – Knoxvillian?  It looks like Knox Villain.  Lol!

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After checking out all the sponsors, it was time for the 2:00 session.  I chose Ana White’s Basic Carpentry.  It was a little too basic for me, and the class didn’t seem to have a lot of structure.  I got the feeling that this session was better the day before.

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Here’s Beckie from Infarrantly Creative in the 3:45 session All About Advertising.  MIND BLOWN.

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More pics after the last session – me and Amanda from Serenity Now on the left.  On the right, some more new and old friends.  I follow Stephanie from Fresh Picked Vintage so it was nice to meet her; we had dinner on Thursday at Cinco’s (SO good!) with Katie from Everyday Pretty.

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More people from Tennessee, yeah!  Gina from The Shabby Creek Cottage is south of Nashville, and Matt and Jacque with The DIY Village are more Knoxvillians!

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Got a great front row seat for the closing Q & A panel.  From left to right: Traci from Beneath My Heart, Kristi from Creative Kristi, Sarah from Thrifty Décor Chick, Beth from Home Stories A to Z, Chris from Just A Girl, Rhoda from Southern Hospitality, Kate from Centsational Girl, and Marian from Miss Mustard Seed.

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Gotta get pics with the ‘celebrities’ ha!  Miss Mustard Seed herself, and then me with Rhoda, Kate, and Beth.

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Strike a pose, ladies!

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Part 2 of How to Attend Your First Blog Conference – some Do’s and Don’ts!

DON’Ts:

  • Be afraid – almost everyone else is terrified too!  Relax and enjoy yourself.
  • Go to a class based on who’s teaching it.  Go to something you will get more out of, you can always meet that speaker later and get a picture with them.  If you are a master woodworker, going to Basic Carpentry is probably not the best choice for you, even though Ana White may be your idol.
  • Hesitate to get pictures taken with your favorite bloggers or find them to tell them how much you like their blog.  Make a list of who you want to nab, and snap away.  Don’t feel embarrassed or like a stalker, they are used to it when they go to conferences.  Think about it – would you ever get tired of people coming up to you telling you that you’re fabulous?
  • Feel guilty.  If you need to skip a session, take a power nap in your room, or dip out of a networking opportunity – do it and don’t feel guilty about it.  You will thank yourself later.
  • Speed date.  I hate most networking events, in blogland they go like this – Hello, who are you, what’s your blog, where are you from, what do you blog about.  As soon as you’ve exchanged business cards, the ‘transaction’ is done, and they are ready to move on.  It’s almost like they can hear a ‘ding!’ in the background telling them to find someone new to talk to.  The whole point is to connect, not speed date.  I talked to way less people at Haven than I did at SNAP! and I remember every single person I talked to.  I look at my card pile from SNAP! and remember maybe 1/3 of them.  Take your time, enjoy the moment and really try to get to know the other blogger you’re talking to.

DO’s:

  • Pack clothing appropriately.  I really wasn’t thinking properly – I did laundry and packed the day of.  Bad move.  I thought of how hot and humid it is in Knoxville, and mentally added 5 degrees for Atlanta and ended up packing as if I were going to be outside.  You’re going to be in an air conditioned conference room all day, so keep that in mind – a sweater is a great idea.  I forgot my own DO from last time – pack something dressier for the cocktail parties.  D’oh!
  • Make time to talk to sponsors.  They are so gracious to help make the event possible.  They can answer questions about their products, provide opportunities for sponsorship, and help put human faces to a big brand.  Follow and interact with them on Twitter.
  • Look up restaurants beforehand.  Continental breakfast not gonna cut it for you?  Know where the nearest Waffle House is.  Conference doesn’t include dinner?  Get ideas before you go.
  • Pick your classes beforehand.  The ones I’ve been to post the schedule online, so you can make the most of your time and pick what you want.  I base my schedule around seating capacity and making sure I get a spot.  I planned Haven based on my experience from SNAP!, some classes were in higher demand than others and I didn’t want to risk being turned away or sitting on the floor.  I kept all my classes in the same room for the most part each day.  If I had to leave, I wrapped my name tag around my chair to save it – this worked perfectly.
  • Drive if you can – you might have more opportunities to scoop up more swag if you don’t have to check your luggage!  A couple vendors asked me if I was driving and gave me more stuff because of course they don’t want to have to haul anything back with them.

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Speaking of swag – lots of cool product from Haven’s sponsors.  Some came in our bags, some was at the booths, and some were prizes (the quart of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint).  Thank you Haven 2012!

Can’t wait til Haven 2013!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June Update and Getting Ready for Haven 2012

Sorry for being a bit MIA over here…but summer beckons and so does the sheer insanity fun that comes along with it.  I have been swamped – but in a good way.  Aside from working, I have spent every weekend just running non stop.  Not literally running, do you guys even know me at all!?  Haha, just kidding. 

The first weekend I spent on the hunt for a house.  We’ve decided to take the plunge, and really get serious about buying our first home.  Stressful, fun, exasperating, patience-trying, nerve-wracking, entertaining, all that and more describes the experience thus far.  We found this amazing house, a foreclosure priced at $75K in a neighborhood of homes valued around $150-170K.  Perfect location for us, a 4 car garage!, around 1600 square feet, on a cul-de-sac, just overall fantastic. 

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However, it did need a lot, and I mean A LOT of work.  The entire floor needed to be replaced – I wonder if there was some type of cat hoarding situation going on, that carpet was NASTY.  Lots of spray paint of obscene images covered the walls – but hey nothing a good coat of paint couldn’t fix!  We had a contractor come out to evaluate the situation, it needed a new roof (on both the house and garage), windows, and lots of other fixins.  It would cost around $25K at least to get into livable condition – and $100K is our max.  We put in an offer, it was turned down – then another, and it was declined too.  We found out later that by the time we had put in our first offer, someone had already put in a bid at around $100.  Our realtor sucked throughout the entire process.  She was very uninformative, especially for first time home buyers.  I knew when I met her we didn’t really connect, but I just wanted the process to hurry up and get on with it!  Needless to say, we lost the house and the realtor lost us as clients.  We have another offer on a house right now - with a different realtor - so I’ll keep you updated on how that goes!

Memphis

The second weekend I went with my friend to attend her friend’s wedding in Memphis.  Talk about a logistical nightmare!  I’m one of those people who like to like to plan to make the most of short weekends.  I had done some research on tours to cram in some get-to-know-Memphis time on the cheap.  We told the groom of our plans, and he dissuaded our plans and told us he would be glad to show us around.  We were like, are you kidding – it’s your wedding day!?  Typical male.  Totally clueless of impending wedding-day reality.  Unfortunately we drove the 6 hours in our friend’s car, so we were stuck without a ride as the guys we came with were actually standing up in the wedding.  We tried to be independent, but were quickly shut down once we learned a cab was $80 round trip from our hotel.  The weekend as a whole was rather anti-climactic, as we never made it to The Peabody, Rendevous for some BBQ, Graceland, Beale Street or anywhere really.  Oh well, just an excuse to go back and plan it our way next time!

Secret City Festival

This past weekend Jeff’s parents came down from Michigan to visit us.  I am so blessed with fantastic in-laws.  We started out the evening of their arrival by heading downtown Knoxville and enjoying the passerby while eating dinner on the patio of a new restaurant.  Saturday was packed full of fun – we rode a scenic train through parts of Oak Ridge where the labs there developed the atomic bombs during WWII.  We followed that by sticking around for the Secret City Festival – a festival dedicated to Oak Ridge’s role in the war.  Dinner at Carrabba’s, then a hilarious evening of comedy at Side Splitters rounded out our evening.  We tried to make Sunday a bit slower paced, so we headed out to the lake to do some fishing – aka sunbathing.  Somehow the lake always makes one hungry so we introduced them to one our favorite local joints – Sam & Andy’s.  After lunch, we ended up splitting up – Jeff and his dad drove out to Sevierville to pick up a 2 year old washer and dryer (for only $175 together!), and his mom and I went to Charming Charlie (my weakness!) to shop around.  We spent the evening relaxing and mentally delaying their inevitable departure back home for as long as possible.  I hope one day they are able to move down here – and my parents too – we just miss them so much.  But a fun weekend was had by all.

Haven Conference

This weekend is Haven!!  I haven’t packed or done anything of course, but I am super excited about it.  I think it will really round out my experience in comparison to SNAP! which was more along the lines of craft blogging, whereas Haven is more home blogging – furniture, décor, etc.  Are you attending Haven 2012 too?  I would LOVE to meet you!  If this is your first conference, check out my post on that here.

And I’m not even done yet!  The last weekend of June I’m headed to Asheville, North Carolina with Jeff, Katie, and her hubby Justin.  We’re going to scope out the scene downtown, head over to the Biltmore, and attempt to relax.

I’m tired just thinking about June.