Friday, October 11, 2013

Blogalicious5 Recap: A Grand Blogger Reunion

Hands down meeting bloggers IRL is the best part about blogging conferences. Seems kinda obvious, but you'd be surprised how easy it can be for the swag or connecting with brands to take precedence however, for me I was thrilled to see my favorite bloggers all in one location. It was a grand blogger reunion!

Thursday

I was up at 3a.m. to make the first painful flight out of NYC to ATL, but it was allllll worth it . . .


I had two roommates and we met for the first time at Blogalicious! They were fab: Jenee of Cocoa Fly and Jyl of Mom it Forward. We didn't spend much time in the room anyway and since I had such a positive conference roommate experience I'll definitely go this route in the future (super budget-friendly!).


The venue including a room with a view; my roommate had to air-dry her things over the furniture as her airline left her luggage in the rain - definitely  deserves a squeaky wheel follow-up!
After dropping my things I was ready for that afternoon's sessions; I'm only featuring two here but you can see the full schedule on the Blogalicious agenda:

Founder Stacey Ferguson welcomed everyone to Blogalicious5

The Ripple Effect of Blogger Professionalism


I was especially looking forward to hearing from Amy Lupold, aka Resourceful Mommy, as I'm fascinated by how she's cornered the market on twitter parties.

Key Takeaways:
  • Avoid sloth by sticking to your deadlines
  • Put high quality content first
  • Beware of greed: don't say yes to the maybes so you can say "hell yes" to the definitelys 
  • There is plenty of work to go around
  • Brands are attracted to bloggers who are #flawesome (awesomely flawed - they keep it real!)
  • I also appreciated City Mama's sensitivity to those who aren't blogging to make money - so often it's easy to forget it's not every bloggers focus; when I started blogging I had no clue some bloggers got paid - now I find it's a nice added bonus!

10-Steps Intensives

These quick-hit tips were fantastic! Here are my faves:

From Amy Mascott (aka TeachMama)
  • Use lists to stay organized on Twitter (no one has time to scroll through their entire timeline!)
From Amy Vernon
  • A few recommended apps:
    • Nimble - to organize your social media contacts in one place
    • IFTTT - consolidates social media experiences
    • Buffer App - for easily sharing content on social media
From Susan Wenner Jackson - so many good Pinterest insights:
  • Get verified
  • Set up at least 10 full boards (empty boards aren't attractive!)
  • Put a face NOT a logo as your profile photo
  • Participate actively in select group boards
  • Post 15-25 pins/day (there were audible gasps at this part - me included!)

During the brand/blogger mingle my business card was selected and I won the book Mom Incorporated and got to share a bit about my blog!  (Thank you Koils by Nature for the pics!)

We had a quick bite to eat...


Then it was time for . . .

Luvvie, the hostess, in the center
I can't remember if I've shared it here, but I'm not a Scandal fan (the horror, right?!), but knowing Luvvie was going to be hosting a viewing party and everyone was going made me cave in to peer pressure and attend the premiere. Since my social media feeds are flooded with all things Scandal when the show is on I pretty much knew the storyline and regardless, loved hearing from Luvvie IRL. I have to say I was a bit nervous watching it with a possibly interactive audience, but Luvvie was so good at reigning everyone in so we could hear what was going on.

Everyone was encouraged to come out in their Scandal-ous finest and while I definitely wasn't dressed the part, I LOVED fellow Jersey-resident The Get Fit Diva Aliah's fashion statement:



Friday



I always see "fun runs" scheduled on conference agendas but never worked up the nerve to participate until now. Since I've been running for almost 2 months now I thought it be a great way to connect with fellow runners and to support the American Cancer Society, whose headquarters were nearby the hotel. The day before the conference was also the funeral for a dear family friend who lost her battle to cancer and in my heart I ran for her. Last year I bowled for more birthdays in honor of my Uncle Mike who also lost his battle to cancer. I'm so thankful to Blogalicious for this partnership and giving the attendees this opportunity! It was also the only time I broke away from the conference center to see a bit of Atlanta and I'm especially glad I did - Atlanta is a beautiful city and no matter how many times I visit I can't get over how clean it is compared to NYC!


After the morning welcome it was time for the opening keynote from Amy Dubois-Barnett, Ebony Magazine Editor-in-Chief who shared 7 ways to get yours, from her new book. I was especially interested in hearing Amy's perspective after spending years in media and struggling to get clients to add Ebony to their media plans due to their outdated image. I was thrilled to hear how Amy's brought a fresh perspective to the magazine! She told her story succinctly but profoundly in a way that let us hear the personal challenges she's faced over the years. I love when speakers open up and are honest with their audience! Her point to have integrity really agreed with me as it's something I've written about before: Do what you say you're gonna do!

I then had a one-on-one coaching session with the self-proclaimed "Innerpreneur" Ananda Leeke who helped me carve out a strategy for accomplishing my upcoming goals especially when it comes to completing the co-authored e-book I've been working on.


Next up was the All-Star Blogger Keynote Panel featuring such powerhouse bloggers such as Afrobella, Luvvie and Lamar Tyler who shared how they've built their businesses. I've heard from a few of these bloggers before, and I always find them so motivating!

After a quick break there was a session on Analyzing Analytics where we heard from Mike Street - a social media phenomenon founder of Harlem NYC. He and his co-panelist Maribel Lara from M80 reiterated the importance of learning from the success of others. Mike emphasized copying which alarmed me, but I'd revise that to say be inspired by what others are doing and put your own personal twist on it.

With panelist Jacque Reid - and yes, her hair is as fierce in person as it is on screen!
We had a quick lunch presentation by OraQuick regarding relationships and HIV testing (did you know it's recommended for married couples to test every 6 months for HIV???) and we were given tests to take home. I was glad to hear two awesome bloggers I met at last year's Blogalicious ask specific questions to open up the topic to all ages - discussions on HIV aren't just for young couples.



Patricia of Boomer Wizdom and Pamela of Still Dating My Spouse

Here's how the rest of the afternoon went:


Digital Storytelling: The Next Wave of Brand-Blogger Relationships  - moderated by Brandi of Mama Knows It All (her daughter reminds me of Nia), my roommate Jyl was in this session and I really appreciated her point of thinking of brands as friends; one-on-one relationship building is key for lasting partnerships



VIP Workshop: Master Your Elevator Pitch - hands down my favorite session; Harriette's candidness with all of us helped us learn from the feedback she gave each of us publicly

How to "Lean In" to Your Business Without Sacrificing Your Relationships or Family -I was late to this session but definitely would like this to be a regular topic - balance is hard! I'll definitely be checking out the collaboration apps they mentioned: Asana and Wiggio

That night we had a DNADiscovery Reception presented by 23andMe followed by McDonald's 80s themed party . . .

Yes, those are cassette tape centerpieces!

Partying with my roomies

Saturday


I was up bright and early to hear from Adrienne Bailon, star of upcoming film I'm in Love With a Church Girl - as she mentioned she knew it was hard for people to see past her as a Cheetah Girl, but I enjoyed learning more about her path to where she is now (and that she's originally from NYC!). She even briefly addressed her association with the Kardashians, something I wondered about, simply saying she was not part of the show and if the cameras were on when she was there then so be it! I love how this faith-based film is a step above the tom-foolery out there and to her point, to show these types of movies are wanted we must go out and support them.



As an avid user of PicMonkey I was thrilled to hear from the founders on Divining Awesome: A Creative Approach to Branding for Bloggers - the notion of creating purple cows (via Seth Godin, a marketing guru I love!), really resonated with me. I intend to find more ways to stand out in the coming year!

Winner! Capital City Mumbo Sauce
Keeping in line with this year's theme of CREATE.BUILD.FUND Wells Fargo hosted a Perfect Pitch Competition. Three finalists were up to do an elevator pitch with the hopes of winning $5,000 seed money. The winner was Capital City Mumbo Sauce, a dipping sauce very popular in D.C. They intend to use their funds to purchase UPC codes for their bottles. I loved hearing the growth of all the business presented, and it's spurred me to keep pursuing my own business goals.

Here's what happened the rest of the day . . .


After lunch I found some time to test drive KIA, a sponsor this year. . .

I returned for a roundtable lunch with Lorraine Ladish from Mamiverse on freelancing for bloggers - another profit center I'd like to explore (print still pays more than online!)


We heard from Hamilton Brown, Sr. Marketing Director, The Taco Bell Company on how they do much more than make tacos (I grew up on Taco Bell and never knew about their community involvement!)

Lynn of Non Techie Pros, Uneeka of Powerful U Media Group and Telisha of Battle of the Sexes shared the How-To on Speaking Engagements, Live Events and Webinars
Then it was time to close out Blogalicious5 . . .

  • Hearing from Elisa Camahort-Page, COO, BlogHer about funding our business plans
  • Watching the BlogHerLicious Vlog Contest Winners who will be going to both BlogHer and Blogalicious next year
Getting carried away at KIA Motors Closing Cocktail Reception with Amy aka Teach Mama, Terez aka dbabetta and Karen, from PicMonkey

The grits bar was GLORIOUS (said in an Oprah voice!) - sausage and shrimp??? YAAAASSSSS!
I debated grabbing a 2nd bowl of grits, but one of my roommates left that evening and the other was away so I opted to happily head up to my hotel room and sink under the covers watching HGTV the rest of the night... I was one happy mama!


Sunday

My flight wasn't until 11:45a.m. so I had a leisurely time getting ready to head to the airport - it was a quick easy ride on the MARTA and only $6 roundtrip.



The bonus??? I made the journey with my blogger buddy Stacy-Ann, aka Weather Anchor Mama and her adorable son!


Sooooo to answer the question I keep getting: "How did Blogalicious5 compare to 2012's conference?"

I'm a bit biased because of my general love for Las Vegas, but here's why I enjoyed '12's a bit more:



  • Venue - Red Rock's conference center was spread out on one sun-soaked level, vs. the Hyatt's multiple subterranean levels. I kept missing folks this year whereas last year it was easier to connect with everyone all on one level. Also, I loved having outside sessions at Red Rock's conference center either on the terrace of poolside. I don't know if it's officially seasonal affective disorder, but I'm greatly affected by lack of sunlight. I get groggy and a bit down without enough sun, and I spoke with a few attendees who felt low-energy this year vs. last year. When I mentioned the sun issue it was like, "Ohhhhh yeah!"
Hearing from Harriette Cole in 2012

  • Content - yet again Blogalicious packed a punch with so much content and I found the VIP session with Harriette Cole was the most beneficial session I attended. Regarding actionable content, last year's sessions were more helpful in that regard. I was surprised to hear speakers apologize saying they hadn't prepared, just met their group that day or simply just get up and talk about themselves without providing key takeaways while using tons of filler words. Maybe I was spoiled by Mario Armstrong's session last year, but the Toastmaster in me wanted more polished and detailed sessions. I think this is motivation for me to submit to speak going forward...
clockwise from top left: Weather Anchor Mama and Baby Making Machine with their adorable sons; La Shawn Wiltz (formerly Chronicles of Pookah's Mom), Brooklyn Active Mama,; Shootie Girl founder LaShaun Martin; Lipgloss and Binky
  • The Bloggers - more of my favorite bloggers were in attendance this year which made it even more fun than last year! I'm sure as Blogalicious continues to gain followers this will only increase. I do love the intimate vibe though and being able to catch up with my blogger buddies in addition to meeting new ones
  • Food - similar to the venue, there was much better food at Red Rock - I likened it to spa food. It was more fruit/veggie/protein based whereas the food at the Hyatt was more carb centric. Again, biased towards Vegas, but I simply think Vegas beats ATL in the food department hands down. Vegas is one of my favorite cities to eat (and I can't wait to go back in a couple weeks!)
  • Parties - I knew it was going to be hard to top Doug E. Fresh as not only his performance but the club venue was over the top incredible last year. With Blogalicious celebrating its 5th year I was expecting even more awesomeness, but I do have to say the 80s baby in me especially enjoyed the themed décor this year

2013's swag bag

  • The Swag - I have quite the story here: I don't come to conferences for the swag, but it is a nice bonus. I had planned on doing the same as last year and mailing my items home via USPS however the closest post office to the hotel was not open on Saturdays as I'm accustomed to in NYC. The only option was the FedEx within the hotel. They estimated it would be about $35 to send everything home. Comparing to the USPS' flat rate fees, I cringed but went back the morning of my flight and was first in line right when they opened to ship my stuff. Little by slowly a line formed and a clerk came by pretending that he didn't see us to post a sign that they were opening at 9:50 instead of 9a.m. O___o REALLY?! We were annoyed and confronted him and he said there was an emergency. After inquiring with hotel staff who explained FedEx is independent of the hotel, they said they'd get hotel shipping and receiving to help us but it was slow going and we had flights to catch. Stacy-Ann  was waiting with me to head to the airport and she's quite the feisty one let me tell ya! She wasn't going to take it and pushed back to the staff that they couldn't help us. Thankfully, a couple other staff members came by, took our things, names and addresses and told us they'd arrange to ship our stuff to us. Now, if you've followed my Instagram you've seen they sent everyone's boxes to me which I'm currently sorting out pick-up and reshipment with FedEx, but a big thank you to Gregory, the hotel associate, and Weather Anchor Mama for being a squeaky wheel! With that being said, I do have to say I liked the swag a lot this year especially the hair care products. The transitioning kit was great as I was just looking at another here locally and I look forward to trying the Eden Body Works products on Nia's hair. We're not a video game family, but I'm sure I can find a special someone to give the Hasbro console to.
No word yet on the location of Blogalicious 2014, but I'm hoping for New Orleans although Mr. Lovebird mentioned hurricane season might be an issue. I really don't see the city being an issue for me - as long as I can get away to see my blogger buddies IRL I'm all set!

Thank you to Justice Fergie and her team for yet another fabulous Blogalicious!

Which city do you think should be next? Will I see you there?



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