Last year I attended the Haven Conference, which was my very first blog conference. I had every intention of sharing a recap, but that never came together because my big take away was finally making the leap from Blogger to WordPress. Upon arriving home from Atlanta, I contacted Lesley to immediately hammer away on the new site and branding. Then there was that WordPress learning curve. #ugh By the time I figured out how to add a post, the conference was months behind me. This year I’m sharing a recap – right away!
It’s intimidating to step out from behind the computer to meet the bloggers you’ve been reading for years. And also put yourself out there to meet people that have been reading your blog for years. Haven was and still is my only blog conference experience. Of all the conferences available, this event best fits my niche. It’s for DIY and design blogger’s. Therefore the overall theme, sponsors and sessions cater to those who either create (woodworking, painting, building and otherwise) or design / decorate beautiful home spaces. I fit into both groups.
Since there’s much to share about the conference itself and personal takeaways, I’ll break it down into a few posts.
Also, I haven’t had a chance to upload all the pictures off my phone. And my house is trashed. So, there’s that.
Today I wanted to talk about the incredible sessions I participated in. I’ve made sure to link to each speaker’s blog so you can check them out too. We love new blogs to read, right? I also added some links to additional bloggers I met throughout the 3-day event.
Last year, Jon Acuff was our keynote. While he was incredible, motivating, is a polished speaker and has written several books, I totally enjoyed these ladies! I appreciated that they are “one of us”. They’re bloggers. They started out exactly where I did, felt the same vulnerabilities putting yourself out there, spent time building tribes of their own, built a brand for themselves and they understand the ups and downs of blogging. The highs and lows. The negative comments and the excitement when your favorite brand contacts you to partner on a project. They know how it feels to have a project succeed or bomb. No need to explain who their audience was – we are them. DIY bloggers and creatives. No matter if you were a new blogger or veteran, it was a great casual conversation that spoke to each of us – wherever we fall on the blog spectrum. They were real and genuine.
For me personally, their speech (which was really more of a casual conversation – they sat at a small table with mics and spoke from the heart) set the mood for the rest of my conference experience. They reminded me why I started a blog in the first place. And THAT is what my goal / takeaway will be from my overall experience this year. This blog is the heart of my business. It’s where my connection to all of these wonderful (and very real) blog friendships began. And most importantly, where my connection to YOU began.
This coming year, I’m going to blog more from the heart and work toward balance between client work and projects in my own home. I want to get back to building and creating…which I’m sometimes limited in my ability to do in a client’s home. In my own home I can bang tons of holes in the walls and not worry about liability. Anyway, it was a great opening and in closing they read “a letter to you” for the new bloggers in the audience. Very touching!
My first session was Basic SEO presented by Brooke Ulrich of All Things Thrifty.
Yep, figured I’d ease my way in with a “stress-free” topic.
For my non-blogger readers, SEO is Search Engine Optimization. It’s a blogger’s worst nightmare…and best friend. Sorta like laser hair removal. SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of your website. And if you’re a blogger, you want your site easily searchable. The internet is constantly changing so we are constantly educating ourselves on how to keep those posts searchable…and get a high page rank in order to show up on that first search result page. For example, if you hopped on google and searched “trash bags simply organized” guaranteed my blog DIY project would be the first to show up. That’s the result of good SEO and a good website that web crawlers have approved.
Brooke is a total doll and did a phenomenal job keeping the topic light and funny. One of the many a-ha moments in her session was the need to educate myself more on google analytics. There’s a wealth of information to be found that I wasn’t aware of. She also shared a GREAT resource – SEO For Creative Bloggers, written by her brother.
In the afternoon, I had to get my hands dirty. I love Ryobi power tools. Truth – not getting paid to say that. These are the only power tools I own because they are easy to use, cordless and all work off the same battery model. They make it simple to get projects done for clients because I can toss a drill into my bag and not worry about the need for an extension cord. In this session, I learned about their entire line of impressive products, including outdoor lawn tools and their new garage door system. Very cool!
Now, these are centerpieces I can stand behind…
We played with drills, nail guns and sanders to create a small chalkboard entry sign…
The Ryobi workshop wrapped early leaving me with 30 minutes to pop into Tasha’s affiliate marketing session…
Was beyond excited to finally meet Tasha in person after following her blog and reading her affiliate marketing e-book. (affiliate) If you’re a blogger and want to know how affiliate marketing works / how to boost your blog income – her book is a MUST READ. The book went through a revision and the updated version is on sale now.
Since I’ve read the book, I wanted to sit in for just a bit of her session. She is such a sweetheart!
Friday closed out on the early side so I walked through the sponsor hall to chat with some of the brands represented. Then went to dinner with a great group of bloggers. I’ll share more about my personal friendships in another installment, but here’s a fun picture of us “hanging out” in Anthro waiting on our dinner reservation…
Clearly having way too much fun. This crew is permanently banned from ever again stepping foot in this Anthro location.
Saturday was a full day of sessions and ended with a beautiful summer soiree. My first class was The Science of Massive Facebook Reach presented by the dynamic, energetic duo behind Blogging Concentrated; Rachel Martin (of Finding Joy) and Dan Morris (founder of Blogging Concentrated) were ah-maz-ing. Seriously. The best!
Facebook has become a difficult place for blogger’s to connect with their followers because FB controls much of what we share. It’s true. You’re likely noticing it on your personal FB feed as well. Ask any blogger how they feel about Facebook and you’ll hear a strong negative response. Facebook controls its content and I suppose it’s their right since we’re posting and sharing on their site. Ultimately, Facebook is looking out for Facebook. They want you to stay on their site and not leave to jump over to our blog posts. Anything that keeps you engaged and scrolling on Facebook is good for FB. And now Instagram (purchased by Facebook) and Pinterest are doing the same thing.
Rachel and Dan are the experts on how to create more engagement with your audience…and how to create more engaging posts that your friends will want to share. I was on the edge of my seat and wish they were speaking the entire conference day, to be honest. They barely scratched the surface in their very condensed presentation.
You can see the back of my head here…I was totally engaged!
After a quick lunch, I met up for the first time with my mentor group. This is the first year Haven tried this out and think it was a huge success! Our meet-ups were quick, wish they could’ve been longer, but am planning to stay in touch via their blogs and maybe e-mail. Our mentor leader was Chris of Just A Girl Blog…
Such a doll! She’s one of the Haven team members who organizes this amazing conference each year – AND she’s a teacher…you know…on the side. #notworthy She took a photo of us that I hope to pop in here soon but here’s a rundown of my fellow mentor group bloggers…all amazing blogs to check out!…
Chelsea of Two Twenty One
Leigh Anne of Houseologie
Lindsay of Crazy Organized
Amanda of Our Storied Home
Brooke of Cribbs Style
Shaun of The House Of Silver Lining
Kim of Hunt and Host
Chelsea of Making Home Base
Brooke of Start At Home Decor
Haneen of Haneen’s Haven
Hope I didn’t miss anyone!
After lunch I attended the session on Maxing Out Your Ad Income with Andy and Kelly, the sweet couple who started AdThrive. As a reader, you may hear me say “ad”, see visions of flashing squares on the sidebar, and want to barf into your handbag. I do too! I want to keep my site as ad free as possible. AdThrive is changing the way ads are seen on your end. Learned a ton in the session, but since many of my readers aren’t bloggers I’ll skip the boring details.
My final session of the day was one of my favorite. Two of the sweetest, most talented, woodworking girls taught a session on decorative cutting. Jen of House of Wood and Jaime of That’s My Letter. Seriously, two of the kindest, down to earth women you will EVER meet. My spirit animals. Or spirit bloggers, I should say.
I may have gone deaf but sure had fun playing with saws! Imagine 30+ bloggers drilling, scroll sawing and sanding in a small ballroom…all at once. We had the option to create a couple projects but I chose a little phrase sign…that clearly needs some sanding and a cleaner cut. Not too bad though right?…
I know exactly where this sign is going and will be sharing it soon. Shared a little action video with my Facebook friends…
After all the fun, I hung in the lower lobby with more sponsors for a bit and then headed up to the main lobby for a glass of wine. Ended up meeting 2 fun girls – Heather from Southern State of Mind and Rachael of This Is Our Bliss.
If the day wasn’t full already, time for the Summer Soiree. So fun! Great food and drinks, dancing, chatting with old and new friends…many of us left on the early side because our feet hurt. Personally, I wanted to be ready first thing Sunday because at 8am one of my very favorite blog couples was teaching a class.
Again, more details soon in another post about a few of my favorite people…
Sunday morning I hopped out of bed to attend the Rock Solid with Rustoleum session taught by Katie and Jeremy Bower of Bower Power. Ack! I’ve looked up to them (and John and Sherry of Young House Love) for yeeeeears. I was grateful to meet both couples during the conference. Am not a big photo person so don’t have the proof to show you…but trust me, it was a dream come true to give them all a hug.
Katie and Jeremy were hysterical and adorable. Exactly as you’d imagine IRL and the class was very fun. Rustoleum has a new product called Rock Solid, which is a floor coating intended for use in a garage or basement.We followed along while The Bowers taught us how to use the product from start to finish – I can’t wait to try it in my own garage…and if my clients are brave enough, for them too!
Here’s the finished product at Katie’s house…can you even?!…
My final session of the day was Working With Brands. This was a panel style conversation with lots of info. I’ve been working with brands for quite a while but you can always stand to learn something new, especially from fellow bloggers. The biggest lesson being I will continue to work with brands that allow me to be me…not try to change my voice or make me sound like a sock puppet. #lambchop
Our mentor group gathered together one more time for lunch. Sad to say goodbye to them!
What was even more depressing? The fact I couldn’t stay for the closing ceremony. My flight to the west coast was the only direct so I booked it months ago when I knew I was coming to the conference…and not knowing what time the conference would end or who was speaking. Was so bummed to miss Sherry and John’s speech, but in this day and age, I’m sure someone has it on video!
My bummed out attitude didn’t last long however because I ended up with a surprise rider in my uber to the airport – Toni of Design Dazzle. She was waiting in the lobby and asked to join me for the ride – so great to meet yet another amazing blogger. You can say I made the best of every last moment.
Check out her kitchen drawer you guys!…
No chance to bum around after getting home with conference swag like this!…
Well, this post got pretty long, didn’t it – sorry! But I had to share while it’s all fresh on the mind. I’m feeling so inspired and couldn’t want to get in here to share / write / get back to the roots of where this crazy ride all began. I’ll be posting again soon with more personal notes about my blog friendships (new and old). If you’re a maker / decorator and write a blog, please consider joining us next year in Atlanta. You won’t regret it!