Is it just me or is this summer flying by? This has, by far, been our busiest summer in a really long time.
Our kids have been on missions trips, all at different times.
I went to California with my youngest for a couple of weeks.
We’ve had family come to visit, and more are coming in August.
And before I know it, the kids will be back in school.
It’s been a whirlwind!
Right smack dab in the middle of our craziness was, perhaps, the trip that I was most looking forward to … Haven Conference.
Haven is an annual conference for DIY/home/design/lifestyle bloggers – two jam-packed days of training sessions, hands-on workshops, meet ups with vendors, food and parties. I was a newbie … a first-timer. I was really looking forward to learning, meeting bloggers face-to-face that I’d been interacting with behind the scenes for over a year, and getting to know some of the sponsors and vendors.
To wrap up that awesome weekend, I want to share with you my experience and perhaps give a few tips for those of you thinking about going next year.
Before I get too far into this post, you should probably know that I tend to lean on the shy side when in unfamiliar territory, whether it be new places, or new people, I’m usually the one found in the background, sometimes slowly inching my way up to the front, but mostly just hanging in the back. Signing up to go to Haven was easy … no people involved … just a few mouse clicks and I was done. But as it got closer, I started getting just a little bit anxious.
My first task was to figure out how I was going to get down to Atlanta. I found out that another blogger, that lives about 20 minutes away from me was driving down. So I stepped out of my comfort zone, messaged her on Facebook and asked if she had room in her car for a ride-a-long. She said “Yes!” Even though we live near each other, we’d never actually met. So the week before Haven, we met up at Panera for lunch. We had a great time driving down. We chatted so much that it seemed like the eight or so hours flew by! Before we knew it we were exiting off the freeway, and our eyes beheld our destination.
The host hotel was the Crowne Plaza – Ravinia. The rooms were beautiful and spacious and from the eleventh floor the view was stunning. The lobby was gorgeous, complete with a waterfall and winding creek. The outside patios were also stunning, with lots of trees, flowers, several more water features, and plenty of places to sit down and rest your feet. It was such a relaxing place to escape to when I felt a bit overwhelmed from the conference.
We arrived the day before the conference actually started, so we had some time to relax from our travels and explore a little bit. My travel companion was a veteran Haven Maven, so she already knew a bunch of bloggers. As soon as we walked into the hotel we ran into Jacque & Matt from The DIY Village. Nothing like jumping right out of my comfort zone! My heart started palpitating and my hands were getting sweaty (even though I had told myself at least 1000 times that I would not get all “blogger celebrity gaga.” But you know what? I had nothing to worry about. They were so welcoming and kind. We chatted for a few minutes like we had known each other for years! Hmmm … maybe this wouldn’t be so bad! It was in those few moments that I quickly realized that even though two bloggers may be miles apart in niche and size, we were all in this together.
Tip #1 … The first “Hi!” is the hardest – each one after gets easier.
Go ahead and put yourself out there. Be the first to say Hi when you see someone. Chances are they are just as shy and scared as you are. I promise … they won’t bite!
On Wednesday night the Haven team hosted an informal new-comers meet-and-greet. It was a great opportunity for us Haven first-timers to get to know some other newbies and exchange business cards. It was SO FUN and surprising to find out that other bloggers knew my blog. Talk about a boost of confidence! Just having a few say they knew me helped me to realize that even though there are millions of blogs out there, I was known.
Tip #2 … Don’t be afraid that no one will know you or your blog. When they see your logo on your biz card and make the connect, they’ll give you a big hug like they’ve just found a long-lost friend.
Prior to the conference, I had heard from many that I’d NEED to bring an extra suitcase for all the “swag.” Seriously? A whole suitcase? When we checked in, we received our swag bag … a bag filled with goodies from sponsors and vendors … and not just small samples … these were the real deal! Swoon!
There were a few things in the bag that kinda made you think, “huh?” … like the little cream-colored gift bag up there to the right of the Command clips. It had a rock in it with the word “spiritual” on it. It was from Modern Masters … a decorative paint company. When I went by their booth to introduce myself, I found out that the word on the rock coincided with one of their front door paint colors. “Spiritual” is a deep purple. As a teenager, purple was my favorite color. And although I do consider myself spiritual, for my front door, my color would be Elegant.
Every single vendor had something special to give us, on top of what they put in the swag bag. I was a lucky winner of a $15 iTunes gift card from Modern Masters, I won a $10 gift card from Home Depot, received a $25 gift card from D. Lawless Hardware, won a pillow from Online Fabric Store, received a Spray Shower head from Waterpik, brought home plants from Southern Living, made a frame with MinWax, and the list goes on.
I’ve been to several wholesale conferences/conventions in my lifetime, and I can honestly say that no matter how large they were, none of them held a candle to the absolute friendliness and generosity that the Haven vendors provided. They were all so happy to be there, not only to teach us about their products, but to befriend us and build relationships with us.
So the gorgeous blue bag that Ballard Designs blessed us with for our “swag?” Definitely NOT big enough to hold everything I collected throughout the conference. Thank goodness I listened and brought another large suitcase!
Tip #3 … If someone tells you to bring a suitcase for your swag, make it a LARGE one!
Tip #4 … Haven vendors are your friends! Don’t be shy! Talk to them and get to know them. Participate in their fun
One of the funnest parts of meeting the vendors was participating in their giveaways. Most all of them required doing something in their booth and posting it to Instagram. It’s sometimes hilarious what we bloggers will do for a freebie! I’m so glad that my daughter Amanda attended Haven with me … special mommy-daughter moments!
Taking a shower with the new Waterpik SprayShaper. Reward for posting on Instagram … my very own showerhead!
Whipping up a delicious meal with Moen!
Whoo hoo! I won a pillow from Online Fabric Store!
Play the DIY Dash with Home Depot and Proctor & Gamble for a chance to win great prizes!
Share a pic on Instagram with the new 2015 GMC Yukon!
Amanda got to talk with Mike Holmes from Holmes on Homes! Thank you Home Depot & 3M.
Tip #5 … HAVE FUN! Enjoy the fun things the vendors have to offer. Live it up at the parties. Make new friends.
Tide hosted our lunch on Friday, setting a gorgeous stage for their new product Tide Multi-purpose Oxi Stain Remover. Can we say bubbles, bubbles everywhere!
Tip #6 … Don’t stress out if you realize that you hardly took any significant pictures! There’s always next year 🙂
When I got home and went through all the pics in my phone and camera, I realized that I really didn’t take that many. But you know what? It’s okay. Sometimes it’s not all about the pictures, but about the friendships gained and the lessons learned.