I’m sitting in a Hilton Garden Inn at the moment because my AC went out one day back from BlogHer at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and so I figured now was as good a time as ever to briefly go over my experience. If you are interested in seeing some of my pictures from the conference, you can visit me on instagram here:
1. The Hotel
The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek was absolutely spectacular. My room was large and clean and smelled nice and had a gorgeous view of the nature preserves. A common complaint from other attendees was that the food was expensive at the hotel and parking was exorbitant ($27 self park/$35 valet per day) but I feel like unless you booked very close to the conference, you would have had time to plan for this. Also…it’s a Hilton that is near theme parks. They’re gonna get you for stuff, but complaining isn’t going to change the nature of the beast.
The pool looked so amazing and had a lazy river that you could just float around in, but I was either so busy or so tired that I never made it down there. And I brought my sassy bikini too! I did enter a contest to win a two night stay there, so hopefully I will win and I can go for leisure and relax by the pool. There were several restaurants to choose from and since the Hilton was attached to the Waldorf via the conference rooms you had the option to go there to eat/use the pool too.
13/10 would hotel again.
2. The Conference Food
In the days since the conference ended I have seen many complaints about the food provided by the conference. Buying a full conference pass earned you access to breakfast and lunch on Friday and Saturday, leaving dinner to be scrounged. I went down for breakfast on Saturday and found fruit and croissants and that earned a big fat NOPE from me. Lunch on Saturday was provided by Disney Studios’ Pandora and was AMAZING. I was also pretty hungry from not having breakfast so I enjoyed every bit (see above).
I didn’t mind getting my own dinner. I think it offered people a chance to network, connect, visit, or to be alone when the rest of the day was filled with other obligations. I got room service Friday night, and a sandwich from the hotel store in the lobby on Saturday night. Since I only had to drive, I also brought my own snacks with me.
I feel very strongly that breakfast could be vastly improved. Throw a hot thing of scrambled eggs and bacon in there and it would have rounded things out nicely. I don’t need a waffle bar or anything super crazy, but the lack of hot options was really off putting.
3. The Expo Hall
I was told time and time again that it didn’t matter how small you were, how new you were, that brands were there to meet you and connect and even small blogs had a chance at making a partnership. The Expo, where brands had booths set up for their company, was the place for that to happen. I was also under the impression that there would be samples that we could take home and write posts about as sort of auditions to write posts for the brand.
I came home with a lot of…well…literature? And junk? I don’t want that to sound negative even though it does, but really it was a lot of sales as opposed to partnership conversations. I put my name in to become a member of the Medieval Times and Best Buy blogger networks but I’m not sure how those translate to $$$.
The one booth I stopped at that felt like it would fit really well was with Day Owl Rose’. The lovely marketing representative introduced me to their partner brand line39, which attempts to partner wines with experiences. If you click the link to go to their site, you’ll notice that they are currently pairing wines with the perfect weekend. We talked about pairing wines with books and a campaign that might show how that works with different kinds of characters, plots, etc. I hope that turns into something because it feels really interesting and natural – drinking wine while reading a book is like peas and carrots!
4. The Educational Sessions
Right here is my biggest regret from the conference. I should have gone to as many educational sessions as I could fit my body into. I chose two to attend – How to Create Multiple Online Income Streams and How to Start/Make a Podcast. Both were the most relevant to where I am right now and I have copious notes from both that I am going to put to use in the latter half of this year. (Podcast launching in July!) There were other sessions I should have gone to as well: How to Boost Facebook Traffic, Using SEO Strategies, and more that would just be ways to get more eyes on my content. When I go next year, I’m going to make it an educational endeavor and not so much about…
5. …Special Events
Because I was under the impression that no matter how small, blogs would be considered for sponsors and branding and partnerships, I worked very hard to get into special events to make an impression and to learn more about the brands. I participated in AM yoga with Florida Citrus Growers, an evening hosted event with Medieval Times, and a late-morning speed dating session with 6 brands: Disney, Medieval Times, Casper, Common Sense Media, Gumdrop (Goodshop), and KissAway Wipes.
While fun, I don’t think participating in these improved my chances at a partnership, and very little chance for Q & A existed. When I go next year I think I will bypass these altogether in favor of the educational sessions and…
I was on the go go go! so much that I didn’t really have the opportunity to sit long enough to enjoy the keynote speeches. I wish I could have heard Luvvie Ajayi, Serena Williams, and Carla Hall. Chelsea Clinton was there too! I think at my next conference I want more time for education and inspiration. I did run into Luvvie near the elevators, and it was so sudden and I was so thankful she agreed to take a selfie with my sweaty post-Medieval Times self.
Overall it was a great time, and I am already waiting to see where it will be held next year so I can take advantage of early bird pricing and book accommodations! I want a second chance to do it right. 🙂 For now though, I’m going to get my podcast started, continue to provide great content here on the blog, and keep growing!