Last weekend I spent three gorgeous days at the Portofino Island Condos on Pensacola Beach with 31 other fabulous bloggers at the Brandcation conference and I’d like to tell you about three things that I didn’t learn while I was there.
1) How to manage my blog.
I go to four or five conferences each year on average and I always take something away from each of them, but to be honest, I typically end up missing several sessions or workshops so that I can meet and talk with brands, sponsors and other professional bloggers. Although I enjoy learning new things to implement on my blogs at each of these conferences, the main takeaways for me are always the people I get to meet and the relationships that we build during those few jam-packed days.
The focus at Brandcation is NOT on learning, but rather on building relationships. This was my first “retreat” style conference so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I hope to never miss another Brandcation! We spent three action packed days doing activities like Blogger Olympics, Florida’s longest zip lining tour, four miles of river tubing, an evening of stargazing with the Escambia Amateur Astronomers’ Association, and the Pensacola Dolphin Cruise where we saw lots of beautiful dolphins including some new babies!
We spent the weekend trusting and supporting one another and I’m proud to say that I’ve made some new friends for life and I even managed to learn quite a bit more than I thought I would because the event founders are PR experts, and really what else are 32 bloggers going to talk about all weekend? Everyone was very gracious about sharing their knowledge and answering questions, and there was none of the competitiveness and petty jealousy that we sometimes see at larger conferences. I’m amazed that in three short days I was able to build strong relationships with more awesome bloggers than I have in the past at longer conferences with thousands of attendees.
2) How to be comfortable.
During a typical week I spend an inordinate amount of time seated at my computer, then at conferences we spend even more time sitting and listening to a variety of different speakers. The attendees all seem to expect the event organizers to make us as comfortable as possible and you’ll hear the usual complaints about the temperature of the room and the variety of food, because you know it’s pretty easy to make thousands of bloggers all happy at once.
Last weekend 32 ladies from all over the U.S. and Canada threw comfort out the window and did brave things that many of us have never done before, like racing down the beach in bathing suits to put on coconut bras in front of an audience, or zipping through the air above the trees and over the river. We stuck together and pulled each other out of tough binds and I’m quite certain that we’ll continue to do that for each other in “real” life and through our blogs and businesses.
Stepping outside your comfort zone on occasion reminds you that you’re alive and helps you to take a step back and make sure that you have your priorities straight and you’re headed in the right direction to meet your life goals. I’m grateful to these women for helping me to do just that and for reminding me that I can be fearless and that I have the courage to take risks.
3) How to fit the mold.
Even though the conference mascot is a sheep, these bloggers are anything but followers! There are times when the easiest solution is to just go with the flow but the answers to most problems come from thinking outside the box and we all did plenty of that last weekend.
One of the very nice things about this conference is that they embraced every one of us, no matter the size or topic of our blogs and we were all made to feel welcome and appreciated. This certainly isn’t the case at every conference where it is common to try and label bloggers and divide them into niches. Instead, we were divided into teams and expected to support one another.
We were also each given the opportunity to actually present our brand sponsors to the group and encouraged to support one another’s sponsors. Most conferences that I attend take issue with attendees overtly representing their brand sponsors during conferences because the event organizers haven’t been paid by them. The Brandcation organizers understand very well that many bloggers wouldn’t be able to attend their events at all without sponsors and they graciously built time into the busy schedule to recognize every one of them. I’d wager that the ROI for any brand sponsoring a blogger to attend Brandcation, where they can engage fully with thirty other bloggers, is far greater than handing out three hundred cards to random people at a large conference.
So, for a non-learning conference, I managed to learn a lot. Thanks so much to my fellow Brandcationeers for a wonderful experience and to the following sponsors for making it possible:
Photo Credit: Brandy Goleman