My First Blogger Conference Experience: Haven 2017

July 31, 2017

It was about 3 years ago that I even figured out what a blog was and a little over a year ago when I decided to take the plunge to start my own blog. I had read about the Haven Conference on other blogs I follow, which is a home design and DIY blogging conference that is held every summer, and knew it was something I wanted needed to go to if I was going to make something more of this blogging thing.

So early this year I overcame my fears, registered for the 2017 Haven Conference and booked my flight and hotel room… there was no turning back. I didn’t know a single other person going, which is wayyyyy outside of my comfort zone, but I took a leap of faith and am so glad that I did! I have been back from Haven for a little over a week and my mind is still reeling from learning ALL THE THINGS and meeting all of the great people. But really, you learn so much and meet so many new, wonderful people who share your interests, which is a very fulfilling thing. In case you’re interested in going, here’s an overview of the whole conference.

OVERVIEW

It was a 3-day conference (really 2.5) held in Atlanta. I arrived Thursday afternoon and upon arriving at the hotel my anxiety set in because there were tons and tons of women hanging out in the lobby of the hotel (95% of whom I assume were there for Haven), but I knew not a single soul. I thought I recognized a few people because I follow their blogs, but felt like a stalker walking up and introducing myself my introverted self showing her face. I checked in as soon as my room was available and got ready for the Newbie Meet-up.

The Newbie Meet-up was so great for newbies like myself, it was a chance to meet people in a smaller setting before the whole conference Welcome Reception. They even gave all the newbies special beads and pins to wear, which was actually so nice! I met one of my first blogging friends at the Newbie Meet-up, Christene from Keys to Inspiration, she was so kind from the first minute I met her! We both didn’t know many (or any in my case) other people at the conference and were so happy to have a familiar face in the crowd.

After the Newbie Meet-up was the Welcome Reception. Here we met up with our assigned mentor group, my mentor was Traci from Beneath My Heart. She is so funny! Not to mention sweet and caring too. We met up with our mentor groups a few more times throughout the conference to touch base/debrief on what we had learned. After the mentor session that evening we were free to do what we wanted the rest of the night. I was so glad I found Christene right after the mentor session and shortly after that we ran into Liz from Naptime Decorator, another newbie to Haven. The three of us hit it off right away and quickly became Haven besties, which I was so thankful for! We even ending up eating dinner together all three nights we were there.

(They went all out on decor, i mean look at that balloon arch! – left to right: me, Christene, and Liz)

Friday started out with a keynote speech from Rachel Kate. She is quite the inspiration, including being on HGTV Design Star. Rachel really focused on never giving up on your dreams, even if things push you down, just get back up and keep on going. After Rachel’s speech we had a day of class-type sessions. I learned all about ads from AdThrive, how to grow your Instagram with Sarah Hollingshead from Our Vintage Farmhouse, how to organize your blog with Abby Lawson of Just a Girl and Her Blog.

In between sessions I walked around the different booths to talk with the vendors and look at all of the displays that were so beautifully curated. I especially loved Home Depot’s booth… that coffee table was calling my name!

Friday evening, we had Girl’s Night. There were treats, drinks, and craft tables set up. I even got to test out my watercolor skills which are non-existent in case you’re wondering with Lucy of Craftberry Bush. Lucy is soooo talented! I could watch her paint all day.

Saturday was another day full of sessions. I learned all about video content with Ben Uyeda of Home Made Modern, content strategy with Kirsten Thompson of Sweet Tea LLC, and how to work with brands with KariAnne Wood of Thistlewood Farms and Jamin and Ashley of the Handmade Home.

Saturday ended with a closing speech by KariAnne Wood. She was the perfect ending to the conference. She is inspiring, motivational, hilarious, and sweet as can be. She had me laughing, crying, then laughing again. It was so refreshing to hear her journey and how far she has come.

After a weekend full of new friends, fun, and learning these are my biggest takeaways.

LESSONS LEARNED

  • Take all the notes, because you’ll want to know all the things. You won’t recall ever detail you learned because the whole conference sort of felt like drinking out of a fire hydrant so be sure to jot down the details you think you will want to remember or want to add to your to do list when you get home.
  • Don’t stress too much about packing, these are the basics you’ll need: cute and comfy clothes/shoes for during the day, a nice dress and top or two for evening dinners, a sweater because those conference rooms can get cold, a refillable water bottle, a cell phone charging stick, a big tote bag to lug things around in during the day, a notepad and pen to take notes, and of course your phone because you’ll want to take lots of pictures! Also, be sure to remember to bring an extra duffel bag in your suit case for all of the swag you will get from the different brands.

(exhibit a – all the swag)

  • It’s okay to fan-girl. I felt a bit weird totally geeking out about fellow bloggers I’ve followed for a long time, but I learned over the course of the weekend this is totally normal and I think people (at least I would) appreciate and are flattered when others are so excited to meet them.
  • This kind of goes along with fan-girling, but shy away from your introverted tendencies and just put yourself out there. Introduce yourself to everyone you can, because you never know… they may just be a future blogger bestie!
  • My biggest takeaway from the whole weekend was from KariAnne Wood’s closing speech. She said “never apologize for where you are in your journey”. This really hit home for me. My default is to do this – apologize when I feel inadequate or when I feel I need to justify why I am not further along in my blogging journey. The truth is, everyone is in a different spot. Everyone has different goals and different dreams. Celebrate where you are on your journey and how far you’ve come.

Phew, I think that’s it. The ladies that put Haven on announced that next year’s conference will be in Charleston (gosh, I love that city). I hope to see some of you there!

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