Last year, I recapped The Southern Blog Societies Conference* for you, so I thought it would be fun to recap this year’s The 2016 Blog Societies Conference, too. (Known by the hashtag #TBScon on Instagram and Twitter.)
* This conference is the same as the one I went to last year, but The Southern Blog Societies underwent a rebrand and opened up membership to bloggers across the entire United States as The Blog Societies.
Like last year, the Conference was held in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina at the Belmond Charleston Place. Since I shared all my favorite spots in Charleston in my travel guide, I’m going to focus this recap specifically on the Conference itself. For my fellow bloggers, I also plan on writing a few educational posts with tips and tricks I learned. And for my non-fellow bloggers, more outfits from the trip coming your way this week and next.
WHY YOU SHOULD ATTEND CONFERENCES
If you’re on the fence about attending a conference, regardless of your field, I highly recommend it! In high school, my yearbook advisor took us to journalism conferences all over the country—New York, Phoenix, Los Angeles—and I always left in a creative mood and ready to hit the ground running with new ideas.
This blogger conference was no different, and I am already looking forward to next year’s conference! (As an aside, I’d also like to attend some other conferences before then, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments below!) At conferences, not only do you get to mix and mingle with people who share a common interest, you get to take advantage of a wealth of knowledge not normally available to you. I’ve found conferences are a great way to make connections that inspire you and serve as resources throughout the year, even if you only meet in-person annually.
Besides, “what free stuff did you get?” the most common question I received about this conference was “did you have to pay to go?” While we as bloggers are very lucky to receive free product in exchange for promotion, I happily spent $250 of my own money to purchase a ticket to this conference, and think it was worth every penny! Included in this year’s admission price were two lunches, a breakfast, an open-bar welcome party, a three-hour panel, and three-hour networking suite with brands, and three one-hour workshops. Talk about a steal! And if you’re nervous or have questions about attending your first blogger conference, my friend Kristyn wrote a great post you should read before you go!
THE WELCOME PARTY
The Conference, like last year, had events spread out over three days. While the festivities started Friday night last year, this year they started Thursday night, which I really liked. Although you have to take two vacation days off from work, it means you can have a whole day after the conference is over to stay in Charleston and explore, like we did, or head home and get your sh!t together for the week ahead.
This year’s Welcome Party was hosted by Vera Bradley, and was two hours of fun! Everyone was dressed cocktail-chic, and there was a full open bar. While last year I hung closer to my DC gals that I went to the Conference with, this year I really made an effort to reconnect with bloggers I met last year, and introduce myself to new people or people I’d only met through the Internet. A lot of brand reps were also at this year’s Welcome Party, so it is another great touch point to get face time with anyone you want to work with over the next year.
Because I was too busy talking to focus on the appetizer selection, I was glad a group of us had dinner scheduled for The Darling after networking wrapped up. And I was especially glad I went with a group of friends so I didn’t feel like I had to be “on” after a night of mingling!
THE EDUCATIONAL PANEL
The first full day of the Conference started Friday morning at 10 am. Cathy and Jessica, co-founders of The Blog Societies, coordinated four wonderful industry panels for us that lasted about three hours. I thought this was the perfect amount of time, and each of the speakers were super engaging. I sat next to Kristyn and we were furiously scribbling notes the whole time!
I’ll go into more depth in subsequent posts, but Lindsey Hume of White Oak Creative gave an overview of branding and graphic design trends in 2016, Amy Flurry of Recipe for Press spoke about how to pitch magazine editors, rewardStyle provided a ton of great insights on how to create a scroll-stopping feed, and InStyle Magazine talked to us about creating and finding our voice online.
THE BRAND NETWORKING SUITE
After a lunch at the Belmond, all 75 bloggers hit up the Brand Networking Suite! Held in a ballroom, each brand has a booth. Bloggers work their way around the room, talking to each brand rep about their blog and potential collaboration opportunities. Business cards are exchanged on both sides, and I always follow up when I get home to thank brands for their time and pitch them any ideas I have for a partnership.
Prior to leaving the brand’s booth, they generally gift each blogger a product that is popular or they want some extra promotion for via social media/the blogosphere. Vera Bradley provided huge tote bags for us to collect our swag items with, and they were full by the time we left! I won’t lie, this is definitely a fun perk of the conference! Some of the highlights this year to me were an entire box set of IT Cosmetics products—I live for their brow pencil, the L’Oreal braid bar where I had my hair done-up nicely by a fellow Katie, and the Moon & Lola charm bar where we got to make our own bracelet or necklace!
KENDRA SCOTT BREAKFAST
On Saturday, Kendra Scott set us up for success at the Workshops by hosting a wonderful breakfast at the Charleston Belmond. It’s always nice to have breakfast taken care for you when you’re traveling!
Following breakfast, we went immediately into Workshops. Each blogger went to three Workshops, and there were five total. When registering for the Conference, you were asked to rate the topics you wanted to hear most about. Cathy and Jessica were able to work it out so that everyone could attend their top three Workshops.
I attended Photography 101, Search Engine Optimization, and a rewardStyle workshop on Like to Know It, which makes Instagrams’ shoppable. The Workshops were a new addition to the Conference this year, and I absolutely loved them! Last year, the Educational Panel went much longer, and it was harder to focus in an auditorium. These Workshops were held in small conference rooms, and had a lot of interactive elements, which I found more conducive to learning. I definitely hope they bring back the Workshops next year!
Following the Workshops on Saturday, Cosmedix hosted a wonderful three-course plated meal for us. While the food was great, what I loved about the lunch was the Q+A session they hosted. They talked to us about the order to put on skincare products, what we should be doing to prevent aging in our twenties, and all that other good stuff you feel like you should know, but somehow don’t.
I think that about covers it! I am happy to answer any questions about the Conference—whether you’re just curious or wondering if the investment is right for you. Shoot me an email: katie [at] atouchofteal [dot] com.
And, of course, a huge thank you to Cathy and Jessica for
hosting a wonderful Conference I look forward to year-round!
All Photos by Kim Graham