Unfortunately, this post is going to be a little LONG, it is hard to recap several days in a single post without it getting a long (as you know from my Paris Road Trip Reports). So before I get into this post I just wanted to tell you a few things. That way if you don’t want to read the recap, you will still get this info.
- First, it would be really great if you could take 5 minutes to complete my survey on post distribution timing.
- Secondly, I have finally written my posts from my holiday vacation so all my post for Monday-through-Thursday are all related to my Panama Canal vacation and I will end the week with a regular French Friday. I just wanted to warn you in case you aren’t interested in my travel posts, although I hope you do come every day for those!
Now on to Blissdom!
Last year when I attended Blissdom ’09 I had only been blogging for about 6 months. It was my first blogging conference and I did not know a soul. I picked it because Jen Lancaster was going to be the keynote speaker and I am a huge fan of hers.
After spending the past year going to several blogging conferences I was looking forward to returning to where it all began. I reunited with bloggers that I had met last Blissdom (Jody & Paula); bloggers I had met at other blogging conferences in 2009. And of course I hoped to discover new bloggers as well. This conference is a very friendly environment, with exceptional organization behind it, in addition to some pretty savvy marketing. As a marketing professional, I really appreciate good work.
I was happy to “chaperon” Laurie of You Must Take Your Chance. We had never met before in person, and being she just started blogging in October she had never attended a blogging conference. She was in the same boat as I was last year with the exception that she knew me (the lucky dog…just kidding..) Laurie, Alisa of Project Happily Ever After (who I met through Julie of Writing Roads at Type-A Mom in September) and I made a trio while hooking up with some of my other blogging friends. We had a great time.
I don’t want to make this post too long, but it’s hard to cut down even though I will try sticking to the highlights.
The conference has grown! Double in size from last year so it had to be held at a bigger venue, and thus the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, where I mentioned yesterday Sarah Palin was keynoting for a Republican Tea Party Convention. Made for interesting restaurant and restroom mingling!
Security was tight for their area of the hotel which was right next to the Blissdom conference and I think it was for that reason that we were not served knives lest it turned ugly (just kidding). In any case, it was definitely blog-worthy to mention!
It was also interesting to see people try to figure out who and what we were all about. It is just a reminder that there is the vast majority of the population that knows nothing about blogging or social media.
I couldn’t tell you what else was going on in the world outside of the hotel, because it is a massive city onto itself (we were told it is the 5th largest non-casino hotel in the world and the largest convention center in the world, you knew?) There are huge indoor gardens to the effect that we started calling it a biodome, I even left a status message that said, “I have not left the Opryland biodome since Wed, is earth still inhabited?”
Any way, back to the conference.
Day 1, Friday, Feb 5th:
The opening keynote speaker was the wonderful Kevin Carroll. He labels himself “author, speaker and agent for social change,” but he is much more than that. He is a humanitarian and advocate as well. Having suffered a horrendous early childhood he found peace and healing in play, specifically from a red ball found on a playground shortly after being rescued from his drug addict mother. And from that time on he has had the constant presence of sport and play, which allow him and the people he touches in life to have a sense of community.
Mr. Carroll goes to the most poverty-stricken communities in the world where children make balls out of trash or worse where he exchanges their balls for new red ones. He works with other charitable organizations like Architects for Humanity to help build, rebuild and support communities and bring play to children and adults alike.
His books, starting with Rules of the Red Rubber Ball have inspired many and I am certainly going to pick them up! His speech was wonderful, funny, inspiring and motivational. A perfect start to kick off the conference.
Following Kevin was a session on legal, accounting and FTC guidelines for bloggers. It was very informative. I blog about the new FTC guidelines before which came into affect on Dec 1, 2009, so if you are not aware of them, take a moment to read the information.
After that very serious session we were treated with surprise guest George Duran of the Food Network! I’d seen his hilarious show Ham on The Street a couple of times, but have not seen his current show on TLC Ultimate Cake Off. He performed a cooking demonstration and the meal that he cooked was what we actually ended up eating for lunch and it was quite yummy.
It as a twist on lasagna, but instead of noodles, eggplant was used. It was very tasty. George came around and very graciously visited all the lunch tables and posed for pictures. Here he is when he stopped at my table. You can tell by the way he stands he is a comedian!
After lunch was a session called “Connecting with Your Community of Readers” and I was thrilled to see some SITS girls on the panel. In fact I was pleased with the large variety of panelists this year. Having been to several conferences in 2009, I was getting a bit tired of seeing the same speakers and there was definitely fresh blood on this year’s Blissdom panels and it was great to see!
After the final panel of the day we had about two hours before the evening’s main event, the cocktail party. Held in the hotel’s nightclub, the event was something that nearly everyone was looking forward to because Harry Connick Jr. was coming to sing to us!
He was originally schedule to be apart of one of the community panels on Saturday because of his work with Musician’s Village an entire neighborhood rebuilt in his home town of New Orleans for musicians. Harry and Branford Marsalis have worked to build this housing area and school specifically for musicians left homeless in Hurricane Katarina.
After participating in the session he was going to perform. However, when the Saints won a spot in the Super Bowl and Harry was asked to sing it appeared that he was going to have to cancel. However, being the Southern gentleman that he is, he decided to perform on Friday evening instead in order to keep his commitment and not disappoint.
Being a big fan of Harry, I was really excited to see him sing live. The club music that played before and after Harry was too loud for my taste but it was worth it to hear three songs live. He is very humorous which comes out in his acting and I enjoyed him immensely. Afterward he stayed so that we could have photos taken with him and then headed off to New Orleans.
Day 2, Saturday Feb 6th:
The first sessions didn’t start until 10:00 which is really nice for late evenings. Alli and Barb’s underlying theme was “relax” and it certainly was fulfilled. There is not much to detail of the second day of the conference other than to say there were three breakout sessions that covered content, community, social media, etc. The sessions were all pretty good and informative with nuggets of information dolled out generously from a diverse amount of bloggers from a variety of backgrounds.
I enjoyed meeting and speaking with everyone and creating a list of new blogs to check out. I enjoyed seeing my blogging buds and catching up. There is a sense of belonging, a sense of getting it, where you don’t have to explain what a blog is and why you do it, and what is your motivation. It is encouraging and invigorating.
The closing session was a women-and-technology keynote by Holly Hamman of The Blog Frog and Wendy Sherer from the Social Studies Group. This was followed Jennifer of Mckmama by a blogger who had felt the “circling of the wagons” when she went through a horrible family crisis with one of her children. It was an amazingly touching story.
Overall, Blissdom 2010 was the best personal blogging conference I have been to yet. It will be a hard one to live up to and the Blissdom gals will have to outdo themselves to match that in 2011. I will definitely be showing up to see!
After spending nearly four days in the biodome known as the Opryland Hotel, Alisa, Laurie and I felt like we needed to breathe fresh air. We decided to have dinner out. A Facebook friend of Alisa recommended the Loveless Cafe as a Nashville institution for Southern food. Laurie’s Nashville guidebook said it was a great spot, so off we went.
We had no idea where we were going, and neither did the tax driver. But we were three tech savvy women with smart phones, so no worries. Only thing was we did not realize how far the restaurant actually was! $70 on the meter later, we arrived. As soon as we stepped inside we knew we were in Southern heaven, it smelled divine.
When the ladies at the Loveless Cafe heard we had spent $70 in cab fare to come to them they clucked over us like mother hens and made us feel extra special. But it was clear that they treat all their guests with the incredible hospitality that is a known factor to visiting the South.
The smell that greeted us turned out to be homemade biscuits that had just come out of the oven which were immediately placed on our table with jams, honey and molasses. I could have just eaten them for dinner. In fact later when Laurie asked if I wanted dessert I said I rather just have a biscuit!
The menu had all the Southern classics, but I did not have to look past the first line which was fried chicken. I love fried chicken. It is not something I eat often, but when I get a chance to have good fried chicken I will take it over most anything else. It is also my comfort food when I am sick.
Alisa chose fried chicken as well and Laurie picked fried catfish. We all took different sides, there were a ton to choose from. I had pinto beans and creamed spinach. Alisa had beans as well and collard greens and Laurie had creamed corn and hush puppies.
It was absolutely fabulous! The lovey ladies kept checking on us, bringing us fresh biscuits and making us feel at home. The conversation was great although we were all ready to head home. Unfortunately for Alisa with the snow storm hitting the upper eastern end of the country, her flight was canceled until Monday. Despite this setback, we laughed and ate and had a good time and I was glad we had come!
And I ate every single bite! Laurie convinced us to share a dessert (even though I had plenty of biscuits!). She chose rhubarb pie and of course it was yummy as well. Our cab driver stayed in the area, promising to take us back home which was awesome because I have no idea how we would have got a cab otherwise!
Our adorable waitress, Katie, boxed up Laurie’s leftovers and extra biscuits for me (I couldn’t resist!) and kept us company while we waited for our taxi.
We rolled ourselves into the cab and headed back to the hotel. $70 dollars later we arrived and said our goodbyes. I was a nice way to cap off my trip and I am really happy to have had a chance to have some Southern food. That meal cost us $210 dollars, probably the most expensive fried chicken in America, but it was worth every penny for the experience and an evening with friends among friendly faces.
So join me next year at Blissdom 2011 and we will head over to the Loveless Cafe and do it again, although I think next time we are going to find a less expensive way to get there! If you have a chance to get to Nashville before then you can find the Loveless Cafe at 8400 Highway 100 west of Nashville. Start getting to know them by following them on Twitter @LovelessCafe.
Sorry for the long post, hope you enjoyed a little taste of my weekend.