Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Texas Style Council Conference: My personal experience.

So this was supposed to be my big Texas Style Council Conference recap post, where I shared with you all the minutiae of the conference. I intended to give you behind-the-scenes photos, panel recaps, outfit pics and general tidbits from three days of parties, panels and events.

This is not to be.

As community outreach manager, I quickly learned that I would be lucky to take a deep breath during the conference, much less compose summaries of panels. I neglected to get photos with my favorite bloggers -- women I was truly excited to meet. I didn't get a chance to attend some of the panels during the symposium, which was a huge personal disappointment. I didn't connect with the brands and speakers I had hoped to. I was unable to really focus on socializing due to the overwhelming anxiety of trying to do a perfect job both for Indiana and TxSC attendees. I was so distracted that I had trouble concentrating on conversations and forgot my book, which I intended to sell after my panel but was left behind at TxSC headquarters (my fault completely.) Truthfully, I was a nervous wreck, and my anxiety kept me from enjoying my time in Austin and connecting with many of the people I was around.

I'm not sure if I will ever have the opportunity to co-host a bloggers conference, especially one as large as TxSC was -- the event was oversold, and we ended up with 270+ bloggers -- and truthfully, I doubt I'd want to. I learned I am not so great at being an organizer. I am an excellent speaker, a wiz at social media and a talented writer. But natural born leader I am not. In my attempts to help meet the needs of so many people, of trying to impress my boss, of mingling with well-known bloggers and of the responsibilities of my job, I lost the joy I had when I attended TxSC as an attendee last year. In addition, I can't help but feel that the environment and feel of the conference was quite different this time around. The combination of so many attendees, a limited amount of space, and so many high-profile people created an event that was tough for me to process. I'm not trying to throw Indiana under the bus by saying that. It's just the way I felt.

Overall, I was exhausted, and stressed out, and probably rather unpleasant to be around myself. I neglected to make my personal priorities important, and as a result did not make the time to seek out bloggers I yearned to meet and attend the panels I was intrigued by. Worst of all, though, I was unable to give attendees the best version of myself. Instead I presented to them a frazzled, overwhelmed, and awkward women I hardly recognize.

I never understood just how much work goes into planning such a large, complex event. I suppose I was fortunate in that my responsibilities were limited to managing the social media accounts and blog, as well as prepare for the panel I was speaking on and the thrift workshop I co-led. I cannot imagine how I would have handled working with brands, locating spaces for the parties and symposium, signing speakers and making travel arrangements. I so admire Indiana for her hard work at pulling all of these elements together. Organizing and planning a conference is a highly complicated process. There's so much more that happens which attendees don't get to see.

Fortunately, I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from bloggers who were at the Texas Style Council Conference, and heard that the panels were informative, engaging and enjoyable. I had the pleasure of speaking about creative consumerism with Meryl, Grechen and Pamela, and it was fun to to talk to attendees about buying secondhand. The thrift workshop with Jentine, Jessie, and Pamela was a blast, despite the pouring rain (the weather during TxSC was less than ideal. I'm talking torrential downpours and chilly temperatures.) I also had an awesome roommate -- Kyla, who I met at last year's TxSC -- and was able to meet with a few local business owners. Blogging conferences overall are a pretty amazing opportunity to learn, to grow, to network and, most importantly, to have fun.

My lessons from TxSC? Hand out your business card to everyone you meet. Conferences are as much a networking opportunity as a social event. Don't be nervous to approach a blogger you admire. Wear comfortable shoes. Stay with the people who make you happy and bring out the best version of you. Smile more. Understand that you won't connect with everyone, and that's okay.

If you're hired to work on a similar event, get your job responsibilities in writing, and refuse to perform additional work unless paid for it. Insist on receiving credit for your job, preferably in the form of public thanks, media credit or other form of print. And demand to be compensated for what you are worth. (I received all of these things, so no worries from my end.)

Did you attend the Texas Style Council Conference? Have you attended other blogging conferences? I'd love to hear your thoughts on your experiences.

P.S - In a sad turn of events, I also lost my iPhone while in Austin...and the few photos I had taken with it. Boo. But here are a couple from the interwebs. If you have more photos of or with me, please let me know. I have a serious case of the sads today.

Grechen and I; a blogger modeling a vintage dress; and Linda and Sydney at the Hunt.Gather.Style pop-up shop, who dressed me for the weekend. My sequin blazer is a $8 thrifted score from a Dallas Goodwill.

From Hunt.Gather.Style I wore this: a vintage mink cape and crocodile clutch. Go big or go home, I figured.

I forget whose site I swiped this from (sorry.) There's me, Sara, a blogger whose name I didn't get, and Julie at the Poshmark Posh Party.

Being interviewed at the swap.

Amy, Indiana and I at the swap.

For more photos from the swap, head over to the Swapaholics page to see. If you were at TxSC, you might be in one of them!