What You Missed at #FLBlogCon (And Why You Need to Go Next Year)
I attended my very first blogger conference, the 8th Annual FLBlogCon on September 29th in Winter Park, Florida. And to be honest, before last year, I didn’t even know a Florida conference for bloggers existed.I had been to two Florida Outdoor Writer conferences- lots of kayaking and exploring locations. Trading photography tips and learning how to pitch editors, but the blogger world always remained that misty grey space, accessible only through the internet.
I’d heard my fellow female travel bloggers talk about TBEX for years, wistfully watched the adventure-moms Instagram feeds fill with group camping pics, and drooled over selfies of mom bloggers hugging each other at BlogHer each year, but with a family of my own, I didn’t have either the time or money to rush off half-way around the globe, or even jet across America for a conference or blogger camp-out.
A pair of writers & fellow bloggers from the Florida Outdoor Writers Association told me about FL Blog Con last year at our writer conference (my first conference- and in my home town). They said I should go. Meet fellow bloggers. Connect. Socialize. But the conference took place immediately after the one where we were. I had kids and car lines, writing work and Hurricane Irma-too much baggage at the time.
But the moment I received that first email in March about this year’s Florida Blog Con, I snatched up an early bird ticket. (It’s way cheaper). And then I waited.
FLBlogCon was the brainchild of Blog Talk TV co-host and Smarketing News radio show host Bess Auer. With a busy scheduled life like hers, I suspect she couldn’t drop everything & jet off to a distant conference just to connect with the like-minded either. But what she did do, was create a annual learning haven & social mixer for bloggers.
Gotta Get Blogging
Every year the FLBlogCon centers around a theme, and this time it was ‘Year of the Creator.’ 6-months before the conference, we were encouraged to take part in the ‘Deep Dive’- free webinars and lessons on honing skills, monthly contests and get-togethers to fine-tune our craft and get our creative juices flowing for the grande finale- the Florida BlogCon.
The M Lounge Mixer
The evening prior to the conference, everyone was issued a casual invite to the M Lounge an exclusive, eye-popping rooftop bar in Orlando. On the ground level M Bar, Sleek leather couches were surrounded by snazzy Astin Martins and vintage Jags. It was a car museum. No, it was a bar- and a popular hang out among the millennial locals.
Up above, on the rooftop at M Lounge, blue neon lit the sky from two glowing terrace bars. Flames licked the night sky from the surrounding tiki torches while a electric-violin player kept the music flowing. We had views of the Orlando skyline in one direction and the Orlando Science Center’s planetarium dome in the other. M Lounge was definitely the up-scale place to be seen.
A pair of food bloggers did a Facebook live in one corner. Bess flitted around, introducing herself and welcoming familiar faces and us newbies. Instagram pics were snapped. Tweets tweeted. Social Media for the next day’s FLBlogCon was on fire.
The conference, set in Full Sail University in Winter Park, began at a nice 9:30 am. Giving us all enough time to zip into the nearby Starbucks for a caffeine fix on the way.
We were greeted by the kick off presentation- a lively anti-bullying message using humor & theatrics and a puppetry presentation by MicheLee Puppets, followed by tips from YouTube sensation JP Lamaise and Julia Goolia of Hellthy Junk Food. Julia makes a full time living off their YouTube escapades.
MicheLee Puppets has been using play and the art of puppetry to empower lives of children for 30 years. They provide entertaining & educational performances that address current & social issues, like bullying, (domestic) violence, STEM, nutrition & exercise. Kids are more responsive and receptive of concepts delivered through puppetry.
To break the ice between participants and encourage newbies out of their shyness, we were separated into groups by subject, allowing us time to connect with other bloggers in our niche, exchange social media handles and emerge from the chrysalis state (yeah, putting down your hoodie top for an introvert blogger is kinda the same feeling- this I know 😉
Afterwards, we broke out into a choice of 5 different learning sessions, located in various Full Sail classrooms from Present Yourself to a Brand by More Than a Homeschool Mom Meagan Goepferich to Advanced Strategies for Pinterest by Kim Vij of The Educators’ Spin On It. These breakout sessions went on for the remainder of the day, broken up by a lunch break in the courtyard courtesy Tijuana Flats and a humorous mid-afternoon keynote address by Up My Influence creator Josh Elledge.
The folks at WordPress Orlando were even on hand, offering free one-on-one help!
The FLBlogCon is sponsored by Ford & Your Southern Ford Dealers. They presented us with a cool swag bag filled with goodies from them and other sponsors. Ford also had some beautiful cars on hand (including a Mustang!) for the ultimate #FordSelfie- a contest they had been running since March.
The day continued with more breakout sessions and a wrap up after party with sponsors and vendors, tasty Italian Ice & shoes good enough to eat.
The Big Take Away:
FLBlogCon takes place annually with an attendance of around 300 Florida bloggers, vloggers, and social media mavens. It lasts from 9:30 to the wrap up party at 5ish. You have five-45 minute classes during the day & two key note speakers. These are live-presentations with Q&A. You can take notes during the classes/snap shots of the slides. The presentation slides were made available to us after the conference.
The Florida Blogger & Social Media Conference is not just about a one-day meet & greet. It’s about forming a blogger community- a network of like-minded individuals throughout the entire sunshine state.
What You Need to Know Before You Go
- Do signup with FLBlogCon to receive their announcements.
- Do buy your ticket when they come out. You’ll get the early-early bird discount and receive notices to events, webinars, and competitions prior to the conference. Oh yes, the tickets sold out this year, so don’t leave it ’til the last minute!
- Do participate in the pre-events if you can. This will help you to connect with the bloggers you’ll meet at the conference. Nothing’s better than seeing a big room of people you know 🙂
- Do make business cards- and actually bring them to the conference. (Yeah, you know who you are lol). You can exchange them with other bloggers you click-with and it makes you appear professional. There are brands & PR reps there scouting for connections. Be the connection-make the connection.
- Do check out the schedule beforehand and decide what classes you would be most interested in taking. That way you aren’t wandering around aimlessly and end up in the first class you see. There was no cap on class size. The SEO session I was in at the end of the day was packed- and so was the presentation.
- Do bring a jacket. The main meeting hall was freezing! Hoodie. Scarf. Maybe some woolly mittens?
- Do take photos- lots of them- you are rubbing with celebrities! I am seriously kicking myself for not taking a picture of JP & Julia- with nearly 2 million YouTube subscribers to their Hellthy Junk Food channel, some of their mojo might have rubbed off.
About Winter Park
Winter Park is a quiet town next to the busy Orlando. We stayed near the historic Rollins College on a red-bricked street just minutes away from the internationally acclaimed Morse Museum, housing the world’s largest Tiffany glass collection and Mead Botanical Gardens. Winter Park nestles around a chain-of lakes and Scenic Boat Tours offer trips through the lakes and channels connecting them with a historic narrative of the area and homes that is like being in a Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous episode.
My fellow outdoor writer friend, Naturecoaster Diane Bedard, and I took the AirBnB route during our FLBlogCon experience. We stayed in a quaint residence with a view to a duck pond and coffee shops just walking distance around the corner. Diane won the Sunshine Blog Award for Best Local Blog at this year’s FLBlogCon! Way to go! And if you put the work in, maybe next year you could too 😉
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