I will be breaking my recap up into several posts because there was too much fun-filled action to pack into one. Today, I'm giving you a brief synopsis of my first day in Chicago and my time at Bloggy Boot Camp.
(Ashley came to Chicago with me. I don't get much time off from work each year, and when I initially made the decision to attend Bloggy Boot Camp, I knew my trip would be part conference/part vacation.)
Our flight arrived at O'Hare around 9:30 PM on Thursday. We took a cab to our hotel, where the conference was held--the Hyatt Regency on Wacker. Our hotel was beautiful! It is centrally located in downtown Chicago, and we had amazing views of the city.
The conference started at 2 PM on Friday. Ashley and I walked around downtown that morning. We walked down Michigan Avenue, took a stroll through the Vietnam Memorial Park, and enjoyed the sights of the Chicago Riverwalk.
We stopped at Grahamwich for a quick lunch. Grahamwich is a sandwich shop owned by Graham Elliot, one of the judges on MasterChef. We headed back to the hotel after we ate because I needed to take a breather before the conference.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Grahamwich
Bloggy Boot Camp
I must admit that I was nervous going into the conference room because I had no idea what to expect.
The tables were assigned so I didn't have the added stress of deciding where to sit. I was thankful for that. Everyone was really nice, and I exchanged business cards with everyone at my table. We also changed tables two other times, and I was able to exchange cards with the bloggers at those tables too. Speaking of business cards, I'm glad I did a bit of research and learned enough to know that I should have some of my own. I don't think there was a blogger there without them.
I ordered my business cards from Vistaprint, and I'm really happy with them.
The first speaker was PR exec Alex Keats, and he was amazing. I learned SO much from his session. One thing he said that really resonated with me: "You are more than the sum of your channels."
I also learned a few things that I should have already known... like what a CPM calculator is, how to create content that people crave, and many different web tools.
The next session consisted of a panel of experts who answered different questions about working with brands. I learned a lot about what types of attributes brands look for when choosing a blogger for a project/campaign/etc.
The top attributes mentioned were: someone truly engaged, genuinely nice, passionate, fun, honest, and upfront.
They also made it clear that brands respect someone who says NO to potential job offers rather than someone who says 'yes' but doesn't agree with the values of the brand.
A few blog basics that brands look for:
1) The page loads quickly and properly.
2) The content is easy to read.
3) Your e-mail address can be found easily.
4) You use large photos that are properly edited.
5) Your 'About Me' page includes the metropolitan city closest to you, a brief explanation of who you are, and a breakdown of your typical blog posts.
I also learned about the many ways you can make money from blogging, such as affiliate marketing, consulting, freelance, video, teaching, design, and featured content. I obviously learned more than I would ever be able to share with you, but I wanted to share the things that stood out to me the most. I hope you enjoyed them!
The conference lasted for two days, but I only attended the sessions on Friday. I felt a bit bad about not attending the sessions on Saturday, but this trip also served as a mini-vacation for me and Ashley. There was so much in Chicago I wanted to do, and there was no way I would have been able to squeeze it all in if I had attended Saturday's sessions too.
I also didn't attend the cocktail party or dinner reception on Friday night. Ashley went on an architecture boat tour while I was at the conference, and although I'm sure he would have been fine to eat alone, I decided to go eat with him instead. We walked to Bella Bacinos and indulged ourselves in a Chicago style pizza. Yum!
After stuffing ourselves with pizza, we headed back to our hotel for some much needed relaxation.