Near the end of July, I had the opportunity to go the the Haven Blogging Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I first heard about Haven shortly after I started blogging and knew that I had to try and attend one year. Well, this year I was finally able to pull it off!
I bought my ticket to Haven back in April and have been looking forward to it ever since then. Today I wanted to share my recap of the weekend and give you a little insight into the conference.
PS: This post is definitely more personal than my normal DIY and tutorial posts. Also, it ended up being a LOT longer than I was expecting. So, if you read through the whole thing, you are awesome! I hope you enjoy my recap!
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Be Brave – Haven Conference 2017
Thursday I got up bright and early and headed off to the Pittsburgh airport. My friend Abby from Just a Girl and Her Blog (who is also from Pittsburgh) and I managed to get the same flight out. So we met up and got to hang out at the airport for a while. Before we knew it we were off to Atlanta!
After navigating the Atlanta airport, we met up with my roomie Jackie from School of Decorating! Originally, I didn’t have a roommate for Haven because I didn’t really know anyone, but Abby connected me with Jackie beforehand so that we could be roomies. The three of us got an Uber and made our way to the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Buckhead!
When we got to the hotel, you could already feel the creative energy! Right away I started recognizing bloggers that, up until that point, I had only “known” from the online world. It was so cool to be in a place surrounded by people who totally understand the whole blogging thing.
The day that we arrived, the hotel was pretty busy so our rooms weren’t ready yet. We decided to hang out in the hotel lounge restaurant and chat. Seriously, this was one of my favorite spots in the whole hotel. You can’t beat this amazing view!
While Abby, Jackie and I were sitting at a table, I got the chance to meet some bloggers right away. That’s because Abby and Jackie have been blogging for much longer than I have! They already were friends with people. It made me realize that the connections you form online actually do translate into real life friendships!
While we were sitting, Cami from Tidbits pulled up a chair to join us. She was so sweet and down to earth. I really enjoyed spending some time with her. I also got to meet one of the creators of Haven, Traci from Beneath My Heart! She was awesome and so fun to talk to!
Be Brave Moment #1
I’m going to be honest here for a second and tell you about the first “Be Brave” moment that I had at the Haven Conference. I have to admit, it was a little intimidating for me to be surrounded by all of these “big bloggers.” I kind of started to feel the imposter syndrome creep in. Like I totally didn’t belong.
From the minute I got to the conference, almost everyone would start by asking you “What’s your blog?” And up until this point, no one in real life has ever asked me that.
It was kind of difficult to say “my blog is Keys to Inspiration” and have people look at me like they have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m still a newbie, so it was normal that people didn’t know about my blog. But, it was definitely a little difficult at first. You’re putting yourself out there and being vulnerable. I think anyone can relate to that feeling of opening yourself to the possibility of rejection.
I decided to just be brave and put myself out there. I had to push through my fears of rejection and anxiety to really take that next step with my blog.
PS: It was also helpful to have business cards on hand —> “Here’s my blog name and here’s a card with my blog name, picture, and contact info!”
After about an hour of hanging out in the hotel lounge, I finally got a call from the hotel saying our room was ready! Jackie and I grabbed our bags and headed up to our room! Oh, and I forgot to mention that we also got our conference name badges and our swag bags!
If you aren’t familiar with the Haven conference, every year the Haven team and sponsors put together these amazing Swag bags for attendees to take home. Here’s a picture of my swag bag once I got it up to the room!
It was FILLED to the brim! Stick around until the end of this post, because I’ll show you what was inside!
After we got settled in the room, it was time for me to get ready for the Haven Newbie meetup. I knew that I wouldn’t have time to come back to the room between the newbie meetup and the welcome reception, so I decided to get dressed up for the event. I ended up wearing this high-low dress (Thank you, Putting Me Together for the recommendation).
Be Brave Moment #2
Keeping with my theme of being nervous, I was a little nervous about going to the Haven Newbie meetup too. I’m an introvert (honestly I think most bloggers are introverts) so this was out of my comfort zone. My roomie Jackie encouraged me to go and so I decided to be brave and just do it!
Once I got to the meetup, I started introducing myself to other bloggers. One of the first bloggers that I met was Allie from The Adored Abode. I was so glad that we connected because we started chatting right away!
A little later, I noticed another blogger who was dressed up just like me in a super cute dress. That’s when I saw her nametag and recognized her blog – Naptime Decorator! I had just read her latest blog post about getting ready to come to the Haven conference and it was so cool to be able to see her in person.
I was hesitant to go up and tell someone that I read their blog (#fangirling), but again I decided to be brave and just do it. So, I tapped her on the shoulder and said hi and that I loved her blog! That’s when I met Liz! She was so kind and gracious. It made me feel instantly relieved that she didn’t think I was a weirdo walking around saying “OMGSH I READ YOUR BLOG!”
After the newbie meetup, it was time for the welcome reception. The welcome reception was hosted by Delta Faucet and was on the two terraces outside of the hotel. You guys, it was definitely hot outside for this party, but I couldn’t complain because the setting was amazing! It was honestly the cutest party atmosphere. Just look at these pictures!
Allie and I stuck together (being the newbies that we are) and watched as all the bloggers started to funnel into the event. Right away, we saw Liz come out onto the terrace and she came right over to where we were saying “YAY, my people!”
The three of us spent the entire time at the party chatting, drinking some wine, getting to know each other, and spotting other bloggers! It was a blast! And, we couldn’t resist getting our picture taken in front of this awesome Haven balloon display. #ObligatoryHavenBrandedPhoto
After the reception, everyone headed out for dinner. Allie, Liz and I went out to a pizza place nearby and spent the whole time chatting and getting to know each other.
Back at the hotel after dinner, my roomie Jackie and I finally got to touch base again after a busy first day. It wasn’t even the first day of the conference you guys, and it was already busy! We stayed up late talking and talking and talking some more. Jackie and I really hit it off and it was so awesome getting to room with her. We are both “science-minded” so we clicked right away! We finally called it a night after we were both super tired and ready to fall asleep!
Friday was the official start of the Haven conference. In the morning, Jackie and I went downstairs to meet up with Abby for breakfast. It was so fun and I got to meet some of her best blogging friends.
I finally got to meet Chelsea from Making Home Base. I’ve been following her blog for a while now and connecting with her online. I’m such a big fan and she is the absolute sweetest!
I also got to meet Lauren from Bless’er House! I love her blog and have been reading for so long now. She was so kind and sweet.
The conference kicked off with a keynote from Rachel Kate. Then, we had a chance to walk around a meet with some of the brands.
One of the best things about blogging conferences is the ability to connect with brands in your niche. Each sponsor brand had a booth setup where you could meet representatives and also get contacts for possible future collaborations.
It was also a great opportunity to try out their products in person. For example, I got to make a pretty painted tray at the Behr booth and then I got to add some gorgeous hardware to it at the Liberty booth!
Meeting the Gold Man at the Liberty Booth!
Ryobi’s booth showcasing all of their amazing tools!
Home Depot’s incredible booth! They had cute buttons that you could grab in these containers.
The Home Decorators area. Home Decorators is Home Depot’s furniture line. They have some amazing products. Check out Home Decorators Collection online here.
Some of the brands even bring in special guests as part of their booth, like Dremel who brought Clint Harp from Fixer Upper! It was so cool to meet him and grab a picture!
The other aspect of blogging conferences is learning from other influencers. Haven has a nice mixture of blogging classes and DIY classes.
The first day of the conference, I went to three sessions:
- How to Work with Brands (When You Don’t Have the Numbers) – Lindi Vanderschaaf from Love Create Celebrate
- Grow Your Instagram and Have Fun Doing It! – Sarah Hollingshead from Our Vintage Farmhouse
- Busy Blogger’s Guide to Handlettered Signs – Jocie Hagan from One Project Closer
In between the sessions, there was an amazing lunch provided as part of the conference. I mean look at this amazing food! It was delicious.
After the first day of the conference was done, Liz, Allie and I all met up and decided to go to dinner again. This time, we decided to stay at the hotel and eat in the lobby lounge. It was a great place to relax and also a great place to get some food.
After dinner, we got ready for the Ladies Night In. This was a craft night planned for all of us to hang out, meet people, and get our craft on!
I got to sit down with Lucy from Craftberry Bush and try my hand at watercolors! You guys, I had SUCH high expectations for my watercolor skills. Literally, I was hoping to be able to frame my creation …..????!
Lucy was so talented and did an amazing job explaining how to make beautiful leaves and flowers. Her art is incredible. This is what her watercolor creation looked like.
I started by trying to paint some eucalyptus leaves, my favorite greenery. This is what I ended up with.
I’d say this is more of a practice sheet than a masterpiece! And check out that dead twig at the bottom!????
It wasn’t really something I could frame, but at least I learned the skills to try watercolor on my own at home. I’m definitely going to need some practice.
The party setup was so cute! It was tropical themed!
After the party, I was exhausted, but still on a high from the day’s activities. Jackie and I stayed up again in our room chatting until all hours of the night!
Saturday started off the same as the first with a breakfast in the main conference area. After breakfast, we had some time to walk around the brand booths again.
A cute setup from the Home Decorators Collection
I was so happy to run into Amada from the Kolb Corner and Trisha from Rosewood and Grace. Amanda recognized me because we used to link up together at a few link parties. It was so fun to meet her in person!
The second day of the conference, I went to four sessions:
- How to Make Video Content for Social Media – Ben Uyeda from HomeMade Modern
- DIY Picnic Games with Dremel & Rogue Engineer – Jamison Rantz from Rogue Engineer
- A Content Strategy with a Brain – Kirsten Thompson from Sweet Tea LLC.
- Blogging: Organized! How to Work Smarter — Not Harder — to Grow Your Blog and Business – Abby Lawson from Just a Girl and Her Blog
I wasn’t originally planning on going to the Dremel session, but after lunch, I had an open spot in my schedule. So, Liz and I went together to go check it out!
When we got to the room, there were Dremel tools setup at each station for people to try. We got to use the tool to create a cute wooden tic-tac-toe board. It was nice to finally get to try a Dremel tool since I had never used one before. The best part about it is that it’s so powerful, you don’t really need to use a lot of force or pressure. The tool does the work for you!
At the end of the session, Jamison told us all to grab the boxes from under our seats and pack up the tools so that they could clean up the room for the next session. And then as we were packing them up he said “And……go ahead and put that toolkit in your bag because you are each taking home a Dremel!” The whole room screamed and everyone was so excited! It was awesome.
When I opened up my box, I noticed that there was a Rogue Engineer sticker inside, which at the time I thought was a nice touch. But then, they announced that if you had a sticker in your box, you won another Dremel prize package. You guys, I walked away with a Dremel Makers Kit too!!! It was amazing!
After the sessions were done for the day, we all made our way back to the ballroom for the closing session with KariAnne Wood from Thistlewood Farms. You could tell from the moment she got on stage that she was the sweetest and nicest person ever. She was so genuine and told us a few stories about her first conference experience. She then explained how her life has changed since she started blogging. She was inspiring and had everyone a little emotional too.
Her session focused on 7 things that she would have told her new blogging self. One of them really stuck out to me and that was “Never Apologize for Where you are on the Journey.”
Be Brave Moment #3
It is so easy for me to diminish myself or start trying to make some sort of explanation for why my blog isn’t the biggest and the best yet. Or to try and explain why my growth hasn’t followed the same path as others or that my blog isn’t my full-time job.
I constantly try to justify it to people and I realized that I need to stop apologizing for where my blog is and where I am in my journey. Just because I’m still small doesn’t mean my blog isn’t great or that I’m any “less” of a blogger than anyone else. KariAnne gave me that permission to be brave and proud of my journey and my unique path.
It was an awesome end to an awesome conference! At the end of the closing session, it was also announced that next year Haven 2018 will be in Charleston SC!
After the closing session, Liz, Allie, Jocie and I all went out to dinner for some tacos!
Once we got back to the hotel I completely crash! I was tired! I spend about an hour trying to pack all of my freebies into my suitcase. It was a tight fit! I had to take all of my clothes out of the main suitcase and put them in my carry-on. That big suitcase was filled with my swag and other goodies from the conference. It was crazy.
That night, Jackie and I stayed up super late again just chatting. It was so nice to have a roomie that I just clicked with. She was the best. I’m so bummed though because, in all of our fun, we never got a picture together! Thankfully, Liz grabbed this photo of all of us at the closing session.
Jackie, next time for sure we will get a picture.
Sunday, I was able to sleep in just a little which was awesome. Abby and I grabbed an Uber to the Atlanta airport to make our way back to Pittsburgh.
Once I was home and unpacked, I was amazed at how much stuff I managed to bring with me. Here’s a glimpse into what all the conference swag looked like at home.
Also, those pictures are missing my amazing handlettered sign and my Handy Paint Pail (because it was being used at the time…it’s awesome)!
Sadly, one of my goodies didn’t make it back in one piece. My cute Behr mug!
Oh well! I still have this picture with it. HAHA
Haven was such a whirlwind weekend, but it was also so much fun. I took crazy amounts of notes, collected tons of business cards, met lots of new friends, and had an awesome time.
Haven was a little overwhelming and also a little scary, but it was totally worth it. It took me outside of my comfort zone and taught me the benefits of just being brave!
Did you go to Haven this year? Or have you been in the past? Maybe I will see you next year in Charleston!