Monday, July 28, 2014

When you give an 8 year old the camera + Summer Essentials Giveaway

Expect her to take some pretty bomb photos.

Pretty artsy, no?
A reusable tote filled with: large beach towel, plastic mason jar water bottle, Hawaiian Tropic Sunscreen, SPF Lip balm, Tickled Pink Detoxifying Facial Wipes, Revlon Lacquer Balm in "Demure," Organix Curl Perfecting Creme, Organix Argan Weightless Oil Hair Spray, Essie Nail Polish in "Rock the Boat," Essie Nail Polish in "Full Steam Ahead," Bath & Body Works "Endless Summer" Travel Sized Lotion and Body Spray, Orbit Gum,

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclaimer: Open internationally, pending shipping laws and restrictions.  Must be 18 or older or have parent's permission to enter. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Boats & Woes

I participated in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Millennial Central for #DiscoverBoating. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation. #MC

If I could take a boat rather than a plane to Australia, I would in a heartbeat. Instead, I get to endure a 5 hour flight to LA followed by a 15 hour haul to Sydney. Jetlag will be so real, my friends.

Before I ship off, let's take a second to reminisce on some of my favorite summer boating adventures.
Check out that sunburn! Hey, at least the water's lookin' good.
Have you and your family found time to enjoy this summer on the water? What was the best part? Was it the feeling of the wind in your face? The thrill of catching a fish? Watching fireworks over the water on the 4th? Perhaps seeing the smiles on your kids’ faces as they tubed?
Forever my proudest moment, catching this bad boy! Had to throw him back instead of frying him up, much to my dismay.
Elliot trying to convince me taking Maid of the Mist under Niagara Falls is a good idea.
Whether renting a boat on vacation, escaping the daily grind on a friend's boat, taking a sunset cruise or learning a new skill like fishing or wakeboarding, I want to hear all about your summer on the water!
For those looking to get their feet wet, Discover Boating is an online resource to explore the boating lifestyle. Packed with easy, interactive features to familiarize people with all aspects of life on the water: Boating ActivitiesYouth Programs, even a kit to convert your significant other into a first mate. 

Now meet a few of my first mates!

Jenn @ Hello Rigby!

Jenn is a seattle based gal who's slightly obsessed with her fox-dog, Rigby whom her blog is named after. She dishes on fashion, beauty, and current reads. 

As part of her 101 in 1001 days challenge, funny enough, #91 is simply: Go on a boat. And her favorite crayon color is Cerulean. "I always used that one up first, it's so pretty and reminds me of the water."
If today were my last day to live, I would start by getting a delicious brunch at one of our local favorite places that has the best Eggs Benedict. I love shopping, so I'd want to shop for the most beautiful outfit. I love getting spa treatments, so I'd love to get a facial and a massage. After treating ourselves, I'd want my boyfriend to take us out to one of the best restaurants in Seattle. After enjoying a fancy pants dinner, I'd want to indulge in dessert at home on the couch, in sweatpants and watch some Netflix.

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Jess @ Just Jess May

Home girl went diving with sharks in Australia! That's an adventure at the tip top of my bucket list.

No filter between my brain and the keys on my computer makes for a colourfully worded and very honest blog! I like to think of it like a dribble sundae, with a sprinkling of long-term relationship woes and comedy, the trials and tribulations of a twenty-something, full-time study and a severe case of sarcasm and gutter-mouth.

If today were my last day, I'd be somewhere awesome already because it takes forever and a bloody day to get anywhere from Western Australia so I couldn't jump on a plane and choof off. I'd make the best cup of tea of my entire life, while watching Geordie Shore then walk my dog. I'd call my folks, my friends and probably spend the rest of the day following my boyfriend around like a bad smell, just so I could stare at him all day. Then I'd have dinner at the pub, dancing the night away to loud 80s pop songs. I'm assuming it'd be like Cinderella at midnight, and I'd just turn into a pile of glitter on the floor. 

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Erin @ Happily Howards

A lifestyle blog with snippets of faith, fashion, food, and fun. My fashion can in no way compete with the top fashion bloggers out there, but I hope that people can stop by and be inspired to recreate an outfit. My food posts aren't Food Network worthy, but instead, are simple recipes for people on-the-go (or just flat-out lazy). My "fun" posts document the little adventures us former Texans take as we explore our new city in California, which somehow usually includes donuts. Enjoy my ramblings!

If today were my last day to live, I would spend the first part of it with my husband and pup. Probably eating brunch and going to the beach because doing that nearly every weekend has still never gotten old. I would spend the rest of the evening with good friends, good food, and good conversation. Those things are just great for the soul.

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Whether near an ocean, lake, river, or even wading in that backyard pond, let's make waves! How do you hope to spend your summer on the water? I would love for you to share!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to host a kick ass blogger meet 'n greet

Think back to your first months of blogging. What first drew you to this admittedly odd past time? A form of self-expression? The money? The friendships? Beyond a hobby, blogging has become a true passion of mine, and the community of amazing women is what has kept me around. You have encouraged and inspired me to be a better person, to share my heart along with my odd quirks.

If I could be IRL (in real life) friends with each one of you, I would in a heartbeat. Of course, that's not quite realistic considering we live on opposite ends of the country and even the globe. My Coast to Coast map revealed far more Ohio bloggers than I realized and I wanted to bring us together in one place.

3 months out

1. Check out Bloggers Coast to Coast 

Coast to coast is my solution to bridging the divide between internet and real life relationships. Currently 3,000 and growing, it is a great resource to find bloggers around your area to invite. E-mail me if you'd like temporary access to my spreadsheet. Do a quick Google search on local bloggers or networks for an additional list of blogs such as Girl About Columbus.

Compile your findings in a spreadsheet with each blogger's contact info (name, e-mail, blog name and URL) to make sending out invitations easy as pie.

2. Recruit a helping hand

At the start of planning this event, Holly was the one blogging friend I had kept in touch with in real life, so she was the easy choice. Brainstorm ideas on a GoogleDoc which is easily edited without having to e-mail back and forth nine million times. Holly was extremely helpful in making my vision a reality.

3. Decide on a vibe
Do you want to keep things casual, a fun chance for networking and bouncing ideas around or more structured with speakers and workshops? Would outdoor space be appropriate or do you want the event to feel more like a happy hour at a bar or a serious meeting in a hotel or conference space? Regardless, the event should center around building relationships-- about collaboration, sharing and developing thoughts, and strengthening your community.

4. Find a venue

Consider an accessible location. I chose Columbus, which was perfect. My hometown is smack dab in the middle of Ohio and many bloggers were willing to travel two hours from Cinci or Cleveland. Make sure the establishment will accommodate the number you plan to invite and will not be a distraction, and vice versa.
What amenities are required? Is there adequate parking? Do they allow outside food? Do they have an open bar or drink specials? If you are on a tighter budget, you can often get free event space if you go with a cash bar. This works well for weekday events where the bar would otherwise have low traffic. 

5. Set a budget

Decide if you will need to charge for the event. Do you have to pay for the venue? Are you providing food and drinks? If not, make it a free for all, as Holly and I did, then encourage everyone to bring their favorite hors-d-oeuvre or dessert. This adds a personal flare while avoiding turning off people for asking for money to attend. May I recommend my berry cobbler or mini-7 layer dips or Katie's bagel dip?

6. Send out an e-mail to gauge interest and availability

It can be difficult to coordinate everyone's schedule since many bloggers have time full time jobs, family obligations, etc. Weekends are the obvious choice, and the afternoon worked well for us.
Send out a When is Good with 2-3 potential dates in mind with a message such as:
We are looking to gauge interest on this event before we get too far into planning. We want to get the ball rolling on this ASAP so everyone can get it on their calendars! Feel free to pass this info along to any bloggers we may have missed. We are open to any and all suggestions you may have so please throw them our way! We look forward to meeting you!

**Use Bcc: rather than Cc: so people are not bombarded with a million "reply-all's" when you are the only one who needs the responses. Consider CC'ing your co-host each message so she's kept in the loop.

2 months out

1. Set a date

Determine the most popular choice from WhenIsGood results. Set the event date at least six weeks in advance to allow time for the word to spread and to give attendees time to make arrangements with sitters, etc.

Find out what is going on around town. Steer clear of dates when a huge sporting event or fair is occurring because: turnout may be lower and traffic could be worse. But certain events can work to your advantage as a transition out of the meetup. Many of the gals at my meetup headed right down the road to Digfest, a street festival showcasing local beers, wines, and food.

2. Send out formal invitations

Not a graphic designer by trade, made this bad boy on PicMonkey. #amateurhour

Include the name and date of the event in the subject of the e-mail so people don't miss out. Give bloggers an idea of the "feel" of the event in the invitation. Include links to nearby hotels, parking details, and fun places around the city for those unfamiliar with the location.

EventBrite is a simple tool I discovered after the fact, which would have saved me a lot of sanity, due to a plethora of useful features:
  • Create a branded event page to manage the RSVP and provide your event details. 
  • Keep track of the number of attendees and contact info in real time. 
  • Resend to guests that have not responded to the original invite. That way, you don’t need to re-enter email addresses or send too many emails to guests who are already attending.
  • Add to my Calendar button. 
  • Share buttons. Email to friends, tweet it, share it on LinkedIn, and like it on Facebook
  • Automatically schedule a brief reminder email to send to your attendees 48 hours before an event
  • Collect Custom Information: ie. guests meal choice or t-shirt size, then exportable to a spreadsheet.
  • Generate customized name badge templates for all registered attendees.
If you go my slightly more complicated route, use a Whosin to get a final headcount.

3. Create a button

Create a button in PicMonkey that bloggers can display on their sidebar so more eyeballs are on the event.

4. Generate a buzz

You need to build and keep the excitement level before, during and after the event for bloggers and influencers to stay excited. Blog and tweet it like crazy! Create a hashtag and encourage bloggers to use it in all their shares. This makes it easy to engage with others pre, during, and post-event. (Ours was #OHBloggers) People will retweet to get the buzz going. I found many more people to invite this way!

1 month out

1. Create a tentative agenda

You want the event to have structure but be willing to be flexible and alter it as the event progresses.
  • Ice Breaker to get people loosened up.
  • Keep presentations concise, visual, and interesting.
  • Time to fill out Blating Profiles.
  • Raffle prizes.
  • Make sure there are plenty of opportunities for unique pictures and content.

2. Craft Blating Profiles

I wanted a fun way to get everyone familiar with each other up while also keeping us in touch after the event. My solution? Blog dating profiles! Feel free to use my template as a guide and personalize the questions to your crowd! Consider calling it: The Blating Game, Blate me, maybe? Blaters Gonna Blate, BlaterAid. You're welcome.

I put together a few special swag bags and drew random profiles to win them. If you play a game with winners, these work well as prizes.

3. Buy supplies

  • Nametags
  • Pens
  • Swag bags. I included trial size beauty products, local items, chocolates, stationary. Ask around for sponsors or etsy owners to donate contents of swag bags. (ie. coupons, gift certificates, homemade goodies, samples) or check your Target dollar bins!
  • Paper products
Print signs with the official hashtag to display at the event.  

The big day

1. Greet guests
As a hostess, it can be difficult to feel like you need to greet incoming guests while keeping others entertained; especially if the event is Open House style and people are coming and going as they please. This is where your co-host can help take the load off! But don't feel guilty if you have to excuse yourself for a moment from a conversation, your guests will understand!

2. Make people feel comfortable

As much as we gripe and moan about ice breakers, they works wonder to get everyone relaxed and familiar with each other. Ease the social aspects of the event because not all social media enthusiasts are social by nature. If you notice anyone off at a table on their own, go talk to them one on one. They will thank you. Ps. Alcohol can also cure the social anxiety, but keep it to Patti's two drink maximum.

3. Network

Write both your real and blog name on nametag so people can match faces to blogs. When you get a good conversation going, slip a business card their way to ensure you keep in touch after the event. Who knows, you could have met your new BlogBFF!

1 week later

1. Send out a thank you

Let your guests know that you appreciate them attending and making your event a success (hopefully this is the case). A simple e-mail will do.

2. Ask for feedback
It is always helpful to get an outsiders perspective on what they liked/disliked about your event. Be open to constructive criticism. Even if you never host another meetup, it is nice to know your areas of improvement and to make your guests feel as if their opinion is valued which will only strengthen relationships.

Lessons learned:

  • Business cards are a must! 
  • At first we had wanted to book a hotel and do an overnight but that may be too big of a commitment and too pricey for some, so decided to hold it at one of our houses. 
  • I wish I had hired a professional photographer-- It was hard to get in photos when I was the one taking them. Plus, it took time away from connecting with my guests.
  • Realize planning events take time. A lot of it. (I'd say I spent five 8-hour days) Be sure you have the energy and resources to devote to it before committing. I'm looking at you, BP.
  • Bring an open mind and a smile!
Have you ever hosted an event? Any tips and tricks you would add to this list?