My Haven Conference recap will reveal what you need to know before, during and after your visit. I’ve packed this post full of practical and strategic advice to maximize your experience!
You’re probably reading this post because you fall into one of three camps: the Haven Curious, the Haven Newbie or the Haven Veteran.
I fall somewhere in between the Newbie and the Veteran. That means I still remember what it’s like to be the new kid but have enough experience to give the skinny!
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Before You Go
How do you know you’re ready to attend a Haven Conference? Well, if you have big dreams of developing your blog or social media presence into a thriving business, this conference is for YOU!
Still not convinced? Here are the concerns I often hear about attending Haven, along with my responses:
- “I only have a business or store front, but I want to start a blog.” You’ll find many kindred spirits at the conference. This year, Haven offered several courses for beginners, including a few branding and social media sessions.
- “I just started my blog, so I’m not very experienced.” This is the sweet spot for attendees, in my opinion. You know enough to soak up the industry jargon, and you can rapidly accelerate your growth.
- “I’m worried I won’t know anyone.” That’s exactly why you should go, my friend! Haven has a kick-off meeting for newbies, and you get to wear a “newbie” badge so others can take you under their wings. Plus, you’ll be assigned a small mentor group, which guarantees you’ll make new friends.
Now, let’s talk about some practical and strategic aspects of the conference.
I won’t get into the nitty gritty of what to wear or how to pack. (Bottom line: bring an extra suitcase for the swag and wear comfy-chic clothes.)
However, I do want to highlight a few critical items to prep…
Prepare Business Cards
This year, I did not hand out as many business cards because I already knew many people from the prior year. You’ll still want enough cards on hand (maybe 50-75) to share with the brands and other attendees you haven’t met before.
When designing your cards, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Include a photo of yourself to help others place a name with the face. (I didn’t do this my first year.)
- Include your logo, full name, e-mail, website and social media handles.
- If it makes sense for your brand, show a collage of recent projects.
- Use regular sized business cards, if possible, since they are easier to handle.
I’ve ordered my cards from Moo two years in a row. I tried getting cheaper cards from Canva this year, but I didn’t like the print quality and went back to Moo. (Canva’s customer service was excellent, though.)
Do what’s best for your budget/brand!
Bring (or Don’t Bring) Media Kits
Every year, people in Facebook groups ask whether they need to bring printed media kits. My advice? No.
I attended an entire session about media kits this year. Here are the key insights I gained:
- You should always create a PDF file of your media kit and upload it to a URL on your site.
- E-mail the URL link to brands, not the PDF file.
- Update the PDF file on the URL as your rates increase (due to your overwhelming success, of course).
Note: Whether or not to show your rates in a media kit is up for debate. That’s another post for another time.
If you don’t know how to begin creating a media kit, you can purchase a media kit template for use in Photoshop or Canva.
Find Your People
Once you register for the Haven Conference, make sure you connect with the Facebook page for attendees! You’ll find valuable information there, and you’ll start to connect with others from your neck of the woods.
This year, I found two fellow Texans to sit with on my flight. Here’s what we looked like in the THIRD HOUR of a flight delay. Thanks, Southwest, for hosting an impromptu happy hour for us!
Get Cozy with the Brands
Okay, you’re coming to make friends, but you’re also wanting to make bank. Here’s what you need to do.
First, find out which brands are attending. If you want to work with them, follow them on Instagram and tag them when you use their products.
Fortunately, I’m a proud owner of several Hoover cordless vacuums, so I had good conversations with the Hoover reps at Haven. Can we pause for a moment to discuss the cute puppies they brought?! Kim Holderness and I posed for the camera with our puppy baby.
You’ll stand out if you take your research seriously, and you’ll have more engaging conversations at the vendor booths.
Think About Your Project Pipeline
Guess what I learned at Haven this year! I’m NOT the only one who’s bad at planning my editorial calendar!
It seems many “creatives” aren’t good at planning, but we all have dream projects floating around in our heads.
Think about what makeovers, room challenges or DIY projects you want to pursue in the next 6-9 months. Then, be prepared to pitch those ideas to strategic partners or collaborators.
New lighting, anyone?
Clean Your House
No, I don’t mean this literally. I’m talking about your blog or social media accounts. Do they show your best work on the front page? Are you ready to invite vendors and fellow bloggers inside your home?
I made the mistake of not curating my home page as well as I could’ve before the conference. You’ll want yours to feature your best projects and maybe even an example of a sponsored post if you have one.
As Hashtag Jeff said in this SEO session, your site should help funnel your reader into the categories that are strategically important for your brand. A chronological list of your latest posts might not get the job done.
While at the Haven Conference
Take Notes in an App
You’ll hear about a TON of apps and services throughout the weekend. I find it easiest to keep a running list of these on a cloud-based app like Evernote or Wunderlist.
Most presenters will put their slides on Facebook later, so you don’t have to frantically write everything down.
Choose Your Sessions Wisely
If you’re just starting out, take every beginner session you can find. As you gain more experience, you’ll feel more comfortable participating in the hands-on workshops. Just follow your gut.
My advice is to grab a couple of friends and attend different sessions to compare notes. If you’re struggling with photo or film editing, the photography and film editing sessions are always worth attending in person.
Visit the Booths
Before you go to any booths, sift through your giant swag bag. There are often opportunities for giveaways and contests inside, and some of the offers are time-sensitive.
Now work the floor! Don’t tell yourself you’re too new/small to visit the vendor booths. (Everyone has a first date!)
Prioritize the brands that interest you most, and learn about which product line/categories they are pushing.
As an example, Home Depot recently launched a new home decor line, so you can bet that’s where they are interested in collaborating.
Hot tip: Most booths will start closing down by Saturday afternoon, so don’t wait too long!
If you’re not a newbie, try to remember what it was like at your first Haven. If you see someone sitting alone, invite them to dinner. A little kindness goes a long way.
After the Haven Conference
You’ve just returned…what now?
You might be feeling overwhelmed.
Maybe you’re totally fired up and more motivated than ever!
Maybe you’re filled with self-doubt because you’ve been surrounded by hugely successful influencers with 10X the followers, subscribers, etc.
I would argue that your priority coming out of Haven is…drum roll please…the people. Not the vendor people but the blogger people.
You will have lots of questions, doubts and concerns after a mega conference like this. Your “tribe” will help you sift through it all. Just know that tribes emerge and evolve over time. Don’t be surprised if you didn’t leave with one after your first Haven.
With that in mind, here is your Haven Conference homework:
- Go through your business cards, and make notes of fellow bloggers/influencers and their areas of expertise so you can stay in touch. Send them DMs. Highlight them in stories. Like and rate their FB pages. Use #onetofollow in IG to tag them. That’s how friendships start.
- Start a Facebook group/chat if you met a small group that wants to connect or collaborate.
- Based on what you learned, write down your short- and long-term goals for the rest of this year and next year.
- Download the presentations from the Haven Facebook group.
- Make a short list of brands you’d like to work with. Try to use their product(s) before reaching out. (Many will send you sample by mail or in person at the conference.) Start interacting in Instagram Stories or posts.
Your Burning Questions about the Haven Conference
Let me hear from you in the comments below! What burning questions do you have about Haven?
I’m planning to put together a series on topics that I discussed with fellow bloggers at Haven. There are too many nuggets about Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and SEO to cover here.
If you’re wondering whether it’s “worth it” to attend Haven, my answer is a resounding YES! I would not have the blogging friendships I have today without going to this conference, and to me, that’s worth a million bucks.