Back in October, the owner of The Blog University (aka BlogU), a national blog conference, approached me about taking a position on their Steering Committee. She asked me if I’d be interested in planning all of the logistics for the conference. Basically, I would be in charge of ALL THE THINGS related to the location where the conference was held. As she talked, I debated whether or not I could take on such a task. I mean, I loves me some organization and being in charge but this was no joke: people would be spending their hard earned money to fly across the country to attend a conference I organized. Many of the attendees are moms who need a weekend away to have five minutes of peace and quiet so they can actually work on their blogs. That’s a lot of pressure, people. I wasn’t sure I was the right person for the job but, when she told me I’d get to plan parties with someone else’s money, that sealed the deal.
I was officially the Logistics Bitch for BlogU and it was on like Donkey Kong.
So, from January until June, I planned. And I planned. And I got frustrated. And exhilarated when things fell into place. I complained. I whined. And I laughed my ass off with my counterpart, Jen from Real Life Parenting. Together, we talked daily and laughed at our inability to be professional on phone calls with each other. I mean, in what other job do you answer the phone to hear “What up, bitch….”? But that’s how we rolled and when June hit, we were ready. Mostly.
Throughout the planning phase, I learned a lot about about the backend of conferences. You know the signs you see at conferences? Yeah, those take approximately 119 emails to arrange and other 15 phone calls to confirm. Oh, you want a DJ for a party in a state that’s three away from yours? Yeah, that takes time and effort you don’t expect. Figuring out how to secure the classrooms, ballrooms, dorm rooms and other spaces you’ll need to have a successful event? Yeah, you can expect to send approximately one millllllllllion emails. Thank God for my University of Maryland coordinator, Jonathan: he’s a saint, people. For reals. I’d like to think he’s going to miss my “Hey, Jonathan, one more thing I forgot to ask about” emails but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case.
Conferences, it turns out, are a mega shit ton of work to plan. Who knew?
As the conference got closer, my stress level ratcheted to an all time high. I would lay in bed at 2 am and worry that I hadn’t ordered enough cupcakes. I’d stop in the middle of the grocery store and panic text Jonathan that we needed more chairs. I’ve planned a wedding and spent six years as an executive board member on our PTA and you’d think I’d be calm, cool and collected about having 125 bloggers join me in Baltimore for a weekend of blogging fun. Yeah, not so much. Hubby *might* even say I was difficult to live with for a few
weeks months. And by *might*, I mean he’d enthusiastically nod his head and yell, “YA THINK???”. Ahem.
But, when the conference finally got here and I put all of my hard work into action, I realized that I got so much more than I expected out of the weekend. I thought I’d leave with a big ego and a giant pat on the back for a job owned and done well but, it turns out, my work had nothing to do with me. And I was pleasantly surprised to realize that:
When you sit in a room and watch a writer receive an award for her writing and listen as she reads it, you realize she’s having a moment that you helped plan. And you cry because you are so moved by her words.
It really is possible to overestimate just how many cupcakes 40 something mom bloggers will eat. Seriously, with the leftovers, people?
When a blogger introduces herself to you, with tears in her eyes, and tells you that her first conference was everything she hoped it would be, you cry with her and hug her so tightly it gets a little awkward. Okay, a lot awkward.
It really is possible to underestimate how much walking people will be willing to deal with in the name of awesome blog classes. We walked close to ten miles a day every day we were there and most did it with huge smiles on their faces. A lot of F bombs, though.
When your blogging friend walks into a room and you haven’t seen her in a year, the screaming and jumping up and down makes the one million emails worth it.
Having a roommate who barges into your room at 2 am, slightly tipsy, and demands you wake up and hang out with her, is just as hilarious as it was when your college roommates did it. Almost. Because 40 now. I’m looking at you, Foxy Wine Pocket.
Coming home on Saturday night and ordering pizza at 1245 am still doesn’t suck. And it’s a lot easier to do with the iPhone.
If you plan a party and tell the attendees to wear tacky wedding attire, they will go big or go home. There will be red sequins, old lady mother of the bride costumes and dirty old uncle impersonators. And you will leave the UMD staff shaking their heads saying, “Bloggers be CRAY CRAY’. True story, right, Jonathan?
Looking around at the smiles, the laughter and the amazing group of writers sitting in the same room with you makes you feel like you are part of something bigger.
Getting emails, calls, texts and flowers saying thank you from over 25 people after the conference is overwhelming, humbling and embarrassing. And appreciated.
I said yes to something when I wasn’t sure I could complete the task. I “leaned in”, I learned, and I pushed myself in ways I never thought possible. And I came out on the other side with a very healthy appreciation for what it takes to plan a major conference. I also learned that if you plan it, they will come. Tacky wedding costumes and all.