Another Healthy Living Summit has come to a close and, just as in years past, I thought it would be fitting to do a reflection post on this year’s experience and even a little background into what went into making this year’s event such a success (I’ll give you a hint – partnering with HealthyLivingBlogs.com played a huge role!)
If you’re unfamiliar with the history of Healthy Living Summit please read THIS POST for a little background. If you don’t want to click over – just know that the summit began as an email between a few friends (Tina, Heather, Caitlin, Kath, Jenna, and myself) back in 2009 and grew from there.
At the beginning, planning the summit was a group effort. We divided up the roles evenly and did equal parts to execute the event as a whole. Then… life got in the way. Bakeries were being opened, books were being written, and life was taking the founding members away from the summit. Instead of letting the summit die, I took over in 2011 and planned the summit almost entirely on my own (I did have some great helpers who were AMAZING). I was on cloud nine after the success of the 2011 conference, but needed to take a breather before diving into 2012.
When planning for 2012 began this past January, I was feeling burnt out. Too much time had passed since the summit in August and that excitement I felt in Philly had worn off. I was suddenly scared. I was scared that HLS wasn’t relevant anymore, I was scared that no one would go, and I was scared that I had lost faith in myself to pull this off. I started talking to sponsors, but quickly realized the passion I once had was depleting – I needed help. Fast.
Back in April (or May?) I sent an email to Heather bearing my soul. I told her about my fears and newfound insecurities and that I needed help. Heather is probably one of the kindest, most supportive bloggers/people you will ever meet. She has a strong passion for this community that is so clear in every post, tweet, and comment she ever makes. What she has done to HealthyLivingBlogs.com is incredible – seriously check the site out!
Heather had attended both the Chicago and Philly HLS’s as a regular attendee and had insight that I didn’t have on the event, only ever being on the planning end. She wasn’t just willing to help – she was thrilled I asked. Heather got Julie on board and we had a conference call the very next day.
The call lasted an hour and I hung up feeling more pumped than ever about planning the summit. They both came in with fresh new ideas on how to revive the conference and make it as great as it once was. I’m pretty sure I got goose bumps talking to them.
Once Heather and Julie were on board, it was like planning took off. They took the shaky agenda I had started and grew it into something phenomenal. They invited speakers on board that I didn’t have the guts to ask (and they said yes!), they pulled volunteers from the HLB pool, and started brainstorming ways to make newbies feel welcomed (something we’ve always struggled with in the past). Basically, they were the fresh pair of eyes that HLS needed.
Thus, Healthy Living Summit 2012 was born.
They weren’t the only ones I pulled in for help. I think that’s something big I learned this year compared to last – it’s ok to ask for help! It doesn’t hurt to ask and you’ll be surprised how many people are always willing to say yes.
I spoke with the FitFluential mama, Kelly Olexa, back in May about helping with HLS and she immediately jumped on board. I think Kelly is another person who I can’t say enough nice things about. She also believes wholeheartedly in the community and has your back if you ever need a favor. Kelly is amazing and I owe her a million times over for being as awesome as she is and helping me when I needed her. She helped bring on a couple of sponsors and was kind enough to speak on the most popular session of the summit – Blogging with Brands.
When the countdown to ticket sales began in June, my fears started to come back. What if no one purchased any tickets? What if all of this awesome work we were putting into this summit was for nothing? Gulp.
When registration opened and 35 tickets were sold in the first 5 minutes, I breathed a sigh of relief. When we reached 70% capacity at the end of the night, I was a bit worried but still happy. Sure, we weren’t experiencing the same record breaking sales of selling out in the first 10 minutes like years past, but we were proud of our numbers and the event we were planning.
As the weeks ticked by, the hours began to feel like seconds and time passed way too quickly. Our goal wasn’t to leave things until last minute, but that’s what it felt like it was turning into. As buzz about this year’s conference spread, more sponsors began to come on board (not going to lie, we were very worried about this in the beginning) and the community began to build its own excitement about the event. I was still nervous, but their excitement made me excited.
When the week of the summit crept up – I couldn’t believe it. We gained two new sponsors the week out from the summit (can you believe it?!) and there were still plenty of admin tasks to take care (like finalizing the meal menu with the hotel!) The amount of emails going back and forth was insane, but we were so incredibly excited to get started.
I flew in the Thursday morning before the summit, but was wishing I had flown in on Wednesday – I think i needed an extra day to get settled, instead of diving in headfirst as soon as I (literally) walked in the front door.
We were put right to work and welcomed volunteers as they arrived in the hotel – we put them right to work too (don’t worry – we bought them lunch too). I think it was when we got to the hotel and started stuffing the swag bags that it hit me that this year’s summit was actually happening. I was a ball of nerves and probably could have run laps around the hotel to burn off some of the anxiety.
Everyone’s presence calmed me down. There was talk about which “mini-mingles” (our version of allowing bloggers to come together and explore outside the summit) everyone would be attending, which sessions they were looking forward to, who they were excited to meet, and what they loved most out of the swag bags. Most people in the room were relatively strangers (outside of twitter or blogs), but there was no awkwardness – just honest friendships being formed. All the talk reminded me what HLS was about – bringing like minded individuals together – and their excitement reminded me that all the planning is worth it.
Working with the Hyatt Regency Cambridge was incredible. I’ll admit they were a bit flaky with keeping in touch leading up the event (which had us all extremely worried), but once we were on site, there were no issues. If we needed something, anything, they were more than willing to make it happen. They even sent up welcome and thank you gifts to all 5 of our staff rooms and allowed us to play musical rooms so we could find a place to store our bags overnight. They even let us make last minute changes on room and AV set-up. They were all rockstars and truly deserve a round of applause. If you are planning an event in Boston, I can’t recommend the Hyatt Regency Cambridge enough.
Just as is true with every event, things did go wrong: the music wasn’t loud enough for our “shake your rebooty” dance party at the cocktail hour, we were short on our F&B minimum and were randomly adding items to breaks and meals (yes, soda did make an appearance simply because we needed to cover our contract), the room for the Crossfit workout was a TIGHT fit (though I haven’t heard anyone complain about it – maybe I was just extra sensitive to it since I had organized the workout), and I discovered my dog was being put to sleep on Monday and there was nothing I could do about it (cue emotional overdrive). I’m sure I’m leaving off more (a lot more), but those things happen. Most people probably wouldn’t have noticed unless I told them.
Overall I’m proud of this year’s Healthy Living Summit. This year we had a lot of new bloggers in attendance and they all reminded me that blogging is supposed to be fun. Yes, there’s a business side to it now (for me), but we should never lose ourselves trying to be something we’re not on our blogs. We have to stay true to ourselves by not giving in to what other people are thinking and saying – it’s OK to have your own opinions. People are going to disagree with you – that’s life! – but that doesn’t mean you’re wrong, it means you’re you and that’s something worth fighting for. It’s ok to not take yourself seriously and it’s ok not to be right all the time. We’re human – all of us – and perfection doesn’t come with the territory.
I was also reminded of all the great people out there. There are still so many great people out there and I had the pleasure of working with more than a few of them these last few months. My amazing co-planners (Heather and Julie), Kelly Olexa, all of our incredible HLS volunteers, our speakers, and anyone who stepped in and helped out when the summit started – you guys are incredible. Seriously. And I get teary eyed just thinking how much in debt I am to all of you. I hope you all know how much you mean to me.
I left Healthy Living Summit this year with hope. Hope that HLS will continue to grow and 2013 will outdo 2012, just as 2012 out did 2011. Hope that our blog world isn’t depleting, in fact, it’s growing and becoming stronger everyday. And hope these “blends” I have are not just blends, they’re true friends are with me for life.