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A look back at planning Healthy Living Summit 2012

by Meghann on August 22, 2012

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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

Enter: HealthyLivingBlogs.com

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sorry. Tangent.

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.

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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.

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Thank you.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Julianna @ Julianna Bananna August 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm

loved this post! i’m sad i didn’t get to make it to HLS this year – but fingers crossed i will in 2013!
Julianna @ Julianna Bananna recently posted..Welcoming Back WIAW

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2 mindy @ just a one girl revolution. August 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm

You are WONDERFUL, Meghann and you guys put on a spectacular Summit this year. Out of the three years I’ve attended, this was the best yet. If you guys need help putting 2013 together, please don’t hesitate to ask!! :)
mindy @ just a one girl revolution. recently posted..#hls12 sunday.

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3 Katy Widrick August 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm

LOVE THIS. Every word, every sentiment. So proud of everything you have accomplished!
Katy Widrick recently posted..Releasing the Fear

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4 Annette @FitnessPerks August 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm

That’s amazing what you guys were able to do & pull off. NICE work!!! I’ve only heard good things about this HLS this year–so you guys are rockstars.
Annette @FitnessPerks recently posted..Eccentric & Concentric Contractions

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5 Courtney @ Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life August 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Awesome post, Meg! Loved helping out this year and getting to spend some more time with you. You three did an absolutely phenomenal job and I’m already looking forward to 2013! :)
Courtney @ Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life recently posted..HLS Newbie Q&A Panel Recap

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6 Sarah @ Blonde Bostonian August 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm

BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO ladies! This was my first summit and I had the most amazing time. Everything felt fluid, organized, and uber professional. I didn’t stay in the hotel (drove to the events) but even so, all the staff were wonderful if I had questions. I am so glad that the HLS happened this year – I already feel like a more legitimate blogger and the inspiration and drive that overtook me when I left was astounding. There’s already been movement on getting a Boston Healthy Living Blogs group together after we heard you talk about organizing meetups in the session. https://www.facebook.com/groups/HealthyLivingBostonBloggers/

Thank you thank you thank you!

If you need help for next year, I am officially volunteering now! I would love to be a part of this!

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7 Beth (Running with the Sunrise) August 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm

From everything I’ve read about HLS written by other bloggers, it sounds like this year’s summit was a total success, so you should be so proud of what you accomplished. I can’t wait to hear more about the 2013 summit–I’d really like to attend!
Beth (Running with the Sunrise) recently posted..Tuesday Run: 6 Yasso 800s

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8 Camile August 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I asked this question before but I never saw a response: Are you guys ever thinking of considering moving the date of HLS given that it is back to school weekend for so many teachers (I know you must know this given Kelly is a teacher)? I always get so sad reading all the HLS posts and knowing that if it stays this weekend forever that I will never be able to attend. Just wondering if it is at all something that is on the table or if I should just banish it from my mind.

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9 Meghann August 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Hi Camile, I actually put the idea out there of moving the summit to February for this year but the idea was immediately shut down – people wanted it to be in August. We would love to move more towards the beginning of August but BlogHer has that weekend secured and rumor has it that FitBloggin is moving to June for 2013. It’s a tricky to schedule conferences and find a time of year that works for everyone. :(

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10 Heather August 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm

ACTUALLLY -

Stay tuned to HealthyLivingBlogs.com in the new few weeks – we are announcing something VERY SIMILIAR to what you guys are discussing here….. ;)
Heather recently posted..Simply Saturday

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11 April August 23, 2012 at 9:32 am

Oooooh I CANT WAIT! This is my first year working at a college and the ONLY reason I missed this year. Definitely going to make a point to go next year no matter what weekend it is.
April recently posted..This Or That? Tough Food Choices

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12 Sam @ Better With Sprinkles August 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm

It sounds like you guys did an amazing job!

I just started blogging, but I’m really hoping to make it out to HLS 2013. :-)
Sam @ Better With Sprinkles recently posted..ED Talk – Are Memoirs Helpful or Triggering?

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13 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats August 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I cannot rave enough about how great HLS was this year, awesome job Meghann! And we knew the crossfit room was too small for what they planned, but honestly none of us really cared! We knew it would be something like what we did because of space constraints so no one left disappointed, I actually had a great time learning how to actually squat properly (doing it sooooo wrong) and talking to some of the crossfit reps!
Katie @ Peace Love & Oats recently posted..WIAW–Week Off!!!

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14 Dori August 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm

I’m working on my HLS post now and hope to have it up tomorrow, but spoiler alert: I was REALLY impressed. Everything ran so smoothly and the content of the sessions was great. To be honest, it was a lot better than I expected. I can’t believe what great and knowledgeable public speakers we have in the blogging community. As for the CrossFit workout, the room looked tight but there was plenty of room during the workout and I didn’t feel squished or lacking for room at all. I think the coaches might have chosen the workout moves based on the amount of space available actually. We didn’t leave our little spots and it worked out great. Thank you for not giving up because I really had a great time and loved being on a panel. I ended up wishing I could have stayed longer!
Dori recently posted..I Did Not Inherit the Cool Genes, or the Cool Jeans

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15 Tessa @ Amazing Asset August 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Love this reflection, thank you for outlining it like this for everyone that attended and didn’t as well! I have been enjoying reading all of the recaps as it has given me the chance to relive the weekend and also learn lots that I missed. This was my first summit, it was a fabulous weekend and although I was challenged at times (from various sources), overall it was a success for me and I look forward to next year!
Tessa @ Amazing Asset recently posted..WIAW- Were You Watching Me?

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16 Meghann August 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Thank you, Tessa! I just read your reflection post and I’m sad we didn’t get to spend more time together to talk. Maybe I’ll catch you in email land sometime.

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17 Tessa @ Amazing Asset August 22, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Yes please Meghann, I hope that occurs :)
Tessa @ Amazing Asset recently posted..WIAW- Were You Watching Me?

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18 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More August 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Love this! I was sad I couldn’t attend this year after having SO much fun last year but with a big move in the next week, it just couldn’t happen for me. BUT i heard amazing things about it and hope to attend next year. In fact, I would LOVE to help you with the planning process if you’re looking for it! :)
Katie @ Talk Less, Say More recently posted..WIAW / Chocolate Banana Protein Muffins

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19 Meghann August 22, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Thank you, Katie! :)

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20 Katie August 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm

It looks like you, heather, and Julie did a fabulous job. I couldn’t help but notice the lack of support from the other original HLS founders- not only did none of them attend, but no one advertised HLS on their blogs or did ticket giveaways this year. That is a bummer.

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21 Meghann August 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm

The truth is I didn’t ask any of them to. I think they’ve removed themselves from HLS and I’m ok with that. Caitlin was going to post one, but she went into labor the day it was supposed to go up. :)

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22 Julia August 23, 2012 at 11:48 am

Yes, I noticed the same thing regarding the other bloggers. Good for you for continuing in your leadership!!! It looks like you did a phenomenal job.

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23 Kathy August 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Hoot Hoot to what looks like was indeed a great summit…2013 will be wonderful too I am sure. ;-)

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24 Theodora August 22, 2012 at 4:45 pm

What a great post! You all did a great job and thanks for having me speak.
Theodora recently posted..Dinner with My Favorite + Week 6 of MCM Training

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25 Megan August 22, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Wedding planning is going to be a breeze compared to this–everything looked wonderful :)

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26 Jen@HealthyFoodandFamily August 22, 2012 at 6:53 pm

I absolutely LOVE the Healthy Living Blog community and hope it never goes away! For me it’s just for fun and a way to keep myself accountable, but I love the community part of it as well :)
Jen@HealthyFoodandFamily recently posted..Weekend Wrap Up and Weigh In

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27 Stephanie August 22, 2012 at 11:41 pm

This was a great post!! I never realized that HLS wasn’t always combined with HLB.. I just assumed it was! From all the posts, it can tell you put your blood, sweat and tears in HLS it make it such as great weekend. I am just about to launch my own blog and hope to attend the HLS next year. Thanks again for all the background!

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28 Andrea August 23, 2012 at 12:16 am

Meghann – You are one of the few bloggers that do this for a living that I still read. Why? Because you’re still the same blogger, writer, girl that you were when I started reading back in 2008. At least you come across that way in your posts :) Yes, it’s a “business” but that’s only because you’re fortunate enough to make some money doing something you obviously love. No one can blame you for that!
I’m very impressed with what you did with HLS the last couple of years, so kudos to you :) Will you please consider the West Coast next year? Spread the love – we are way healthier over here!!

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29 Hangry Pants August 23, 2012 at 12:56 am

It looks like you and everyone who helped did a really great job!

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30 HangryPants August 23, 2012 at 1:14 am

P.S. I loved the idea of the mini mingles!

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31 Erin August 23, 2012 at 7:25 am

Oh Meghann, wow! I am so blown away by this recap… Since I was there I knew that you put a lot of hard work, heart, soul and energy into the conference but I don’t think anyone knew how much stress and fear was mixed in there too (mostly at the beginning). All I can say is the event was a HUGE success :: It ran smoothly, super organized, great sessions, great food, lots of stuff to choose from, great sponsors, and a good spot to have it. Overall I was blown away, especially since you’ve been planning since January. Seriously, you’re amazing Meghann and you did a great job!! Thanks to Heather and Julie too!!

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32 Rachel August 23, 2012 at 7:44 am

Looks like a very successful event! Kudos to you for all your hard work.

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33 tania August 23, 2012 at 9:47 am

I also found it odd that none of the original planners even mentioned the HLS on their blogs….

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34 Carolyn August 23, 2012 at 10:29 am

New(ish) to your blog, but not new to convention planning, or that hotel (and it’s flakiness!). The event looks like a blast, and I’d love to be able to help, even if it’s just virtually. Best of luck for 2013!
Carolyn recently posted..Running in Slow Motion

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35 Lauren @ The Unlikely Runners August 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I loved this post! I am fairly new to the blogging world and I had only heard bits and pieces about Healthy Living Summit, it is now on my list of things to do!! You are an inspiration to me and the things you have accomplished, thanks for sharing!
Lauren @ The Unlikely Runners recently posted..The One With A So What Wednesday Link Up

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36 Melissa August 24, 2012 at 12:27 am

A friend of mine with to HLS last year and loved it, and I’ve wished I could have gone both years but I’m a teacher and was going back to work right as it happened. Will it ever make its way to the west coast?
Melissa recently posted..Dance Production Bags

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37 Anne P August 27, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Awesome recap and awesome event! As one of the few people who has been to all 4 of the Healthy Living Summits, I have to say this one was my favorite. It was by far the best environment – just a great vibe and feel to it. Everyone seemed very friendly and welcoming! The food was also fabulous. Thanks for all your hard work – I was honored to speak on the blogging with brands panel. :) Oh and I actually liked the small Crossfit room – it made it feel more fun/like a community! Plus, that meant the Crossfit hotties had to walk around us all very closely. ;)
Anne P recently posted..Cape May Adventures, Part 1

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38 Meghann August 27, 2012 at 4:08 pm
39 Denise August 30, 2012 at 7:25 pm

I know you are eyeball deep in wedding prep and not EVEN thinking of next years summit, but I would LOVE to help in some way, shape or form!
Denise recently posted..Monday Musings…

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