{blog conference} An Introvert's Guide to Haven

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It's already been over a week since I returned from Haven Conference, and it seems that everyone else in Blogland has posted their recaps, so I was struggling with what I could add that hadn't already been said about this awesome conference.

But then as I was sitting around and chatting with the lovely ladies in my book club about our most recent read, "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain, and as they were asking me about my first ever blogging conference, it dawned on me... I'll share my Haven experience from an introvert's perspective!

Back Row: Corey of Tiny Sidekick, Summer of Simple Stylings, Mallory of Charming in Charlotte
Front Row: Melissa of A Prudent Life, Katie of Addicted 2 DIY, Katie of Upcycled Treasures, and ME

For those who aren't familiar with Haven, let me take a step back and fill you in on the basics. Haven is an annual conference for home/design/DIY bloggers that is held in Atlanta each summer. Imagine 350 or so enthusiastic and {mostly} extroverted {mostly} women gathering for a whirlwind two and a half days of educational sessions on blogging and business, design and photography workshops, hands on DIY classes, meeting with potential sponsors, and dance parties {oh yes, I did say dance parties!}. 

That's me in the purple dress on the right, proving that dance parties and introverts can mix...
[Photo credit: Ryobi] 
If you are an introvert, like me, that description alone might be enough to make you want to hide under a table, but I am here to tell you that it was a fantastic experience! I entered knowing no one, and despite being shy, I left with some amazing friends in addition to a whole lot of information that will help me grow this blog {slowly, slowly}. 

Before I go on, let me pause a moment for clarification. After reading "Quiet" I now have a better understanding that being introverted and being shy are not one and the same. I am both, to different degrees, but the distinctions are important. According to the book, shyness is defined as the fear of negative judgment, while introversion is a preference for less stimulating environments and quiet concentration. 

Prior to boarding my flight to Haven, I was so excited about the opportunities it presented and I was dying to finally meet some other bloggers "in real life," but I was also all kinds of nervous. 

My shy self had visions of uncomfortably milling around the outer edges of the group trying to find a way to break into the conversations, then finally finding a group to join, only to awkwardly listen to the conversation rather than joining in. And my introverted self had visions of wanting to duck back to my hotel room for a few quiet minutes between sessions, but then missing out on making connections and forming friendships.

I can't tell you how to overcome shyness, but I can tell you is that EVERYONE at Haven was so friendly, and warm, and welcoming! People went out of their way to bring me in to conversations and invite me to dinner! 

My dinner dates on the first night!
Back row: Pagie of The Pink Clutch, Jennifer of Dimples & Tangles, Claire of Honey Haven, Emily of Eleven Gables. Front Row: Krystine of Krystine Edwards Real Estate & Design, Amanda of Dixie Delights, and ME
I quickly realized that I was not the only one who was nervous. I was not the only one who didn't know anyone else. And I was not the only one who was shy. But the beauty of Haven is that you automatically have something in common with every person there. You never have to struggle to have something to talk about. 

For those shy folk out there thinking of attending their first blogging conference, I would suggest that you really utilize social media before you arrive to find out who else is going to be there. Even if you don't know anyone, it does help to be on the look out for a few familiar faces. 

For me it was much easier to approach someone and strike up a conversation when I recognized them from their blog, Facebook or Instagram, and already knew something about them. I could say, "Hi, you may not know who I am, but I loved that room you just finished decorating! {Insert question here... Where did you find that awesome chair? ... How long did it take you to paint that dresser? ...}." Instant conversation starter!

Bethany of Dwellings by Devore, Emily of Eleven Gables, Mallory of Charming in Charlotte, Summer of Simple Stylings, ME, and Aniko of Place of My Taste.
And I quickly learned to state my blog name immediately when introducing myself. While people in Blogland may not know me as Angela or may not know what I look like, it turns out that many people {to my surprise} do know Blue i Style. I would say, "Hi, I'm Angela from Blue i Style," and I was shocked how often the response was, "Oh, you're Blue i Style? I loved that argyle wall you painted!"

It's also ok to just pretend not to be shy. To simply push yourself beyond your comfort zone. It doesn't come easily to everyone, but as soon as you make one connection, you no longer know noone and being less shy just gets easier from there. 

Me and Summer of Simple Stylings rocking our stylish safety glasses at the 3M booth.
As for being introverted, my advice is a bit different. Rather than pretending to be extroverted, I instead learned how to make my introverted-ness work for me. Extroverts tend to be energized by social situations, and enjoy thinking out loud and on their feet. Introverts on the other hand are generally more comfortable listening more than they talk and thinking before they speak. 

Although I have been blogging for over a year, I quickly realized at Haven how little I know. I've been doing projects, taking pictures, and writing about them, but I haven't been doing many of the "right" things to ensure that my posts are reaching people. I have so much to learn! This is the first way in which I put my introversion to work! I prefer to listen more than I talk - so I listened, and listened, and listened! And I don't just mean in the formal sessions and workshops, I mean at lunch, during cocktails, at dinner... Everyone was talking about their blogs, the tools they use, and what works and what doesn't. By simply listening I was able to learn so many important things and I was then able to enter the conversation by asking questions and learning even more!

Of course, there are times when listening more than you talk won't help you accomplish your goals. One of the major benefits of attending a conference like Haven is the opportunity to meet with potential sponsors. Each of the Haven sponsors had elaborate booths set up, many with engaging activities {if you follow me on Instagram, the you probably remember seeing me posing for lots of photos in sponsor booths for the opportunity to win various prizes.

Hanging out in the Procter & Gamble booth.

Caught in the shower in the WaterPik booth.
Early in the Haven Conference, I was intimidated to approach sponsor booths on my own. I didn't want to have to strike up a conversation and immediately start selling myself and my blog to the brands. It was much easier to tag along with a group {back to that whole, prefering to listen thing}. But what good would it do me to listen to other people make connections and tell the brands what they have to offer. Clearly this wasn't going to do ME any good at all! 

In the Modern Masters booth with Mallory of Charming in Charlotte and Summer of Simple Stylings.
After the first few hours, I realized that while I can't change my introverted nature, I can change the situations I put myself in. Since I prefer to know what I am going to say before I say it, I allowed myself time to think about what I really wanted each brands to know about my blog and to formulate a specific pitch about a way in which we could work together. Then I would make a conscious effort to enter each booth by myself, and at a quiet moment when not many other people were around, putting myself in a position where I was forced to carry the conversation rather than being able to comfortably fall to the background. Approaching sponsor booths on my own also allowed my shy self to have open conversations with the brand representatives, without worrying so much about others opinions.

It's going to take a lot of follow up effort on my part to see if I make anything of all those conversations and connections, but at least I was able to walk away from the conference feeling like I laid a good foundation.

Chatting with the ladies of Online Fabric Store about all the pretty pillows!
The Haven schedule was jam packed and the events lasted late into the night. Throughout the weekend I met some truly amazing people, and I am so glad that I took advantage of every minute of time available to make connections and form friendships! And, might I add, Ryobi and Home Depot throw one HECK of a party!

ME, Angela of Life In Velvet, Melissa of A Prudent Life, Katie of Upcycled Treasures,
Corey of Tiny Sidekick, Katie of Addicted 2 DIY, and Aniko of Place of My Taste.
Beach party'ing with the adorable Angelique of Where The Piggy Toes Go.
Each night I got back to my hotel room around midnight, exhausted and ready to crawl into bed. But since the introvert side of me does best processing information in a quiet environment where I can concentrate, I stayed up far too late each night going over my notes and making lists of things to do when I returned home {lists that I have barely scratched the surface on!}. Fortunately my room was really beautiful and provided a tranquil place for me to collect my thoughts and process at the end of each day.


I also got up early each morning to complete blog posts and to allow myself some quiet time before joining the excitement of the conference.


During the months leading up to Haven, I kept wishing that I had a friend to attend with so that I wouldn't have to go it alone. But looking back, I am really glad that I went by myself. Being shy by nature, it would have been way to easy for me to have someone to cling to and I wouldn't have been forced to meet so many new people. But now that I've come away from Haven with some many new blogging buddies, I can't wait to go back next year so that I can spend more time with all of them!

There you have it... my introvert's guide to Haven! 

I'm not sure how many of you made it this far into the post. If you did, I'm guessing we are two peas in a pod! But my hope is that maybe my experience will be encouraging to someone who is thinking of attending her first blogging conference {or some other event}, but is feeling nervous or overwhelmed.

Now that all that heavy stuff is out of the way, here are a few more quick highlights of my Haven weekend...

It probably goes without saying that a conference hosted by DIY and design bloggers is going to be stylish! Check out the cute decor at the Saturday luncheon! I think my next party needs to have giant balloons!!


The Home Depot booth {more like an entire room} was really spectacular ... bocce ball and a popsicle cart, need I say more?! But the center piece of their booth was their DIY Hall of Fame, and it was really exciting to see that two of my projects made the wall!


Did I mention that I also got to meet Mike Holmes of HGTV's Holmes on Homes?


There were so many different sessions and workshops on the schedule that it was hard to pick which to attend in each time slot. On the second day, I was feeling like I should probably learn more about SEO or ad optimization, but I really just wanted to get hands on and make somethings. So I attended a Ryobi make-and-take class where I got to use two different saws and a nail gun to build a simple wood tray. It's not much to look at now, but I'm coming up with a plan to turn it into something fun for the backyard.

A major highlight of the weekend was being selected to particpate in the one of the Ballard Designs coffee table styling challenges. My team of five competed against two other teams on Saturday morning, and we were given only 10 minutes to choose accessories and put together a cohesive tablescape. Voting went on throughout the day, and, in the end, my team walk away the winners! That means I am now the lucky recipient of a $100 Ballard Design gift certificate that is burning a hole in my pocket!

Ashley of Cherished Bliss, Sonya of At Home with the Barkers,
Jennifer of Dimples & Tangles, Abby of Just a Girl and Her Blog, and ME

Our winning coffee table!
And the swag. How can I not mention the swag? The conference sponsors were so incredibly generous and gifted us with loads of amazing products. I can't wait to try everything out!! It was a good thing I heeded the warnings to bring an extra bag to get everything home. My boys were particularly pleased with their Teddy Bears and baseball bats! 


Haven Conference 2014 was an incedible experience in so many ways, and I am already looking forward to next year! I hope to see some of you there!


7 comments :

  1. It was wonderful meeting you in person! I'm walk a fine line between introversion and extroversion. Everyone thinks I'm an extrovert, but I love my quite time to refuel!

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  2. I took some time for myself at Haven, too. I tried to meet a lot of people but I really am introverted, too! I loved your recap!

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  3. Great recap! And it EXACTLY sums up how I felt leaving the SNAP conference in April. On the way there (as an introvert), I was slightly horrified that I was going alone. Afterwards, it felt great to know I could conquer it on my own and make new friends. Although, getting to go meet and room with my virtual best friend at Haven was even better :)

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  4. Congrats on the big win and a great conference. I'm really going to need to attend one of these years. It sounds great!

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  5. Wow Angela...now I'm wishing I could go to Haven this summer!! I loved your recap and it definitely helped put my mind at ease about attending a future blog conference, not only solo, but as an introvert!!

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  6. I'm always really overwhelmed and taken aback by the kindness and welcoming nature of extroverts in these situations. I'm still going to completely freak out, but in the back of my mind I'm trying to remember it's going to be a lot of fun!

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  7. OH my, I'm tearing up reading this almost a year later! Just found the link on the Haven FB page. I too am an introvert, and reading your paragraph that starts with "my shy self" was like reading a recap of my Haven experience. Unfortunately I didn't push myself like you did and spent too much time crying in my room. :( I am feeling more confident this year and am ready to do this! Thanks so much for your advice, see you in Atlanta!

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