As much as I enjoy all of the adventures that my life is constantly filled with, it does make blogging a rather daunting task sometimes. Don’t you feel so sorry for me? I know. Today, I’m catching up on a post I really should have written weeks ago – my experience at Fitbloggin 2013!
Although I don’t read very many blogs, most of the blogs I do read mentioned Fitbloggin‘ in their posts last year. Fitbloggin’ is a conference that caters to fitness and wellness bloggers, and it’s an annual event. The blogs that I read made the conference sound like so much fun, and I immediately decided I wanted to go this year if the opportunity presented itself. Well, as luck would have it, the conference this year was in Portland, Oregon the weekend after my trip to Alaska. I have a lot of friends in Portland thanks entirely to this blog (HEY, HONEY BADGERS!) and I knew that I would have a chance to hang out with all of them if only I could find a way to get myself there.
That’s where y’all came in. Back in the spring, I heard about an opportunity to gain a free ticket to the conference (a $300 value) if I earned a spot in the Ignite fitness presentation at the conference. Seven people would be voted in and seven would be selected by the conference committee, but I didn’t need the committee’s help. Thanks to all of your support and aggressive voting strategies, I earned the first ticket! I was able to plan my trip so that I would spend nearly a week in Alaska and then fly to Portland and hang out with the Honey Badgers for a few days while attending the conference. Perfect, right?
Naturally, this all seemed like an excellent idea until right before I had to actually submit my finished PowerPoint presentation. You may recall me freaking out in my first ever video blog. Well, it was do or die, so I did. I was incredibly nervous before the conference. We got all these really encouraging emails telling us not to be nervous, that the conference is like one big hug all weekend, and that everyone is really friendly. This obviously did not stop me from freaking out.
The first night, there was a name tag decorating party/ice breaker event that I forced myself to go to. I am the anti-name tag decorator type of person, but I was determined to soak in the experience. Within literally 30 seconds of checking in, I found myself carrying more free stuff than I knew what to do with! Holy crap. Reebok was one of the main sponsors, and before I knew it, I had a brand new duffle bag, a new pair of shoes, a new yoga tank top, and a whole bunch of other stuff! It was seriously insane. They told us to save room for new stuff in our luggage, but I wasn’t expecting that. I should have packed another suitcase!
As I sat down at a table full of people I didn’t know, I noticed this random gold cowbell sitting in the center of the table. It seemed out of place, and as I read the tag tied to it, it said “Congratulations! You’ve found one of five golden bells blah blah blah” or something to that effect. I turned to the girl next to me and said “oh wow, you found this? That’s so cool!” and she looked at me like I had 6 heads. Turns out, I was the one who had found the golden bell. These things are apparently highly coveted and I had earned myself a seat at a Google Hangout with Dolvett, one of the trainers from the Biggest Loser! I’m looking forward to him telling me how terrible my diet is.
I should have known that everything was going to be fine, because while I was standing around by myself being awkward, a very nice girl came up to me and said “I just have to tell you, you have the most beautiful hair!” See, even strangers recognize it!
Katie and I both attended the University of Maryland and graduated in the same year! What a small world. She has a great blog over at Skinny Minnie Moves where she writes about much healthier things than me. My mind was immediately put at ease because at least I had one friend now. My mind was then immediately put at the opposite of ease when it was announced that it was time to do “blogger speed dating,” which is basically where people constantly switched chairs and we each answered two questions to get to know each other. I met a lot of very nice people, but I felt so awkward. Every time I told someone what my blog is about (that whole marathons in every state thing), they gave me this look that said “I am both amazed and disturbed by you at the same time.” Since many of the bloggers are weight loss bloggers, I felt a little out of place, but everyone was so nice that I’m pretty sure the awkwardness was all in my head.
Except maybe it wasn’t totally in my head that time I went up to one of my favorite bloggers and fell all over myself telling her how much I love her. I creepily lurked around waiting for her to finish her conversation and then was all “Ummm hi, I’m Danielle, and I really love your blogs and I just had to meet you, my friend told me about your blog, my friend Lauren, she loves you too, let’s be best friends!”
And I was all “Oh hey, we should take a picture because Lauren will be so excited that I met you!” But what I was actually thinking was “Oh hey, we should take a picture so I can frame it and remember this moment forever because you are my hero! And Lauren will also find it interesting.” That’s Emmie from Authentically Emmie, by the way. She rules.
It was also cool to meet several people who are fans of my blog! I had no idea any of them would be at the conference, so it was really exciting whenever someone would come up and tell me that they like what I’m doing over here. Dani and Renee stood out in particular, since I recognized their names from comments they had left on my blog.
On Friday morning, I woke up terrified. There was no turning back now. I had to do the presentation today. But first I was spending the day in sessions, group discussions, and presentations that were all centered around fitness and wellness! There was a huge variety of topics, and I experienced a little bit of everything. One of the group discussions was called “Diet is a 4-letter word: What are your food rules?” where people discussed how they are changing their lifestyles rather than focusing on “diets.” It was very interesting to hear about everyone’s struggles, especially since during my eating disorder recovery, I’ve realized that trying to set “rules” for myself about what I can and can’t eat and what foods are good or bad is very dangerous for me and leads me down a slippery slope. The group discussions were generally pretty emotional, and I’m not much of a crier, but lots of other people were, so it was a very open vibe and definitely not what I was expecting. Not in a good or a bad way, just different – I think I was envisioning sitting in a huge dark room with rows of chairs and watching a PowerPoint, or something.
I must say, I was oddly quiet at the conference all day on Friday. I didn’t really reach out to people very much because I was so nervous about my presentation. I was literally sick to my stomach over it. The funny thing is that I have no problem speaking in front of people – public speaking really doesn’t bother me at all. What bothered me was the way the presentations are set up. “Ignite” is a style of presentation where each presenter has 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. The presentation is a total of 5 minutes long, and the presenter has no control over the movement of the slides. That’s terrifying! Every time I practiced my presentation, I spent 18 seconds on some slides and 12 on others, resulting in the longest 3 second pauses of my life. BAH! This was going to be a disaster.
Of course, prior to the presentation, I went in to the main room to look everything over. One of the other presenters offered to practice his presentation with me, so I listened to him flawlessly execute his presentation for 5 minutes. That did NOT help me to be less nervous! I was totally screwed. Ultimately, I decided I couldn’t practice anymore. Every time I looked at the slides, I felt sick. I was just going to wing it. What could go wrong? I then decided that I would greatly benefit from drinking a couple of beers to calm my nerves, because there is no better combination than alcohol and a lack of rehearsal when you’re giving a presentation to a couple hundred of your newest friends, right?
So, without any further adieu besides the 1500 words I’ve already written, here is the presentation I made at Fitbloggin’ this year! Thank you all again for voting for me! I hope I didn’t let you down.
And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
I was much more relaxed after the presentation was over, and by Saturday, I was really able to enjoy everything and get into the different sessions. I spent all my time on Saturday trying to learn more about the business side of blogging, which included a lot of phrases I didn’t understand, like “media kits” and “G+ hangouts” and “Twitter parties” and other sorts of terrifying things. Blogging is a lot of work! I just like writing my musings and sharing my pictures, but apparently it can be a full time job for some people. I don’t think that will ever be me because you have to have an actual understanding about how social media works, and I just figured out Twitter like 2 months ago, but hey, I guess you never know!
So, Fitbloggin’ was a really good experience overall, if different than what I was expecting. I don’t know that I completely fit in, but everyone I met was truly friendly and genuine. I think the conference is as awkward as you make it. If you stand around in a corner drinking alone (don’t judge me) then it’s going to be awkward. If you open yourself up to making new friends and accepting hugs from people you don’t know (admittedly one of my fears) then it’s going to be less awkward. Either way, I made some great friends that I know I will be staying in touch with in the future! So THANK YOU all for voting me into that presentation and forcing me out of my comfort zone. I hope my public speaking abilities didn’t shame you too much!