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Blissdom Canada 2015

Blissdom 2015 … This is what your conference wants to be when it grows up.

So all of you who are regular readers here at zero know what a complete newbie I am when it comes to knowing social anything. You’ll also know that the fabulous women (and man – I’m looking at you Dai), that were present at the ROAM conference (for social media influencers) I attended back in April, are a big reason for this blog existing at all. I’ve always said the internet is a big, wonderful, weird place where any niche interest (no matter how big or small) can form a community around it to support and form deeper engagement between the content creators and the consumers. As it turns out … Blogging is a thing. As it turns out … everyone knew this but me, I think.

I had the pleasure of joining this blogging community, chaired by the extremely dynamic Jennifer Powell, at a conference (or was it a festival?) called Blissdom.

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I was invited by Jenn to join herself and somewhere around 300 (three hundred) of Canada’s most engaged social influencers to talk to them about one of my favorite topics (if you’re new here I’m talking about Inbox Zero, natch).

The entire thing was DONE UP. Similar to ROAM, you could really feel that every aspect of the weekend was thought through. Here’s how (it appears) Jenn’s conference is structured:

First off, you can’t just host a conference appealing to forward thinking residents of the internet in some stuffy hotel, right? Of course not. Jennifer booked out the fantastic Blue Mountain Resort

Day 0: For those arriving slightly early (or those who weren’t attending one of the sessions on Day 1), you were greeted at the truly enormous Vaughn Mills mall in a specially setup VIP area where you were treated to gift bag which blows the doors off of any shirt, trinket, stress ball, or other useless conference schwag I’ve ever received. You’re at a mall, how about a wallet made of what looks like serafino leather stuffed full of 10 dollar gift cards to tons of the retailers available. There was literally like 70 – 100 dollars for each person who stopped by. Crazy! Keep in mind … that wallet was ON TOP of all the typical trinket fare you’d expect: rubber bracelet, branded portable phone charger, coupons, etc.

On top of all the loot, a few vendors were in attendance to show off their stuff, provide refreshments, and pose for pictures. Not a bad greeting … or at least better than the ones we nerds seem to be able to scrounge up (take notes literallyeverynerdconference… ). Here’s Dai and I showing up to this VIP greeting space.

Of course since we were shopping at Vaughn Mills and the event center was 2 hours away, we needed some way to get up there. No worries if you were an attendee, because Chevrolet Canada had us covered in their fleet of #ChevyBliss-decaled-2016-OnStar-equipped-wifi-onboard-Equinoxes (WITH Drivers to boot). Talk about sponsorship!

2016 Chevy Equinox

We rocked tunes all the way up to the resort and the drive was comfy as can be … nicely done!

Day 1: All day sessions deep diving into one topic to completely revamp your understanding of a particular area.
For this incarnation of the Blissdom conferences (there have been 6 thus far), you had the following options:

  1. Pro Blogger Mastermind (I attended this one) – A soup to nuts breakdown of everything it means to create your blog from a monetization standpoint. Not just if / when you should have ads, but where, when, and why you should have them. Common plug ins and tools, motivation behind selling to your readers, products products and more products, and all sorts of other tips and tricks to dump into your own blog’s Mr. Fusion. It’s not where my head was at while flying out, but after having dinner with both the wonderfully sardonic Dan R. Morris (twitter, facebook, site) as well as the genuinely wonderful Rachel Marie Martin (site, facebook, instagram, twitter) of Finding Joy fame, I was intrigued by some of their ideas and was glad I had decided tag along.
  2. Advanced Writers Workshop – This workshop was designed by three bloggers who have been there / done that when it comes to knowing the challenges associated with the freelance writing lifestyle. They discussed things ranging from relationship building to editing your content. As an added bonus you could also bring your own pitch (and laptop) and work through some of the challenges you might have been having (after attending you’d have solved those right up).
  3. Advanced Media Training – Not sure how to get traction on your site? Need help working through the perfect interview approach? Unsure if you’re doing the right things to pitch your book? Look no further than the advanced media training workshop. Split into two parts you had a chance to learn the tips and tricks needed from 3 experts and then put all that new found knowledge to work after a short break.

Once we were finished with the learning, it was time to chill out and walk through the meet and greet area before heading down into the main exhibition hall for some entertainment from Choir!Choir!Choir!

Day 2: Where do you go when you start with a full day deep dive? Time to chill and start the day off by opening up with a Yoga session en masse. The yoga session was sponsored by a company called Bravado (they make nursing bras) and seemed like an appropriate fit for a conference that, while not marketed specifically to women, really only had a handful of men in attendance (50% of them once again shown in this picture). Seriously, there were maybe 6 dudes in total, and Dai and I were getting #Bromance shouted basically throughout the entire weekend.

With the yoga session completed the conference started in earnest. After a solid keynote by Sara Critchfield (site, twitter, facebook), everyone was off to attend one sessions held in multiple rooms all of which were nearby (and near to each other too). There were micro-sessions (think speed dating but for knowledge instead of awkwardness) as well as full length talks and workshops all morning.

Never satisfied to be just status quo, Powell then had the attendees take the afternoon off (after a delicious lunch) for some excursions hosted by the Blue Mountain Villiage. There were 14 excursions in all, two of which were spa related. Coincidentally, but not surprisingly, the spa excursions were attended by all the men. Not a single guy (out of 6 of us) went out on any of the adventurous hiking, rope walking, or trail running. Nope, we all had our feet up and enjoyed the afternoon in the Spa like #realmen, dammit.

A few hours later we were all pampered up and cozied back in the village … call it a day? Uhhh no … Call it Mardi Gras …

Mardi Gras

Lights, food, musical entertainment, activities and contests, even fortune telling. This was seriously next level!

Are you not entertained?

and call it “most people stayed up waaaay too late”. #ButInAGoodWay (not me, of course #wetblanket)

Day 3: Full day workshops, sessions from breakfast till after lunch, excursions, parties, how do you top that kind of start? You keep the train rolling with another day chock full of content, that’s how.

I was up for presenting today (first thing) and had the mis-fortune of being un-scheduled. That is to say that my session was opposite the very-well-known Scott Stratten (you know, just this guy & this guy), in addition to a panel of serious social heavy hitters, and another series of microsessions (you can check the complete schedule out here). That being said, I had a pretty good turn out if I do say so myself 🙂 puffs out chest. I had around 20 or so people in a room that fits around 35 so I was pleased with the turn out. The session itself was great with some really active participation and engagement in the Facebook group after the fact (am I really talking about Facebook? Who is this guy anyway?)

After that I was free to do whatever and ended up connecting with some of my favorite peeps from the ROAM conference earlier in the year and chillin’ with some Starbucks coffee. I probably shouldn’t have missed the next session, but I needed a walk and the company was good, so I couldn’t pass it up.

The day continued with loads more learning, interactive panels, discussion groups, and some pretty powerfully emotional presentations. If you were involved in any kind of social engagement, there was definitely value to be had somewhere – in any one of the concurrent sessions. How do you wrap up this kind of event of epic proportions? Well with another damn party … of course? You’re new here aren’t you?

That evening … a PJ party!

Before you ask, not PJs, but Plaid and Jeans. Music, drinks, good peeps, and something I havn’t really had a chance to discuss just yet, but Networking Networking Networking.

Despite being a complete newcomer to the scene, it was great connecting with some seriously energetic people. Some of them I was meeting for the first time and some I had an opportunity to reconnect with for a second time this year. Regardless of what their business was, I learned something from everyone (One of my favs being from Periscope guru @1AlexKhan who introduced the idea of KLT – People won’t engage with you if they don’t Know you, Like you, or Trust you – I couldn’t agree more). It was really invigorating to see the things so many different people were doing and it’s given me a boatload of ideas for things I can attempt to either improve on or venture into in the coming months.

Thanks for sticking this long post out. I wanted to get all my ideas down before they melted away (like the snow we woke up to on Sunday at Blue Mountain). Good times were had by all and it left me stoked to see what possibilities were in store for The Zen of Zero in the future.