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My weekend at BlissDom Canada 2012

Under the lights in TorontoThis past weekend I had the opportunity to attend BlissDom Canada 2012. I was very excited about the event but also scared because I would be meeting other bloggers and people I have chatted with on Twitter. What I found was that BlissDom is not for a person who is shy or lacks confidence in large groups.

When I arrived on Friday and registered, I was greeted by the BlissDom team and Sleep Country Canada, who were giving out awesome pillows. After registering I had a few hours to myself before the opening kick-off, so I settled in my hotel room. Later on I got together with a tweeter I had spoken to a lot over the past few months and we had coffee. As we chatted about this and that, she was continually texting trying to make plans with another person she hadn’t seen for a long time. She did apologize, but was then off to meet her friend.

Since I knew absolutely no one, I tweeted a shout out to other BlissDom attendees to join me for dinner, and then go to the kick-off party. Sadly, I was unsuccessful. I later decided not to attend the Friday night party because I had no idea of how to get there. Yes I could have easily taken a taxi but when you are not an out going person, attending an event where you know no one, is difficult.

The next morning, I went to the Newcomer’s Welcome/Meet up and breakfast, where we sat at tables and introduced ourselves. As we listened to Dove Canada speak, Community Leaders walked around putting numbers on tables for the microsessions, which were to take place immediately after. I was lucky enough to get a seat for the first session hosted by Tanis Miller aka The Redneck Mommy and it was superb. I was not so lucky for the second microsession which was on the other side of the room, I did have a back-up plan but again, on the other side of the room and by that time all seats were taken for both. The Community Leader I approached about this was unable to suggest a solution and basically just shrugged her shoulders. One of the problems was there was supposed to be a fifteen minute break between each session, but people were so happy to get a seat at the table they wanted, sessions just went on without a break. Plus I found that tables were very close together and it was difficult to manoeuvre around everyone. I did get a seat for the third microsession, and thoroughly enjoyed listening to Haley Overland talk.

Once the morning was over, we were left to get lunch on our own. I had met a few very lovely bloggers in the morning but they were already busy for lunch, so I once again tweeted to find a lunch mate or two. Sadly, no luck. I started to get the impression that BlissDom was clicky and after speaking with other newbies later on, they too had felt the same. The afternoon consisted of a few more speakers, then it was dinner, which I had in my hotel room. I realize I am sounding quite pathetic, but I find it difficult in these new situations and there wasn’t any sort of plan for newbies to get together with anyone. Luckily my evening was saved with a surprise visit from my husband, (I had already decided against going to the costume and Karaoke party planned for later that night). The evening was wonderful, hubby and I had a fantastic dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf and a nice walk before retiring for the night.

The finale of the weekend was the Sunday excursions. I was signed up for the Wine Tour but decided to bow out since with the exception of a few moments during the weekend, I had never felt so lonely as I did at BlissDom Canada.


38 Replies to “My weekend at BlissDom Canada 2012”

  1. Oh if only you were nearer 🙁

    One of the biggest Uk blogging conferences for mummy bloggers last year saw mums crying in the loo’s because they felt so overwhelmed / shy / scared/ alone and the ladies who ran it took on board the feedback and went out of their way to run more pre-event meetups ways to ensure people felt happier and more comfortable this year and it was super and everyone was happy and there were no tears of negative experiences. I’m sure the Blissdom folk will see what they can do to help more next year.


    1. I also wished I lived closer! I am hoping the Blissdom folk do take everything into consideration to make the conference more welcoming for newcomers, especially since I was not the only one. Conferences are very difficult for newbies, there will always be someone who is overwhelmed/shy/scared but anything to make their experience easier is a positive step.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. I went into the weekend not knowing anyone. I’m an extrovert but even for me this conference was intimidating. What I did to ease my comfort was to prepare in advance. I looked to travel to the conference with someone and I got myself a roommate. I figured at least then by the start of the conference I would know 2 people! When I realized I would be on my own for Friday night (roomie was doing RR) I signed up for the dinner being planned on the FB page. Again, I didn’t know any of them before the dinner but was so glad I pre-planned to meet them.

    I think if the microsessions had been structured a bit differently it would have been easier for people to connect.

    1. I missed seeing the dinner thing on the FB page, not sure how, it would have been good to join. I made sure that I had Facebook and Twitter on my cell phone, thinking sending out some tweets would help. I did pre-plan my schedule for the microsessions but was disappointed with the set-up. Being disabled I found it very difficult moving around the tables, especially since there were so many of us trying to find the table we wanted.

  3. Your husband sounds like a good man. You are very blessed.

    We tried very hard this year to make people feel as comfortable as possible. It was the first year for the newcomers Facebook page and the newcomers meet up in the morning. That in itself was a challenge as almost 50% of our attendees this year were there for the very first time. That’s about the same amount as attended in our first year back in 2010.

    We’re always learning and growing, this is only our 3rd year and each year, we’ve used the survey we send out at the end to help build the content, layout, etc for the following year. It’s important we hear your feedback because at BlissDom, it’s very true that your voice matters.

    1. My husband is a wonderful guy, he encouraged me to go and was there to support me when I needed it.

      I filled out the survey with a number of suggestions to improve the Blissdom conference for newcomers, hopefully they are taken into consideration. On a positive note, I did enjoy the two microsessions I went to very much and next year, if there are some that interest me, I may consider trying again.

  4. After reading your post, I’m kind of glad I chose ShesConnected over BlissDom. Although, after you left ShesConnected, I had a similar experience. Everyone was really nice, but most people already had plans to meet up and hang out with people they new from the blogosphere. I was supposed to meet up with a friend on the Saturday, but she didn’t show. All in all, the information sessions at ShesConnected were really well run, so I can’t complain from that perspective. And I did get to meet you on the Friday, so that was great!

    1. Meeting you was lovely, and it would have been nice if we could have hung out together. The two microsessions that I was able to join at Blissdom were great, but the rest, I will pass on again, unless they completely change how newcomers are welcomed.

  5. Oh Catherine, I wish I had known that you were there and not enjoying yourself. You are one of my favourite people to talk to on Twitter because you are always so nice. Please consider coming again and message me right away! I would have loved some lunch company! Bright side is, things can only go up from here! Don’t be a stranger. Chris

    1. Oh thank you so much Chris, I too enjoy chatting with you on twitter. Funny thing is, I looked for the men I chat with on twitter, and even though there were only a couple of you who attended Blissdom, the sea of woman was just drowned everyone out.

  6. Oh wow, this is rough. I’m sorry this was your experience. It would have been mine too had I not found the amazingest roommate. Don’t give up, though! You’ll got into next year with a new plan and experienced eyes.

    And yay for husbands. xo

  7. I’m sorry you didn’t have fun. As a Blissdom newbie this year as well, I did find the environment quite overwhelming and a bit cliquey myself – and I’m a seriously extroverted person (probably better classified as an “over-sharer”). If I would have known you were looking for company (the Twitter feed was moving so quickly I couldn’t keep up) I would have totally enjoyed sharing a meal with you! 🙂 By the end of the weekend, I truly did look back and realize, that despite a few uncomfortable moments of loneliness, that I did have a great time and will likely go again in 2013. And if I do go next year, I’m for sure going to keep my eyes open for the lonely newbie who needs a friend. 🙂

  8. I was a Blissdom newbie this year too (a total introvert, as was the theme of my whole Blissdom recap post) and I’m sorry to hear about your experience. I went to the conference alone, sort of with the idea that I wouldn’t be socializing and making friends, but moreso soaking up all the information and learning. However I was also lucky to have my husband in town to take me to dinner, and I skipped the costume party and other social things that I just couldn’t have done by myself. But I guess the difference is that I wasn’t disappointed to not have more company, and that’s something you were looking for and didn’t get, which is really too bad. I’m glad the Blissdom people are listening to your feedback, and that you were honest enough to share it!

    1. I just thought it would be nice to meet other bloggers and share our thoughts, but alas some things don’t always happen that way. The bonus for me was my husband coming up for the night, it just made me love him even more.

      I do hope the Blissdom people are listening to my feedback and all the comments I am receiving. Some things do need to be changed for newbies to fit in.

  9. Love that you pushed through your fear to write this post, and it is beautifully written and expressed. It IS so hard when you don’t know anyone, regardless of which groups / events are organized.

    I simply want to celebrate your courage and strength for sharing your experience.

  10. I am so glad you wrote about this. I didn’t go to BlissDom but I want to go to a blogging conference in the near future. This is my biggest fear. It sounds like you and I likely have a similar personality, and my experience would likely be similar to yours.

    I wonder if it would work better to connect with other people in this situation before the conference. Not a “newcomer” group, because newcomers can still know lots of people. But “Single and Seeking” or something that would allow people conferencing alone to find more people wanting to connect. I would assume you weren’t the only one who felt that way over the weekend! 🙂

    1. They were people who did meet up before the conference started but there was nothing in my city. The nearest one was an hour away, and sadly I am unable to drive that far by myself. I even checked to see if there was a bus I could take, but alas, no. I have spoken to a number of people who felt the same way as me, so hopefully the BlissDomCa can figure out some sort of solution for newcomers to be more involved with the pros.

  11. Thanks for sharing! I had really thought about attending Blissdom, but ultimately decided to spend my travel $$ on a trip with my BFF instead and reading this reminds me why. I attended BlogHer once and had a similar experience and have been a bit conference shy since (with the exception of a small local conference that I took a chance on and loved!)

    If you don’t have a big online community that you feel involved in and with the same people attending the conference, it can be a disappointing experience.And like Expatlogue said I feel like the conferences are more targeted to those who are trying to make money from blogging, especially via sponsors, advertising and giveaways. I write just to write and because I’m lonely in many ways in my “real” life and I enjoy reading blogs so much I hoped that writing one would help me find a community. It hasn’t really worked out that way though, because I don’t have the energy for selling myself and I’m not a super social type. Or maybe I’m lazy lol. But either way, I realize I’m not really the target market for most blogging conferences and I have to be okay with that 😉

    1. I am not really the target market either, I write my blog because I like writing and am just happy that people read it and laugh, cry, or learn something.

  12. I completely appreciate your honesty in this post – it’s not an easy environment to go to a conference with 500 others alone.

    I would never want anyone to feel this way, and know for sure the Blissdom organizers wouldn’t want it either. One of the points of Blissdom is the community building and support.

    It’s so hard to sometimes push ourselves into conversations with others, sit at a new table etc. I ended up having lunch and dinner with 2 different groups of people who I hadn’t met before (except the one person who connected us together). It was great, but definitely forced me out of a comfort zone!

    The newcomers breakfast I attended even though I wasn’t a newcomer (community leaders were invited) and I really liked the concept – to mingle with new people, find others in your home city etc. I was super surprised that the room wasn’t filled though!!

    One thing I noticed that may or may not have made a difference last year was having lunch off site. On site last year meant we grabbed a plate and all sat at random seats, making us introduce ourselves to new people and chatting. It was just another way to connect and meet. Going off site this year or fending for ourselves meant we really had to be forward with plans (or use it for quiet time).

    I hope this doesn’t turn you off of conferences and future Blissdom events. While maybe there are cliques out there, I really believe that most people in this space are kind and welcoming.

    One last note: I feel like a squirrel at these events. Everything I do is forcing myself to get out there and goes against my natural inclination to be in a quiet space. I almost get hyper. It’s overwhelming for many people. I suspect you definitely weren’t alone in that respect.

    1. I found it interesting that when sitting with people from my own home town, they just wanted to meet people that wrote the type of blogs they did, they had no interest in getting together. I think having lunch on site would be a much better idea, we could pay for it ourselves, say in the initial fee. I am honestly not sure I will attend another conference even though I really enjoyed the two microsessions I was involved in.

  13. Thank you for sharing. I’ve never been to a blog conference, but I do want to get to one. I’d never thought that it might be like you described. Your experience reminds me of church women’s retreats, some of which I’ve even organized. I’ve come to really dislike them, and it’s doubtful I’d go on another. So why do I still want to do a blog conference…..? Hmm.

    Thanks for giving me something to think about, in the event that I ever do find myself able to attend something like Blissdom Canada or the Food Bloggers of Canada conference. As an introvert, I suspect I’ll have a lot of work ahead of me to not disappear into the background.

  14. I’m so sorry your experience was not a good one. I too, was a “newbie” at Blissdom, and while generally quite extroverted, I do agree it can be hard meeting people at such an overwhelmingly large function – especially when many people already “know” each other.

    I would suggest going again next year. Don’t write off the entire premise because of a not-so-optimal experience. I was new, but made prior plans with people I knew only through Twitter for meals, etc. That way, I wasn’t left alone when I didn’t want to be. Seriously, not everyone at BD follows everyone else on Twitter, and I can say for sure that if I (or members in my group) had seen your tweets, you would have been absolutely welcome and treasured at our meals and tables.

    As for the texting, this very well could have been me! It is a very fast-paced conference, and Twitter, FB, and texts are buzzing like crazy. If you were trying to contact someone you have arrangements with, and they were not answering you, I’m sure you’d be upset as well. It’s hard to keep tabs on everything at BD and something is always going on – sometimes the smart phone is the only way to keep tabs and unfortunately this often means no one person gets our full attention.

    Again, I am sorry the weekend wasn’t what you were expecting. The microsessions were in great demand, and I know I stood at a one in order to hear the talk. It’s a crapshoot to pre-determine what will be popular without pre-registration.

    Come again next year; we will take you to lunch. 🙂

    1. Thank you Jeni, it would be lovely to meet you. I am unsure as to whether or not I will attend next years event, I do have along time to digest and decide.

  15. I think you were quite brave to attend this conference and I’m sorry that it wasn’t a totally enjoyable experience for you. As an introvert myself I can certainly understand your reluctance to attend the Friday night party on your own. I haven’t attended a blogging conference yet, mainly for fearing that I will have the same experience you did. I plan on attending the FBC conference in the Spring and am working up the nerve to actually go!
    I understand from the comment left by Barbara that there is a newcomers page on Facebook, which may work for those on FB and that they do have a newcomers meet up at the conference. Perhaps what could be considered at the * newcomers meet up* at the conference is that newcomers are paired with those who are *pros* at attending conferences throughout the weekend. This community is all about socializing and networking and sometimes people just need someone to help guide them through the process

    1. I was in the two facebook groups, but that didn’t seem to help me. I like your idea of pairing newcomers with pros and will definitely suggest that when I receive the email asking for opinions.

  16. Catherine, I had no idea you were there or I would have come to find you! I didn’t stay at the hotel so came in early SAturday morning and left Saturday night. 🙁

  17. I’m so sorry that you felt lonely and left out at the conference. What I usually love about these conferences is when breakfast and lunch is provided and there is a great space for people to sit down. I always try to approach a table with people that I don’t know or to sit with someone who is sitting alone to make them feel welcome. But when we’re all heading offsite for lunch, it is harder to find people to sit with or to make new connections. Even as someone who knew about 50% of the attendees, I found myself sticking with my roommates for much of the free time so that I didn’t get lost in the shuffle.

    I did thoroughly enjoy the Sunday excursion. I was on the foodie excursion and sat mostly with people I hadn’t met for breakfast and we then got assigned to teams for the soup challenge in the afternoon. It was a great way to meet some new people.

    I’m sorry that we didn’t get a chance to hang out.

    1. In hindsight, I probably should have signed up for a roommate, but with my health problems, I didn’t want to disturb anyone’s sleep, knowing how exhausting each day was. I sat with people I didn’t know during the microsessions, but all were busy for lunch/dinner. I also found that people already had groups they were hanging out with, and it was very much like high school, where they planned meals in front of you but had no intention of including you. I was beyond grateful when my husband surprised me and took me out for a wonderful dinner.

  18. It was nice speaking with you today and thanks for the feedback for ways to improve the experience for BlissDom newcomers. As you know, we have a newcomers Facebook page for people to meet prior to the conference and a Newcomers meet-up the morning of the conference and more but I’m always open to new ideas to make it work for everyone.

    1. Thank you for phoning Barbara, and listening to my feedback, it is very much appreciated that you took the time out of your schedule to call. As I explained in our conversation, I was in the newcomers Facebook page group and did attend the Newcomers meet-up in the morning of the conference.

  19. Oh Catherine, I’m moved by both the thought of the discomfort you underwent and the bravery of your decision to write about it. It sounds like being back at school – what a knight in shining armour your husband must have seemed. I’m glad you ultimately spent an enjoyable evening with someone your company matters to.

    I’m your stereotypical reclusive writer – I HATE shallow, cliquey gatherings with a passion. I find all these “blogger conferences” are just a big sell for companies looking to score some cheap publicity – they offer little to someone who writes for pleasure, they’re more for those who run reviews and competitions and try to make money from their blogs (who don’t realise or care how they’re being exploited).
    Glad you came out of it alive (and to think of the effort you made to attend, both geographical and physical) and kudos to you for your candid account.

    1. I was so afraid to write this blog and post it, but I thought it was important to share as a learning experience for others. It was very much like being back in high school and I was so happy that my husband surprised me, and even took the bus because I was just so overcome with sadness. I think part of the sadness came from such high hopes and then realizing what a let down it was for me.

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