Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Guide to Blissdom Canada

Two years ago, I was invited to my first gig as a speaker at Blissdom Canada.  The trip was one of many firsts-the first time I’d been on a plane in 20 years, first big conference, first time speaking…let’s just say I was completely freaked out.  What do I bring? What do I wear?  Where’s the good coffee shops?

Those days seem so long ago, and now I feel like a conference veteran.  I can’t make it to Blissdom Canada this year, but I know a bunch of new people are, and you are just as freaked out as I was.  Sit down, grasshopper, and let me teach you the ways of Blissdom Canada:

1.     Cabs from the airport are about $50, which can be expensive if you are by yourself. You could share, but I like to take the Airport Express.  Book it online and print out your tickets to take with you.  The stop is easy to find at the terminal and you can sit with comfy seats and use their free wifi while traveling to the hotel.   Not only is it cheaper than a cab, they run fairly regularly, are comfortable, and if you don’t have other people to share a cab with, far cheaper!

Note: Regarding transportation, bring along some smaller bills.  This works well if a bunch of you decide to share a cab so it’s easier to settle up. There’s often transport provided, but I find that even then, sometimes you need to cab it.

2.     Bring along comfortable shoes.  Sure, Blissdom isn’t nearly as huge as Blogher, but if you enjoy walking around downtown Toronto to explore, you’ll need them.  Throw in an umbrella, too. You don’t want to be walking to meet someone at a restaurant like I did last year and need to stop to buy one in desperation because of a torrential downpour!

Note: while we’re talking shoes, be sure to check out what Alli Worthington has on her feet.  I swear she always has the coolest shoes in the building.

3.     If you love good coffee, my favorite stop is the Dark Horse Espresso bar.  Big French presses of coffee, shirts from Me to We, snacks, and whole bean coffee to take home.  There’s a bunch of locations so you’ll be sure to find one.

4.     While the food at Blissdom was some of the best I’ve had at a conference next to Blogher Food, make time to get out of the venue and actually spend time with some of your favorite people or new friends over a meal.  For breakfast, I recommend The Senator Diner ‘s French toast slathered in real maple syrup.   As for dinner, a bunch of us found our way to Messis, and it was really very delicious.  Yukari also recommends  Milangro.

5.     Bringing all your electronics is a personal decision. I used to take everything-the mobile, laptop, and camera, but I found it was way too cumbersome.  Now I just leave the laptop at home and bring the camera and mobile (no, I don’t have a smart phone. If you do, that’s all you need!). Tweeting during the conference is fun and a great way to keep up on all the plans with other people. When you meet someone follow them on twitter right away so you don’t forget.  Texting is faster and better if you lose your group, and then you don’t have to worry about sketchy wifi.

Note: try putting the gadgets down for awhile.  You’ll get to know people a lot better!

6.     Dress comfortably. While you may want something a little dressier for the parties, Blissdom is more low key than other conferences.  Bring a sweater for the sessions, as the rooms can be a little chilly.  I’d say dress in layers, just in case.  What would I wear?  Jeans, flats, a nice top, and a sweater.

7.     Roam the room and say hello to everyone!   Are you shy?  Worried about approaching that big name blogger?  We all were there too.  You get out of conferences what you put into them so put on that smile, extend your hand, and go say hello.  The Community leaders are some of the first blogging folk,  I have ever met and I can attest to their extreme awesomeness-so get out there and meet them, as well as everyone else.  Don’t be afraid to just sit yourself down at a table, extend a hand, and smile.

8.     Keep your drink tickets and a stash of business cards in your name tag.  You won’t have to dig for them, and can stash the cards you get there, too.  Easy peasy!

9.     Are you flying out early in the morning? While Starbucks could be closed early on Sunday near the hotel, it’s open at the airport, so you can pick up oatmeal, fruit, or a muffin and a coffee there.

10.  Schedule in a little down time.  Conferences are non stop stimulation, which can be overwhelming and exhausting.  Don’t be afraid to go back to your room and take a nap, skip a session and order room service, sleep in, or leave a party early to have some pj time with your roomie.  One of my favorite moments from Blogher Food was Alexis and I sitting in our pjs, laughing until we cried while we watched My Drunk Kitchen on our laptops. 

Most of all?  Have fun. After all, that is what conferences are all about, isn’t it?

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