I was honored to be asked to speak at the very first GO Wild planner conference this past weekend. My husband, Don, and our four month old daughter, Charlotte (CC), accompanied me to New Orleans for this amazing event. We had so much fun on our very first trip with our little girl. It was a unique and special experience for me personally as I overcame a huge fear of public speaking to participate in the conference.
If you’re wondering what exactly a planner conference entails, you’re not alone. I wondered the same thing when one of the Facebook admins for the popular Planners Gone Wild group emailed me back in January to see if I’d be interested in speaking. I was still recovering in the hospital after my c-section with CC when the inquiry came through. Maybe it was the novelty of a conference for Planner Enthusiasts like me or the new mama haze, but I decided to go for it knowing full well that I have terrible stage fright. I knew nothing about the Facebook group or what I might be getting myself into, but something about it grabbed hold of me and I knew it was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.
We flew out to New Orleans on Thursday, May 19 in the afternoon. It was CC’s first flight! I had prepared myself for the worst. I know how tough it is on parents to have a wailing baby on the plane since there is little you can do and it feels like everyone is completely annoyed with you. I was pleasantly surprised that we had a pretty smooth trip. CC didn’t sleep much on the plane, but she happily snuggled against me the whole time. It helps that she is a total mama’s girl and relishes the opportunity to be close. She got a bit bothered by the descent and cried for about 10 minutes but once she figured out that the nursing I was encouraging her to do helped her little ears from popping, she was fine. Big sigh of relief!
The conference was held at the New Orleans Downtown Marriott at the Convention Center, conveniently located along the river within walking distance to the French Quarter. We got in just before CC’s bedtime so we basically beelined to check-in and to our room to try to make as smooth as a transition for her as possible. I didn’t get to stop and take in the conference decor until the next day. The conference planners went all out! There were so many decor details throughout the hotel lobby and conference area. I never made it into the bathroom by the ballroom where the conference events took place, but I heard they decked that out, too.
Conference hosts Jeanette and Amanda left some amazing welcome gifts for us in our room. I love how thoughtful they were in picking out some LUSH goodies and a candle for me and cute baby clothes for CC (complete with coordinating shades!). Their attention to detail both on a personal and large scale level was on point! Everyone who attended recieved the fun Geaux Wild bag, badge, and festive goodies sponsored by Krissyanne Designs inside when they registered after check-in.
Here’s a look at the conference schedule. I unfortunately didn’t get to attend much of it as I needed to prioritize CC’s needs. From what I did get to see, everything went off without a hitch. It’s hard to believe this was their very first conference! Even Don commented on how professional the whole thing was. It was evident from the start that Jeanette and Amanda put a lot of time and energy into planning the weekend.
The conference sessions and events were all held in the main ballroom of the hotel, which comfortably accommodated all 420+ attendees. The tables were hosted by different shops and brands and were all decked out with different swag the first day. There was a lot of swag for attendees! I didn’t see much of it in person since I was otherwise occupied with CC, but looking through the photos on Instagram you can tell there were quite a lot of planner goodies ranging from planner stickers to a Day Designer planner and Erin Condren accessories. I was excited to be able to contribute a little and use my Erin Condren referral credits to gift a planner pouch to everyone. My biggest giveaway yet!
My session was on Friday from 12 – 1 PM. We decided on a moderated Q&A in advance as I didn’t feel quite comfortable doing my very first public speaking experience solo. I was quite surprised to find that I really didn’t get very nervous about the whole thing. The me from just a year or two ago would have sweated over it for months, but I honestly didn’t really worry at all leading up to the big day.
I worked with Jeanette on how to set up the talk. We decided on a set Q&A portion for the majority of the session with time to open up to audience questions at the end. Jeanette & Amanda sent out an email survey to conference attendees about a week before asking for question submissions from which they picked out the most popular ones for the session. Jeanette gave me a good sense of the general topics in advance, but I decided to purposefully not prepare anything. I never do for my videos so I figured it made sense to stick with that vibe and just answer as I would in a video Q&A, on the fly. I think not preparing anything in advance worked to my advantage because I really didn’t dwell on it at all and was significantly less nervous than I expected once I walked out on that stage.
I’m sorry I don’t have any footage to share with you, but they wanted to keep the sessions mostly private for conference attendees only. I can tell you that it was a lot of fun and I felt strangely comfortable, in an I’m-always-this-awkward kind of way, throughout the whole thing. The hour went by in a flash! I would happily do it again for a similar crowd if the circumstances were right. Me, speaking to 400 people? Who knew!
If you’re curious about what I wore, you can see it’s a typical Jen nice-but-comfortable outfit, including one of my favorite dresses from Anthropologie that I bought last spring, a J. Crew cardigan, and wedges from Naturalizer (also purchased last spring for another conference which you can see here if you like). I wore a full face of makeup for the second time this year and curled my hair to give it a bit of oomph. I felt comfortable and pulled together. The last thing you want when speaking in public is to feel uncomfortable! I am certainly no fashionista, but I know what works for me and that’s what’s important.
On Friday night, I was invited with several other bloggers/YouTubers to a special dinner with the Planner Queen herself, Erin Condren. It was so nice to finally meet her and her team in person! I was especially excited to meet my primary EC contact, Sam. We’ve been in touch for so long it felt like meeting an old friend! I didn’t get to stay for the entire dinner as Don needed help with CC, but I am so happy I was able to steal away for a little bit, meet some fabulous people, and eat some amazing food (at Emeril’s). Erin Condren handed out advance copies of the new 2016-17 Life Planner to all the gals in attendance. I can’t wait to show you more soon!
I thought I’d share a little bit here about our first travel experience with Charlotte. I don’t think anyone is an expert at traveling with an infant the first go around. I prepared myself in advance for the worst. I figured her sleeping and eating routines would be disrupted, which I assumed would throw her off balance. While she definitely nursed more than usual and slept a lot less than she needed, she actually managed to maintain her sweet composure for the most part. She’s a happy baby, so long as Mama is around.
We knew the two times I needed to be somewhere without her (my session and the special dinner) might be a challenge. My sweet and amazing husband, Don, encouraged me to do as much as I could at the conference, but ultimately CC just wasn’t very happy when I wasn’t there, regardless of me feeding her and putting her down to sleep before both instances I had to be away. It ended up working out in the end, but not without a lot of patience on Don’s part. She’s still quite young and I’m hoping as she matures she’ll be able to handle a little Mama-free time better. That being said, I don’t like to be away from her for long either, so it works out for the time being.
With this in mind, we tried to keep Mama’s away time to a minimum especially since it was CC’s first trip and there was so much going on for her. We didn’t want to overwhelm her more than necessary. So, I missed a lot of the conference, but Don, CC, and I were able to get out a bit and see some of New Orleans. We were blessed with good weather for the most part and took in the sights we could between naps, including a walk along the river, time in the French Quarter, and of course, indulging in some beignets at Café Du Monde.
I did a lot of babywearing in my new Lillebaby Complete Airflow soft structured carrier, which CC and I both like so much more than the Ergo 360. She’s recently discovered the joy of sucking on the straps, so I put our new custom drool pads from Etsy to good use (I’ll talk more about both in an upcoming Mommy Favorites post). We ate out with CC a few times which isn’t something we’ve really done up until this point. It was a fun adventure for our little family and I’m so happy it worked out that we could get some quality time exploring together.
I really wanted to see Erin Condren’s keynote on Saturday and the timing worked out that I could sneak in just after it started once I put CC down for a nap. I was able to stay for almost all of it and was so happy that I was able to hear her speak. She is an amazingly talented, driven, and dedicated woman. It’s no wonder her business has taken off the way that it has! She has worked hard and it has paid off. It was interesting to hear her story and learn more about the face behind the Life Planner. I look forward to seeing where she takes her company next. The sky’s the limit!
Don, CC, and I went to the Planjama Party, the conference’s closing event, on Saturday night. We were only able to stay for a short time as we needed to get CC to bed, but I’m so happy I was able to see how they transformed the ballroom into the perfect party setting. I was also able to meet quite a few followers who snapped photos with me. I even signed a few planners! I never thought anyone would be interested in my signature except at the bottom of a check. It was so wonderful to meet such lovely people. There’s something really special about meeting followers in person.
We flew home on Sunday. Our flight was delayed for awhile and our time spent waiting to get on the plane was the only instance CC cried since I had timed her feedings to work out so I could nurse during takeoff and she was hungry and overtired from the long weekend. It’s important to be flexible with the unpredictability of air travel! I fed her at the gate and our flight was delayed long enough that she was hungry again at takeoff. Once we were in the air she didn’t make a peep for the duration of the flight and slept snuggled against me for a good portion of it.
I vlogged little bits of our trip, if you’d like another perspective into our time in New Orleans:
All in all, the conference was a complete success from my perspective. Jeanette and Amanda did an amazing job pulling everything together for a polished, seamless event filled with both fun and inspirational sessions and activities. They made me feel so welcome and well cared for which helped make my very first public speaking engagement a positive one. I am proud of myself for stepping way out of my comfort zone to do this. It truly goes to show what a little self-motivation can do. I believed I could, and I did. And it was all the more sweet to have Don and CC with me for our first adventure as a family. I will treasure the memories we made in New Orleans forever.
Here’s to more adventures and experiences in 2016!
* This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *