It’s been just over a week since attending my second ever blogger’s conference and I wanted to recap and share my experience with you.
I attended the rewardStyle conference last weekend in Dallas, Texas, which is where the company is headquartered. If you’re unfamiliar, rewardStyle is an affiliate networking company with “a suite of tools that allow top tier style publishers to monetize their entire digital brand.” Basically, being a rewardStyle publisher allows me to earn an income from my blog through the use of affiliate links. I’m personally not a big fan of those splashy (and flashy) Google Adsense and similar ads that some other bloggers use. I find them distracting (which they’re meant to be so you’ll click on them) and generally annoying. I understand why people use them, as there aren’t many ways for bloggers to generate income from their efforts. I am grateful that rewardStyle allows me to monetize my blog on my own terms and within my own aesthetic. I am never showing readers an ad for something I don’t 100% genuinely recommend and all of my affiliate links are intentionally included by me, not some third party. In short, it’s an awesome service and I was very excited to see what the conference would be like.
Day #1 – April 23, 2015
Please be advised that some of the links provided are affiliate links and I do receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links. This does not cost you any extra when you make a purchase. I very much appreciate your support of this blog in doing so!
The conference didn’t officially start until Friday the 24th, but I decided to fly in on Thursday so I would have time to get settled and attend the launch party that evening. I was able to check in early at The Joule, the hotel where the conference was being held. I like that I could stay on property like I did when I went to my first ever conference for Alt Summit in January. It makes the whole experience feel more comfortable, not just for the obvious ease of getting around, but also as a person who can get a bit nervous in these sorts of social situations. It’s nice to have a quiet, easily accessible space with all my stuff to go to whenever I need a breather.
The Joule is located in the heart of downtown Dallas in the business district, which is a great central location. Thanks to the ease of Uber I was able to get around and take some of Dallas in between conference happenings. Check in for the hotel and the conference was side by side making registration a breeze. I had a deluxe king room, which was part of the room block deal (I give a proper room tour in my coordinating video below if you’re interested in seeing more). I was given a conference program, schedule, lanyard with pass, and a Mini Zip Card Case, which was a gift from one of the conference sponsors, GiGi New York. I also received a copy of In the Front Roe, a personal style guide by fashion journalist Louise Roe. I thought this was a lot of swag! Boy, was I in for a surprise…
After popping out to have a look around and get something to eat, I came back to my hotel room to find loads of goodies from two of the brands attending the conference, Missguided and World Market. Talk about feeling pampered! I’m most excited by the Instax Mini 8 camera. I can’t wait to play with that!
After sprucing up a bit, I headed upstairs to the rooftop poolside party hosted by Stuart Weitzman. What a stunning event! I didn’t actually stay long, because I was tired after a long day of travel and feeling a bit shy not knowing anyone, but I’m glad I went to see the scene at the very least. Absolutely stunning hydrangea bouquets floating in the pool, an onsite DJ, and a specialty cocktail (which I didn’t try but looked refreshing!) all helped set the mood for what would turn out to be a very fashionable weekend. The party was attended by very pretty people in very pretty clothes, which was a real theme of the conference. This makes sense since the weekend was primarily geared towards rewardStyle’s top publishers, which happen to be mostly fashion and beauty bloggers. I did feel a bit out of the loop in this department (and by a bit, I mean really 😉 ), but I still very much enjoyed observing and admiring all of the beautiful styles around me!
I didn’t stay long, as I mentioned, and decided to take myself out to dinner at Rise N∘1, a local French restaurant known for their savory and sweet soufflés. Double yum!
Day #2 – April 24, 2015
The first full day of the conference was split between classes and one-on-one brand meetings, both of which had been prearranged by the rewardStyle team. I was able to specify which classes I was most interested in attending when I signed up for the conference back in February, but ultimately the decision was not my own. This ended up working out alright, as I learned a lot from the classes I was assigned to, including one about Google Analytics (something I know absolutely nothing about), Audience Engagement (something I know a little something about but there’s always more to learn), and How To Take the Perfect Personal Style Photo (something I could use a lot of help with). I took copious notes and felt like the presenters provided a lot of useful information in an accessible way.
Publishers had access to the Brand Networking Hall on Friday where brands set up booths to showcase their products, many of which gave very nice gifts! Free goodies are always a bonus, but the best part of perusing the booths was learning more about great retailers. It was fun for me to see and chat with folks from my standby favorites like World Market and L’Occitane and be introduced to companies I’m not familiar with such as Coastal, GiGi New York, and Kendra Scott. Their marketing worked on me and I have purchased and have plans to purchase items from these great brands.
There were two brands interested in meeting with me one-on-one on Friday. My first meeting was with Framebridge, an online framing service. This was an excellent experience where I felt like I was able to comfortably communicate what I do and learn what Framebridge offers in a friendly exchange. The nice folks at Framebridge actually gifted all conference attendees their very own framed Instagram print. For just $39 you can get your own print framed and shipped to you. I will definitely be taking advantage of this easy service in the future for gifts!
My second meeting was with World Market, a store I’ve loved and shopped at since I was just a kid. To be honest, I didn’t have the same feel good experience at this meeting like I did with the folks from Framebridge, mostly because I felt like one of the ladies I was talking to was very skeptical about me and my blog. She didn’t say that outright, but her tone, body gestures, and general manner all gave me the strong impression she didn’t think it was a good match. Keep in mind, as an attendee/publisher, I did not request these meetings; the brands did that. It’s rather off-putting to be talking to someone who obviously doesn’t want to talk to you. That being said, it was a good learning experience about conducting myself in an uncomfortable meeting situation and practicing how to talk about my online content as my “brand.” I still love World Market despite this and don’t harbor any ill feelings towards the brand. FYI – just thought I’d share that they’re having their Friends and Family sale right now through Friday (May 8) with up to 25% savings storewide!
Lunch on Friday was hosted across the street from the hotel at The Woolworth by boohoo.com, a UK based online clothing store with daily new inventory offered at affordable prices. Boohoo gave a brief presentation about expanding their market to the US. I was fortunate to run into fellow YouTubers Marnie (MsGoldGirl) and Michele (michele1218). We sat at a table with bloggers Veronika (from Veronika’s Blushing) and Desiree (from Beautifully Seaside). It was such a pleasure to meet these fabulous ladies! I was grateful to them for including me at the other social events as well, as the conference was pretty cliquey and as I mentioned before, I knew no one going in.
I had a little free time between conference happenings and the evening event, so I decided to walk over to The Sixth Floor Museum located at the infamous book depository where JFK was allegedly shot from and killed in 1963. This powerful exhibit is a must see if you’re in Dallas. I highly recommend taking the guided audio tour, which is included in the price of admission.
On Friday evening, River Island, another UK based “high street” clothing online brand, hosted a party across the street from the Joule at the Tasset Sculpture Garden (otherwise known at “The Eye” thanks to the enormous sculpture of an eyeball). The weather was not cooperating and a clear tent was raised to house the amazing party setup, complete with a four-sided bar (more themed cocktails at this one – a definite conference theme), mannequins dressed with recent styles, a flip book photo booth, and a wall of shopping bags/party favors.
The weather turned from bad to worse, unfortunately, and the party ended early for safety precautions. Once again, I didn’t stay long, mostly because I didn’t run into anyone I had already met and was feeling shy and very hungry. I did manage to get some good shots of the party scene and snag my party favor (a beautiful bag I am actually giving away – see below). I grabbed a quick bite at the hotel restaurant, CBD Provisions, and turned in early.
Day #3 – April 25, 2015
Saturday was dedicated solely to big group sessions on the main stage with a rotation of speakers. I got a breakfast taco and an amazing chai tea latte from the hotel coffee shop, Weekend, to keep me fueled during the morning talks. It was a lot of great information about things I haven’t paid much attention to before and I felt like I learned some useful things for my new site redesign.
Lunch on Saturday was hosted on the terrace of The Joule by MatchesFashion.com, a global luxury online retailer. The pretty boxes on the table were actually filled with our lunches! It was a gorgeous, sunny day in Dallas and I was happy to spend some time outside. The lunch was centered around promoting a new line of bags from designer Mary Katranzou.
The rest of the afternoon was filled with more main stage sessions. While I felt these weren’t as applicable to my content as the morning sessions were, it was still interesting to hear about other people’s experiences and advice.
The sessions wrapped up just after 4 PM and I rushed out to grab an Uber to go to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanic Garden. Little did I know they actually closed at 5 PM and I sadly missed my opportunity, but luckily my very friendly driver recommended a nice local neighborhood called McKinney where I could walk around, enjoy the weather, and grab a bite. It was a nice way to unwind after a long day cooped up inside. I had a delicious burger (complete with truffle fries!) at Village Burger Bar and snagged a great deal on a pretty dress from Loft. It was marked down from $118 to $42! I took this find as a sign I should attend the party that night, which I hadn’t originally planned on going to and didn’t actually pack an outfit for. I paired the dress with some of my new Kendra Scott jewels (Andrea necklace and Parker stud earrings) I also picked up at the local boutique that day for a quintessential Jen look: classic look, comfortable fit.
The final party was hosted by rewardStyle as a one year birthday celebration of their innovative LIKEtoKNOW.it tool at the Continental Bridge. This unique landmark has a beautful pedestrian bridge next to it that has been converted into a park. It was the perfect spot to watch the sun set on the Dallas skyline. We lucked out with the weather, which was an extra good thing because the big surprise of the evening was an awesome fireworks display. I surprised myself by actually staying almost until the end of the party (for once 😉 ) and enjoyed chatting with some lovely ladies.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this conference. In all honesty, I was surprised I was even invited since, as I mentioned before, I didn’t really fit the mold. I decided to sign up mostly because I was curious. Yes, I am a rewardStyle publisher, but I haven’t put a whole lot of time or thought into that aspect of my content. I appreciate it as a convenient tool that allows me to monetize my blog in my own way with 100% control over what readers see. Those flashy Google Adsense ads are not my style and I suppose I’m a bit snooty (?) about that when it comes to my website (I completely understand and appreciate why other people use them, it’s just not my thing). I want readers to be able to see my content, not the ads, but I’d also like to earn an income from my efforts. RewardStyle allows me to do that with simple hyperlinks and low key widgets that I can seamlessly fit into my content. I never want you as a reader to feel like I’m constantly trying to push things onto you to sell stuff, because that is not the point of my sharing. I attended the conference hoping to learn how to better integrate this service into my blog for a more content and user friendly experience. I picked up some great tips that will help me with not only that but better site optimization (think faster, easier to find content) as well.
I’m never going to be as stylish as the fashionistas who predominated the attendee list and perhaps that makes me less of an ideal rewardStyle publisher. I hope this doesn’t come off wrong, but I actually feel reaffirmed in this knowledge. I’m not trying to say I’m better than anyone else that attended because of my lack of fashion sense. Comparing myself to and judging others isn’t my style, although I do poke fun at myself for being a “black sheep,” as you can see in my vlog. What is reaffirming is that I still stay true to myself and my own personal style regardless of the circumstances. This was definitely a situation where I could have stepped out of my comfort zone to try to blend in better, but I didn’t even consider it for a moment. As someone who uses affiliate links in my content, I hope this is reassuring to you as a reader in that you know I do not link things just to make a sale on the latest hot thing. I link things I genuinely want to share. What you see on my blog and YouTube channel is 100% genuine (“Jenuine” 😉 ) me. I share because I want to, not to make a buck. But I don’t think it’s so wrong to also earn an income from my efforts. RewardStyle helps me do that in a way that feels authentic to me.
In short, it wasn’t quite the feel good experience like Alt Summit was where I felt reaffirmed as a bonafide blogger (which I had never felt before), but I am glad I attended the rewardStyle conference and would highly recommend it to anyone who is invited in future years. As with anything, I recommend going with an open mind. You’ll learn things both practical and personal that you weren’t expecting.
Check out my vlog from the conference if you’re interested in seeing more about my experience:
It’s giveaway time! I wanted to share the swag love with one of you. The Conference Swag Giveaway will run until Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 6 PM CT. The giveaway is open internationally. All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter. One winner will receive all of the items below:
You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways). I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always. Good luck!
** GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED ***
Congrats to the winner of the Conference Swag Giveaway!
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I hope you enjoyed this detailed look at my rewardStyle conference experience. I look forward to sharing more blogger conference experiences with you in the future. There’s always more to learn about how to share my world with you!
* Post contains affiliate links. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *