This year the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration On the Road Events were held in Chicago, Philadelphia and Phoenix. The Adult Side of Disney was fortunate to have one representative invited to each of the three “On The Road” Disney Social Media events. Here is Marge’s recap of the event held in Chicago.
It is really hard to believe that the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration On The Road Events have already come and gone. After months of anticipation, bloggers from all over the country had the opportunity to attend one of these premier events held in three cities across the United States. This year’s On The Road events were held in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Phoenix. I was fortunate to have been invited to the Chicago event held on June 17 at The Hyatt Lodge at McDonald’s Campus in Oak Brook, IL. The event began around 8 am and I arrived about 45 min early. I was driving in that morning and since Chicago traffic can be unpredictable, made sure I left the house that morning very early. Since I arrived well before the event was to begin, I was one of the first to arrive. This was actually a really good thing. The aspect of the conference of which I was most nervous was the networking portion of the day. I am a really, really shy person and going up to complete strangers to introduce myself is not anything I EVER do. So to be in a situation where being a social butterfly is the expectation was really scary for me. My early arrival meant that I could ease into this aspect of the day, meeting other attendees as they trickled in that morning. Everyone I met that morning was really very welcoming and I started to feel a bit (and I mean just a tiny bit) more at ease with approaching other bloggers. When the doors to the ballroom opened up just after 8am, I had met a ton of new people, exchanged contact cards and connected with a few great people who had invited me to sit with them during the event. This was my second biggest fear—not having anyone to sit with that day (think lunch room, first day of high school).
As we entered the ballroom, guests had the opportunity for more networking, taking some Disney Side pictures at the photo booths that had been set up, and visit a few vendor booths. I was really excited to take advantage of the photo booth and take a few Disney Side photos. Guests could choose from a variety of props to use in their photos. I chose to go with a Doc McStuffins theme—she’s a big favorite in our house. Once we had some time to mingle and take some pictures, breakfast was served and it was time to get down to business.
Jamie Langdon, Walt Disney World Public Relations and Social Media Manager, and Leanne Jakubowski O’Regan, Director Social Media, Disney Parks, began the day with very warm and welcoming presentations. It was really amazing that they thanked us for being there. I thought that really said something about how much Disney and its partners value us as social media moms and dads.
Next up was Gary Buchanan, Walt Disney World Social Media Managing Editor. Gary talked about what’s new at the Disney Parks—while wearing his Jedi robe. He talked about magic bands and Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train. He also showed us a video of the “Diaper Dans”, which was a late night typo that turned into a hilarious video of four baby boys in little suits, singing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”. It wasn’t so much the actual video of the boys singing that has us laughing, but the outtakes and the effort that had to go in to getting four babies to sit still for the length of the video (think “cookie bribes”).
Jenn Fickely-Baker, Walt Disney World Social Media Manager was our next speaker and she gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the Disney Parks Blog.
Admittedly, I was hoping that the Disney folks were going to give us a sneak peek into what was up and coming at the parks, so I was a little disappointed that the “what’s new” presentation were things with which I was already familiar. I was secretly hoping they would reveal some big change coming to the parks (Star Wars Land maybe?). However, not everyone present at the conference was as “enthusiastic” as some of us—one gal I met have never even been to a Disney Park—so to those folks this information was new. Even though the information that was presented was not necessarily new to me, I still found the presentations to be enjoyable.
Our final speaker before our break was Lori Lorenz, Senior Director, Direct Print Services, HP. She talked about how HP printers can solve some everyday mom dilemmas. These printers can print gift cards through TwoSmiles.com and download and print activity pages to occupy kids any time you need. She also talked about the Direct Print service. Hold on to your hats because this is AWESOME! You know how when you’re printing and you suddenly discover you are out of ink. It’s very frustrating because the ink for your printer is NEVER sold at the stores you frequent most. You have to make an extra trip out to the office supply store, which is not on my daily travel path and so it is sometimes weeks before I can get ink and get my printer back up and running. With Direct Print not only will it tell you when you are getting low on ink but…wait for it…the printer will send this info to HP who will DELIVER the ink to you so you never run out of ink. How great is that? What a great solution for a common household problem.
After Lori’s presentation it was break time. I took this opportunity to visit the vendor booths. My favorite was definitely Princess Etch-A-Sketch. Jane Labowitch is the Princess behind the Etch-A-Sketch and she creates these amazing works of art on the beloved toy. She does a variety of themes and, of course she had several Disney themed pieces on display. One lucky attendee won her “Elsa” piece and another attendee won the opportunity to have her portrait done by Jane on the Etch-A-Sketch. It turned out great too! If you want to see some of her work you can find her at www.princessetchasketch.com
The three speakers that presented after break offered advice that could help grow your blog/brand/business and really connect with people. Michelle Stepney, Content Director, Disney Parks Global Content Development, talked about presenting yourself to the media and one of her biggest messages was that nothing is ever “off the record”. Maria Bailey moderated a panel of real mom-entrepreneurs who discussed the Huggies MomInspired Program, which awards moms with $15,000 to help them develop their innovative ideas into real products. Both moms on the panel were past winners of the program and now have their products sold in places like Buy Buy Baby and Amazon. It was exciting to hear how they are just regular people who made a simple product in their own homes to solve problems they had in their real lives.
Our final speaker was Ramon De Leon, Sr Social Strategist, Rise Interactive. Ramon discussed the power of social media and the importance of establishing relationships with your followers, seeing them as people rather than numbers. My favorite quote from him was “Don’t think Friends, Followers, Posts, or Likes. Think of the relationships you intend to create”. I think this is such an important piece of advice in the social media world. So many times we get caught up in numbers, how many people “liked” my post or how many followers do I have on Twitter, that we forget that each like or follow is a real person. Establishing relationships with readers and followers are important for long-term success in the world of social media. Ramon was extremely entertaining and I very much enjoyed his presentation.
The day ended with a surprise visit from Mickey! Everyone was excited to have his or her picture taken with him. The line was incredibly long and I debated on whether or not to get in it or not. I decided this was probably the only chance I’d get to have a solo picture taken with my favorite mouse and so I got in line and had my first EVER picture taken, all by myself (no parents, siblings, husband, or kids), with Mickey.
The Disney Social Media Moms Celebration On The Road-Chicago was an incredible experience and I was really honored to have been invited. Many have asked the question “how do you get invited?”. Frist, you have to apply on the Disney Social Media Moms website during the time they are accepting applications. After that, how they choose attendees from the many, many applicants is a mystery. There was not common trait among the attendees that made me think, “Oh that’s why they picked us”. New bloggers, established bloggers, people with thousands of Twitter and Instagram followers and people with only a hundred or so followers were all part of the event. There were even some attendees who had never been to a Disney Park, so you don’t even have to be a Disney fanatic to snag an invite. Whatever the “magical formula” might be, remember you cannot be invited unless you apply, so make sure you watch for the applications open up next year.
It was truly an honor to have been included in this year’s Disney Social Media Moms Celebration On The Road. I met so many incredible people and learned some great things that I cannot wait to use in my own blog. I hope I get the chance to attend another Disney Social Media Moms event in the future!