I knew the conference was a great deal* and jumped on it but I wasn't expecting the presentations to be as engaging and even inspiring as they were. And funny! Seriously funny. There was so much packed in to three short days- I wish we could have spent a week there with everyone. Maybe then I would have managed to mingle more among my bloggy peers. As it was, I missed meeting quite a few people who I genuinely wanted to visit with and was forced to truncate some conversations to chase after the kiddos. Still, I did get to spend some time with plenty of great bloggers and put faces to profile pics.
The Disney Polynesian Resort is beautiful, kind of a Disneyfied version of Hawaiian hotels. The kids got a big kick out of all the staff saying "aloha" all the time. Even with the dismal weather, it was warm and inviting. I would have liked to see the volcano pool in action.
At least the ducks got some use out of the swimming pool… I wish I'd taken some pictures of the room but I somehow missed that. It had two queen beds and lovely furniture. Nice bedding and H20 Aquatics amenities. (The only bad thing was the insanely loud flush on the toilet. It was truly deafening!) The Polynesian is right on the monorail line to Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, making it very convenient to get around without having a car to deal with.
Guy Kawasaki presided over a breakfast and gave a Twitter demo that had everyone laughing AND taking notes.
We were whisked off to the unveiling of the world's largest canned food structure, in celebration of Volunteer Day and the Give a Day, Get a Disney Day program. Ty Pennington was in the house, as well as the unbelievably hot in real life Carter Osterhouse. (I can't believe I didn't take a picture of him, I know.)
Other celebrities were present, too, including Duff (the MTV VJ from waaaaay back when I actually watched MTV) and Neil Bush. There were also several Disney stars including the Zeke and Luther guys, Demi Lovato and, yes, a Jonas brother. Joe, to be specific. They all lent a hand planting trees and loading trucks. Later that night, we were treated to an outdoor party at Epcot catered by Robert Irvine, the Dinner: Impossible chef.
Jasper was thrilled because they gave out glow sticks that looked like tiny lightsabers and he found someone to spar with.
Roo was excited because All Star Weekend played and "the green jacket boy singing is kind of handsome…"
Friday was the all-day conference and it started off with a social breakfast. There were two Disney cast members who flitted from table to table, pretending to be "social media moms" with smartphones in hand. Amusing but a little much for me that early in the morning! The first speaker was Maxine Clark, the "Chief Executive Bear" of Build-a-Bear Workshop. She was absolutely fascinating, with a compelling story of how love can be the central theme of your entrepreneurial spirit. Amazing.
I have never been to one of her stores but I suspect that we will be visiting one soon, just because I liked her so much. Even Chris Brogan had to probe her brain:
Marissa Jaret Winokur, Tony winner for Hairspray, was also very inspiring. (And almost unrecognizable as a blonde!) Her stories about being a mom in Hollywood had everyone cracking up.
I don't usually go in for the me-with-celeb photo thing but she was so much fun, I thought it might rub off…
Oh, look who else popped in! There were raffle drawings throughout Friday's presentations and the biggest prize was an overnight stay in Cinderella's castle. Whoa.
Kathy Ireland was perhaps more beautiful than she was in the '80s and her story about building her lifestyle brand was remarkable, especially in light of an almost-catastrophic bankruptcy. Her compassion is so contagious, she makes you want to be a better person!
I really wanted Chris Brogan to talk for much, much longer. I see why everyone says he's one to watch now. He had so much to say about engagement and community, and he said it with empathy and humor. He made me want to be a better blogger, for real.
Last, but not least, Mary Ellen Hooper treated us to some stand up comedy with a decidedly mommy bent. Love her! She was hilarious, even if everything she said was absolutely true.
I was totally surprised that I didn't want the conference panels to end! All of the speakers were interesting and astute and I wanted to know more about each of them. I was so pleased to have a new outlook on social media and the role of the mom blogger. Now I just need to figure out where I fit in.
*Disclosure: I paid the nominal registration fee to attend the conference with my family but it was a drastically discounted price compared to normal resort lodging and park pass costs. We received plenty of perks from WDW including meals and gifts, along with a media Fast Pass that was a total godsend. Nonetheless, I was not asked to write about this event or any of the theme parks. I just kinda thought you might like to hear about it so you could sign up to be notified