I’ve been lucky enough to go to quite a few conferences in the past few years. With each I learn something new. I’ve been to SEO, social media, wiki and technology conferences (I know, I’m a big geek), but BlogPaws was my first blogging conference. What made it all the more interesting is that it was the first conference that The Pet Wiki sponsored.
This might not sound like a big deal to most people, but for me it sure was. It meant that I needed to set up a 6 foot long table. I had never done that before. I don’t have a table cloth with a fancy logo just lying around to throw over a table, like a lot of the other sponsors did (they had obviously done this before). I had to get inventive.
Luckily I was traveling with my family. That’s right, I didn’t come from home, I came directly from a family vacation in Orlando (which was great, by the way). Everything that I needed to do for the conference I had to do on site. It was a bit nerve racking, but I luckily have the most supportive family EVER. They helped me come up with ideas for making the table fun and inviting. I am very thankful to them for helping me out. We pooled our resources and came up with something to be proud of.
The first thing we did was plan a bit ahead. I knew that I wanted to give stuff out at the conference. Since The Pet Wiki is an information and community site, I figured why not give out information? With the help of a very talented graphic artist named Ossa, we had bookmarks printed for “Why Do Dogs Bury Their Bones?” and “How Does Catnip Work?” They came out really nice.
Besides the bookmarks, I felt like doing a bit more. Ossa came through for me again (and on a very tight schedule) to make mini cookbooks for people to take. There are a lot of recipes for pets on the Wiki, so it just seemed like a natural choice. Now I thought of making a poster of what The Pet Wiki is, and how to use it, but instead I decided to put it on the inside cover of the book. I figured that people might pass by and look at the poster for a couple of minutes, but if they were to take the cookbook with them, they’d have the information there to read at their leisure.
I’m not sure if this was a good idea or bad idea, but I just couldn’t help myself. I used half of the book to promote my blog, Vegan Start. Veganism is something that I am passionate about, and I felt that pet people were the type of people that might be interested in alternatives to animal products. It seemed like a natural fit, and I hope that some people walked away with a little more knowledge and some very yummy recipes that they can make for their family.
With the cookbooks and the bookmarks, the table was still way too sparse. My brilliant daughter came up with the idea to let the animals do the talking. She created adorable posters with the animals asking the questions. Luckily she’s had experience in things like this before and knew exactly what to do. We bought poster board and she drew on them, glued them onto foam boards and cut them into interesting shapes to give more life to the table. They came out fabulous.
We also made 5 batches of sugar cookies and the girls decorated them with animal motifs. No two were alike. They came out so cute. At first I wondered why no one was eating them. I finally figured it out. Since it’s a pet conference, people were afraid that they were dog treats. Once we put up a sign that they were for human consumption, they started going. Most of the other tables had food for pets. I think that we were the only ones to have for people, so that threw them off a bit.
And of course we had a computer handy to show off the site. It was so exciting to be able to show off our new homepage. It’s been a work in progress forever. There’s nothing like a deadline for making it happen. I like working with talented people. I enlisted Ari, a very talented webmaster, that I used to work with. It was so nice to have it up and show it off.
I got so much great feedback from the conference. For people that were already familiar with The Pet Wiki, it was so nice to hear that people enjoy using the site. For people that didn’t know about it yet, it was great being able to tell them about it, and about how it can help them.
Besides all that, it was great seeing the people that I know from Facebook, Twitter and blogging. It was a great crowd of wonderful and passionate people. I look forward to doing it again!
On a side note, another great thing that I was able to do was to pick up a painting that I had commissioned from a very talented artist named BZTAT. I’d seen the progress that she’d been making on the painting on Facebook. Seeing it in person for the first time at the conference was amazing. Those pictures on Facebook just didn’t do it justice.
BZTAT spoke at the conference about a project that she is working on to spread awareness of the link between animal abuse and domestic violence. Okey’s Promise has been set up as a public art initiative that will be moved around to six different cities to help make people aware of this connection and what to look for to keep women and children safe. It’s meeting people like BZTAT that makes going to conferences like this so enjoyable and inspiring.