I love Disney World.
I loved it when I went as a kid. I loved it on my Honeymoon. I loved it when I got to see it through my children's eyes. I will always love it. My husband and I joke about how we will grow old and retire to Disney World - wouldn't that be fantastic?
I didn't think I could love Disney any more.
Turns out, I can.
The Disney Social Media Moms conference has reinforced just how much I love Disney. I could write a book on that week, but instead I'll try to condense it here. (Try is the operative word.)
Before we even saw one sign for the conference, Disney was making magic. They immediately credited back our money (via the Disney travel insurance) for the days that we missed due to the blizzard in MD. They managed to combine our two reservations so that we could stay in the same room of the hotel for our whole stay. They gave us our magical package of goodies, filled with credentials, park passes, gift certificate, lunch voucher, and the unbelievable media fast pass. (This fast pass is better than the normal fast pass, as it lets you get in the past fast line immediately - that allowed us to virtually walk on several of the rides.) All this happened well before I even parked my suitcase in my room.
We spent time riding all the great rides - Expedition Everest, Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, and so many more. We had amazing meals at the California Grill (fireworks and sushi and dessert = heaven for all) and The Hollywood Brown Derby. We got to meet Mickey and Minnie, and ride the Barnstormer 3 times in a row, thanks to rain and a sparsely populated Magic Kingdom. We had lunch with princesses. Princesses!
The conference hadn't even started!
The first day was set aside for attendees to check in and get their goodies, while the night was the official start of our event. When I went back to the suite to make sure I had all the info I needed (I had already been hooked up with that great packet of stuff) I was given more swag - incredible gifts of watches, games, and more.
Later, we were transported to the new ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. There, we watched a media press conference sneak peek at all of the great things coming to WDW. (Princesses galore, a magical cruise ship, and amazing summer nights are all coming soon.) We then met up with our families and had a dance party extravaganza. My girls danced their hearts out up on that stage!
That night, as we left, we got two surprise gifts: a nice baseball hat for each of us, and new friends! The friends came in the form of Janice (from 5 Minutes for Mom) and her family. I said before how much my kids loved hers - but I neglected to say how much I liked them. Janice and her husband were so nice to me and my family. Even though 5 Minutes for Mom was one of the organizers, with a huge blog (and I, in comparison, am definitely on the low end of the bloggy popularity contest,) they were warm, and friendly, and helped settle my nerves.
This day was started with an early breakfast (pre park opening) at the America Pavilion in Epcot. The food was great, but listening to Guy Kawasaki was better. Just a few things I got from him, particularly good for new bloggers like myself:
- Tell those people who don't like the way you tweet to "UFM." (Un.Follow.Me)
- Tweet your feed
- Retweet every 8 to 10 hours (four times) in order to reach your whole audience.
- Study new sources (like Guy's Alltop site) to figure out what your audience may find interesting.
After breakfast, we went over to the Family Volunteer Announcement at the World Showplace. We heard more about the "Give a day, Get a day program." We got to cheer for all the families who had gone above and beyond in volunteering. Kermit and Ty Pennington were there to present the worlds largest (Guinness certified) sculpture made out of canned food.
After playing in the parks, my family and I went back over to that location and got to participate in the volunteer activity. While the canned goods project was too full of fellow bloggers and volunteers for us to jump in, we did get a chance to help plant trees. That turned out perfectly, because my girls planted with Dan Curtis Lee (of "Zeke and Luther" on the Disney Channel) and Alyson Stoner (of the Disney movie Camp Rock!) They took a quick break to grab some autographed photo's of Disney Channel stars, then came back just in time to see Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato! It was a great treat for them.
Later that night, we were treated, once again, to a fantastic dinner. Only this time, the chef was Robert Irivine, and the meal was a challenge for his show Dinner Impossible! (I hear this episode will air in April, and I can attest that some of his food was quite yummy.) After dinner, we got another special treat - Demi and Joe came on stage and sang songs from the "Friends For Change" spots and songs from Camp Rock. An amazing night for young girls and parents alike.
On this day we had breakfast (with some roving "characters" that cracked me up,) then two sessions, broke for lunch, had two more sessions, broke for for a quick mingle, then finally came back for happy hour. While there, I won an adorable Ariel Build-A-Bear for my girls, a sweet Minnie Mouse, and received a comfy fleece jacket that really came in handy at the park. I also got something even better - the chance to make friends with lots of other bloggers. I sat at a table with lots of new faces, at every point of the day, and every one of those ladies were friendly and sweet. In particular, I really want to thank Kim Tolander of Kimworld for being so nice and friendly. She even snapped a picture for me (see below) when my little cellphone camera wasn't cutting it.
This day was the bulk of the conference sessions. It was really just jammed packed with incredible information. The speakers included Maxine Clark (Chief Executive Bear at Build-A-Bear); Tony Award winner, broadway mama Marissa Jaret Winokur; Model, Mom, and Entrepreneur Kathy Ireland; Social Media Guru and author (and very funny guy,) Chris Brogan; and Maryellen Hooper, comedienne extraordinaire.
I did two very stupid things at this point: one was forgetting the battery to my good camera, and the other was not taking more notes. But again, I did retain some great information:
- Maxine Clark taught me that you can teach your employees to work the register, but you can't teach them to care. You (and your employees, really) must do what you love. She also told us a bout a wonderful young girl that she has been in contact with for a while. It taught me that you can learn and gain so much inspiration from children.
- Marissa Jaret Winokur taught me that mom's are strong! (Did you know she is also a breast cancer survivor? I would have loved to interview her for The Pink Purpose.) She makes things happen - always knocking on doors, putting herself out there. She heard a lot of "no's" but never gave up and never turned down an opportunity for good PR. ;)
- Kathy Ireland taught me that even us girls with high, squeaky voices can do big things. She knows that the job of motherhood is the most important job - but one we don't have to do alone. She also, like Marissa, got a lot of "no's" but didn't give up, in modeling or in business.
- Chris Brogan taught me that no one turns away business. If you go to a company (sponsor) with a way for them to sell more product, they won't turn you down. He taught me to continue the conversation - and that is what social media is about, after all.
- Maryellen Hooper taught me that she is freaking hilarious. She joked about motherhood, being a wife, and being a woman. All of it was funny, and all of it was so true!
After a quick chance to recuperate at the hotel, we rallied and went back out to the final family dinner at the Hollywood Studios. Again, we feasted and danced the night away. This time, though, we got to meet back up with our buddies from night one! It was so fun to watch them all dance together. (Janice has great pictures of Olivia, Jackson, Sara, and Riley all breaking out fantastic moves!) Later, we were all able to ride Toy Story Mania (and over and over again) as the park was shut down to all but the conference attendees.
Believe me, we all slept very well that night!
I know this post is ridiculously long. And I know that I didn't even scratch the surface of everything I did and learned. You can find even more coverage from fellow attendees of the event over at the link-up hosted on 5 Minutes for Mom.
Thank you so much to Walt Disney World, Resourceful Mommy Media, Mom Bloggers Club, Mom Select, and 5 Minutes for Mom for putting this all together.
It was simply amazing.
Please remember, FCC, that while I did pay for this conference, it might be also considered a sweetheart deal as I am getting tons of lovely perks at such a low price - the same as the rest 100 or so conference attendees. Know that also, all statements I offer on this blog (or elsewhere) about this event are my own, forthright opinions. Got it? ;)