Last week I headed to Vegas for the Wedding Merchant Business Academy, a conference for wedding industry vendors. I was joined by Megan (Offbeat Bride's managing editor, and my Associate Publisher), and two of our favorite event planners, Kelli from Seattle's Shindig Events and Laura from LA's Rebel Belle Weddings.
First, let's talk about the talk
My presentation was about the nontraditional wedding market and why it's bigger, more awesome, and less weird than people might think. Basically, I was trying to convince these more mainstream wedding vendors that they shouldn't dismiss offbeat weddings, and that even if you're catering to more traditional weddings, there's a LOT to learn from nontraditional couples. Here's a peek at the video that kicked off the talk, featuring a few of our favorite photos that photographers have submitted to Offbeat Bride over the years:
From my perspective (and based on the feedback from attendees) the presentation went super awesome. The timing was somewhat unfortunate (4pm on the second day of the conference) so the 2000-person room I was presenting to was at perhaps 25% capacity but whatever: the talk went totally great! YAY!
This was an extra major accomplishment because I had nonstop technical difficulties leading up to the presentation. I knew I was being a little cutting edge by producing my presentation in Google Presentation (Google Drive's version of PowerPoint), but I loved that the whole thing was in the cloud and that there was no way to lose the presentation file. I also knew I was being a little cutting edge by doing my presentation on my Chromebook (instead of a PC or a Mac), but assumed it'd be fine.
Well, it wasn't fine on any accounts. A short list of what went wrong:
- My Chromebook needed a special cord to connect to the A/V set-up (a cord that I didn't have).
- Google Presentation requires an internet connection wifi. The wifi in the exhibitor's hall cost $80/day.
- The wifi was so crappy that my "in the cloud" videos embedded in the presentation were laggy and stuttering.
At a certain point, I decided to bail on my cutting edge Chromebook and just use Powerpoint on Megan's Mac. Then I hit a whole NEW wave of drama, with the Google Presentation export file completely failing to import. Corrupt file, weird error message, etc. Insert lots of updating of PowerPoint, freaking out bla bla. (Many thanks to Ariane of StoryMix Media for holding my hand through some of these freak-outs!)
Finally, I just gave up completely on my cutting edge Chromebook/Google Presentation combo and rebuilt the presentation from scratch using PowerPoint on Megan's Mac and honestly THAT WAS THE EASIEST PART OF THE WHOLE DRAMA. The point at which I completely gave up on Google and the whole "in the cloud, on the Chromebook" concept was the point at which life got way easier. Chromebook, I'm afraid that was your last chance. Next up: a nice normal PC laptop.
Now, what about the booth?
Being a presenter at the WMBA conference meant I got a free booth, so I recruited first one event planner and then another to help me deal with the whole booth thing which somehow freaked me out way more than the presentation. We went relatively simple on the set-up, although "relatively simple" still almost caved my head in because I'm soooo not used to this kind of shit and there were all sorts of problems:
- 8 foot vinyl Offbeat Bride banner (problems: VistaPrint failed to send hangers, and the bottom of the graphic was pixelated, and I didn't punch enough grommets in it)
- 250 fold-out brochures full of information about Offbeat Bride advertising, designed by May Wyatt of Wyatt Ink (problems: a few design challenges, plus the brochure copy I'd written didn't answer most people's most basic question of WHAT IS OFFBEAT BRIDE? Oops.)
- 10 teal paper lanterns
- 8 pink star paper lanters
- 1 easel
- 1 mounted testimonial sign
- 1 laptop to show off the website
- Stack of Offbeat Bride octopus temporary tattoos
- A few books for raffle (books quickly had to be hidden because people tried to walk off with them)
For someone who's used to having NO tangible assets at all, this was a shitload of STUFF and just a big fat pain in the ass. Thank god Laura from Rebel Belle Weddings and Kelli from Shindig Events who totally took care of everything. Seriously, I was just overwhelmed by the whole thing. I'm so glad I do most of my work digitally!
Things we learned at the booth
- Very few wedding vendors in attendance had heard of Offbeat Bride. Out of a 2000 person conference, maybe 30 people were already familiar with the site. This is kind of amazing, but also exactly why I was there.
- Everyone would ask, "So, what IS Offbeat Bride?" Describing the site as a "digital publication" or "online magazine" lead to blank stares. Describing it as "the world's largest blog about nontraditional weddings" worked much better.
- Of the hundreds of wedding industry we talked to, perhaps 50 people really got it. Yay for people getting it! Hopefully we'll be able to introduce some of these "really get it" vendors to y'all on Offbeat Bride soon!
- Of the hundreds of people we talked to, perhaps 10 not only didn't get it, but were flat-out dismissive, condescending, and even rude. Interestingly, all of these people were older men. I also dealt with a couple guys who were like "Wait, is this YOUR business? As in you're the founder? Aww, good for you!" Which is like, dude. I don't need you to pat my head for having a career. Meanwhile, Megan almost lost her shit when this one guy was like "Wait, YOU edit the website? YOU?" Granted, Megan can read as pretty young — but seriously, asshole. Stop being so baffled.
The weird sexism we encountered at the booth was extra galling because say what you will about the Wedding Industrial Complex, but it is dominated by women business owners. I mean, maybe at a tech conference I might be able to understand (not excuse, but at least understand) men being surprised by women business owners. But since women own most of the wedding industry's businesses, these guys being shitty at a wedding industry conference were almost (almost) more confusing than offensive.
I'd say the event was a success, and I've already been asked back to speak next year.