Somehow, with all of the travel that I have done for my work running my websites in the past few years, the one thing that I hadn’t done was attend one of the major national blog conferences. I had attended local events like WordCamp here in Florida, but hadn’t traveled further afield for one.
I finally crossed “attend blog conference” off of my list last week when I attended the 2016 SNAP Conference for creative bloggers in Salt Lake City. For those unfamiliar with it, SNAP Conference is a three day annual event based in Salt Lake City that serves home, craft, and DIY bloggers. The event provides networking, education, and opportunities to connect with sponsors.
My journey to SNAP started with a 4am drive to Daytona Beach International airport to catch a 6am flight to Atlanta. I love Daytona Beach airport – it’s only a half hour away from my house and easy to use because it is tiny. It’s so tiny, in fact, that when I checked in for my trip to SNAP, the check-in agent handed me my boarding pass and said, “Your flight is at gate 2.” I told him, “You could have just said go to the gate with the plane at it.” He laughed and told me I was right. Once, I arrived a bit too early for my flight and spent quite awhile as the lone passenger in the secure area of the terminal, with only the airport’s police officer and the gift store clerk for company.
Getting through TSA’s security for the trip to SNAP was a bit of an adventure. I was carrying about 13 pounds of soap, distributed between my two checked bags and my roller carry-on bag to avoid any of the bags getting too heavy.
So it turns out when you are carrying large quantities of glycerin soap packed densely together, the TSA thinks you are carrying something else: Explosives. So I got to wait at the checkpoint while a very polite man looked in my bag and swabbed my soap for explosive residue. Note to self: Next time, put all of the soap in the checked bags (neither of which the TSA bothered to open).
The mountains in Salt Lake City are beautiful but come with a downside: altitude sickness. SNAP attendees were warned repeatedly in the event’s Facebook group about the dangers of altitude sickness. The thinner air at higher altitudes can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, and a feeling of exhaustion. SNAP attendees are cautioned to get plenty of hydration and carbs to avoid severe altitude sickness. As I’ll share in a moment, SNAP’s sponsors are happy to help make this happen.
I’d been to Salt Lake several times before but never this time of year, so I didn’t expect the other problem that struck me during my SNAP trip: allergies! Many SNAP attendees were complaining of allergies from the spring blooms. Ironically, while spring was making some attendees miserable, the last gasp of winter caused misery for many others, who got stranded in Salt Lake City at the end of SNAP by a snowstorm in Denver that snarled many peoples’ travel plans.
The host hotel of SNAP Conference is the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City. The tower room that I shared with my roommate for the conference rate of $159/night was absolutely huge. The room’s amenities included a fridge, full length mirror, and a bathroom with two vanities and large amounts of storage. There was plenty of room to spread out and plenty of storage and closet space for two people.
Although the Little America also offers rooms in its outlying “garden” buildings at slightly lower rates, the tower rooms are much more convenient for conference attendees to run back and forth to events. The tower rooms are also the only rooms eligible to receive “room drops”, in which packages containing sponsor goodies are dropped off in rooms for each registered SNAP guest in the room (maximum two per room).
Because I got into Salt Lake City so early in the day, I was able to take part in a pre-SNAP event on Wednesday before the conference’s official start on Thursday. Cricut hosted an open house style “Cricut Crafternoon” event at their headquarters in the Salt Lake City suburbs on Wednesday afternoon, and provided a shuttle van from the SNAP hotel for attendees.
As part of the event, several activity stations were set up with make-n-takes for Crafternoon attendees to make. Attendees also received information about Cricut’s blogger programs. I made this t-shirt for my daughter by cutting a Make It Now design that I set up on the Cricut Design Space app on my iPhone! I learned how to use a heat press for the first time to iron it on, and now my tool wish list is one item longer!
One of the best things about visiting Cricut was getting to catch up with all of the people that I worked with last year running the Cricut operations at Scrapbook Expo. If you’ve ever wondered who creates all of the beautiful Cricut Make It Now projects in Design Space and in their various marketing materials, this is my friend Shannon. She is one of the in-house Cricut designers that I worked with at several shows last year, and she designed the t-shirt project that I made for my daughter!
There is a lot of giving that goes on at SNAP Conference. Attendees are warned to come with plenty of room in their luggage to take things home. One tradition is that roommates will frequently exchange gifts. This is the gift that I brought for my roommate. The various gift exchanges are a lot of fun!
By far the biggest gift exchange that goes on at SNAP is the secret sister exchange, which was sponsored by Spellbinders this year. Participation is voluntary. Sign-up takes place a few weeks before the event and then participants are assigned their secret sister. Each secret sister is responsible for bringing three gifts for their sister. Drop off is done on Thursday morning, and then gifts are distributed in three stages on Thursday night, Friday, and Saturday. (The photo above is of the gifts lined up ready for handout on Thursday night.) It’s a lot of fun stalking your secret sister’s social media to learn more about what they like to select gifts for them, and then plotting exactly the right presents.
While many people have secret sisters that they don’t know, it turned out I actually had a secret sister that I did know – Midge of Midge & Madge Mingle. Props to Midge for her awesome poker face and making it through the weekend unsuspected (and for the wonderful gifts).
Although most of the sponsor suites were on the hotel’s 2nd floor, a few were on the 1st floor near the ballroom that hosted our meals, parties, and business classes. Rustoleum had a large display in the lobby area of the ballroom. Taking a picture and uploading it with a Rustoleum tag on it got SNAP participants a plastic straw cup with a screw top on it.
Once you had your reusable cup, then you could visit the other sponsor set up in the same lobby area: Swig. Get a fill-up of ice, a few pumps of your favorite syrup flavor, and a top off with your choice of soda and SNAP participants are ready for their next session! My favorite was to pair Swig’s Raspberry flavored syrup with Dr. Pepper. Mmmm!
Down the hall, Lindt was hosting a hospitality sweet (pun intended) that included tables lined with clear bins filled with different flavors of their popular Lindor truffles. SNAP attendees could pop in, grab a few pieces for a chocolate snack, and continue on to their next activity. The selection of flavors was immense and included some fabulous ones – like the Caramel Sea Salt above – that I don’t remember seeing before on store shelves where I live.
(Hey, I never said SNAP was non-fattening!)
Across the hall from the Lindt suite was the Laughing Cow suite, serving high tea all day with a buffet of Laughing Cow’s cheese, and vegetables and breads to go with it. The cow herself made occasional appearances. Who would have guessed that the Laughing Cow was also a dancing cow – and boy does she have some moves!
Even the bathrooms weren’t exempt from promotional opportunities! Expressions Vinyl took over the bathrooms in the SNAP Conference areas of the hotel. Signs promoted a contest with a $400 cash prize for the best selfie with the vinyl decorated mirrors like the one above.
Upstairs, in the sponsor area, several sponsors had entire rooms taken over for their activities. Michaels Stores had this wall display housing some of their home decor items, as well as several stations set up for creative activities. One of their social outreach team (along with other staff members) was on hand to talk with SNAP attendees, and they were giving away Me & My Big Ideas Happy Planners to random attendees who posted on social media about their visits.
Power tool manufacturer Ryobi also had an entire room taken over for their booth activities. SNAP attendees could learn to use various power tools, and the company hosted classes as well. I came home with a pair of souvenir safety glasses after test driving this cordless power drill that beats the pants off my current one. Think the TSA would have minded that in my luggage?
A third sponsor room was occupied by SNAP’s title sponsor, Chinet, for their classroom area where they were teaching very popular calligraphy lettering classes.
The rest of the sponsors were in shared rooms. Smaller space did not mean less to do and see for attendees, however. Spellbinders was running a wall plaque make & take project in their booth that used one of their new dies to make a paper flower. The display included some projects that I recognized from their CHA booth in January.
Plaid even had furniture projects on display in their booth! The paint distressing on this dresser was gorgeous. And there were samples to be had as well, of some of their latest paints and of course – Mod Podge!
Therm-O-Web had Decofoil and Heat-n-Bond projects on display, and was providing sample packs to bloggers who visited them. Their knowledgeable staff also provided tips and tricks for using the product.
Darice was letting SNAP attendees be kids again at heart…I mean, when was the last time that you colored on the walls? Darice was taking adult coloring to a whole new scale with these room dividers that had giant coloring sheets attached. Booth visitors could grab a pen and color away for a bit of creative fun in their SNAP day!
In addition to the sponsor booths, there was a large selection of classes on all three days of SNAP. Some were hands-on creative classes with SNAP sponsors, including a large selection of sewing classes sponsored by Bernina. Others were how to classes on blogging and various social media platforms, most of which were taught by actual bloggers. The one above, taught by Mallory and Savannah from classyclutter.net, was about making your blogging more productive by getting more organized. I learned something from all of the classes that I attended and came home with lots of great notes to study and ideas to follow-up on.
SNAP is a very social event and one of the best parts is making new friends – and hanging out with old friends. A large portion of attendees are from Utah, like my friend Megan Hoeppner who works with Scrapbook & Cards Today and Webster’s Pages. However, there were many attendees who came long distances like myself.
The evening parties on Thursday and Friday nights were themed. Friday night’s party was “preppy tropical” themed with an emphasis on flamingoes. I found an inflatable flamingo on Amazon [affiliate link] to go with my Florida tropical look. (No pressure for the girl from Florida – I better be able to pull off tropical!) My flamingo buddy was a bit silly – but far from the silliest thing at the party. And he was a fabulous conversation starter!
Friday’s party was sponsored by Instax and Heidi Swapp. All of the party attendees received a huge gift bag with an Instax camera and film, and scrapbook supplies to use with them. The party also had an activity area to decorate a Heidi Swapp Marquee letter, and a game where attendees could earn tickets through social media posts that could be redeemed at a booth, carnival style, for more product giveaways.
(Just don’t ask the TSA guys at Salt Lake City airport what they think of Fuji handing out all that film that had to be hand inspected so it wouldn’t be damaged by the x-ray machines…my middle of the night conversation with them on the topic when I was leaving on my red eye flight was hilarious!)
In addition to the parties, SNAP also serves attendees several meals that are sponsored. This year, attendees were served Thursday dinner, Friday lunch and dinner, and Saturday lunch. There was also several breakfasts. I think my total food expenditure for the weekend while in the hotel was around $60, and that included a splurge dinner Saturday night in the hotel’s steakhouse while waiting for my late night flight home since I knew it would be a long time till I ate again.
Over the years I’ve been to many industry events, mostly trade shows, that have given me the opportunity to meet with companies to work with on my blog. SNAP stood out for several reasons.
First, the companies that were at SNAP were there solely because they had a desire to work with bloggers. We didn’t have to compete for their attention with wholesale customers or other priorities. They were there just for us bloggers, and it showed in the experience that we had with the brands and the relationships that were started.
Second, I’ve never been to another event where I had access to such a wide range of brands, from crafts brands to lifestyle brands. There truly was something for everyone, and I walked away from SNAP with ideas for working with brands that I never would have previously considered as options. It broadened my perspective on the business aspect of what I do.
There was also a wide range of bloggers at SNAP. If you are wondering if you would be out of place at SNAP, know that I encountered everyone from long-time successful bloggers with huge followings to beginning bloggers looking for guidance as they start new sites. There was also quite a few young bloggers at the event – teens and even younger – present with their parents.
Business cards are a must-have at SNAP. Networking was constant – the bloggers with brands, the bloggers with each other. Remember all of that soap I mentioned? I used it as a memorable business card, handing it out to people that I met.
(To learn more about my adventures learning to make soap, visit my recent article on Craft Critique.)
No dates have been announced yet for SNAP 2017. I recommend following SNAP on social media to keep updated with announcements for next year.