25 July 2016

the fitbloggin conference that wasn't

Sometimes, intuition sucks.

Like that time over a year ago when Trump announced his candidacy and all I could think was "Fuck. Now he's going to be in Cleveland during the convention." And all my friends were like "Nah, he'll drop out long before then."

OH REALLY? HOW'D THAT WORK OUT FOR ALL OF YOU, HUH?

And then there's FitBloggin.

Legit, this is me wanting to talk about the conference this year:


I have written and re-written this post multiple times because I don't know how to write this post. Fuck, I don't want to write this post. Every time I sit down I fluctuate between being sad and angry and worried and I don't know. Maybe I'm the outlier. Maybe I'm the only alumni who had a "needs improvement" experience. Maybe it was a self-fulling prophecy: maybe because I was hesitant going in, the not so good experience manifested on its own due to that hesitation. I don't know. But all I can do is share my experiences and let you take from it what you will.

But I'm going to start with the good stuff!

Thursday night was registration at Scottys Brewhouse where I met some of the Zephyr people -- the new company in charge of the conference -- and saw old friends and had a really good beer flight.

Blackberry what + coffee porter + blonde

Friday morning was breakfast (I'll get to that in a minute) and keynote speaker Lisa Delaney followed by a panel about influencing your community, moderated by David. (I guess originally it was supposed to be moderated by FitBloggin's own Roni but wasn't and . . . I'll also get to that in a minute).


Then I attended a fantastic session led by Brooklyn Active Mama all about becoming a consistent blogger forever that will hopefully help me become, um, a consistent blogger forever. (No, but seriously I came away with some great tips so thank you, Nellie!)


Friday afternoon I had lunch with my friends Samantha and Tracy. I saw old friends, I made new ones, and that night I had dinner with some of my favorite FitBloggin people:


Saturday morning I led my What Need For Speed? small group discussion where we discussed the highs and lows of being a back of the pack runner.

And then I came home. Yup, I left the conference a full day early. There were no Saturday afternoon sessions I wanted to attend. There was no Ignite this year. There was no evening activity at all, the conference was effectively over at, like, 5 pm Saturday night. There was no goodbye breakfast Sunday morning and because of my injury, I couldn't attend any of the fitness things so, fuck it, I'm going home. (Perk of being in a location I could drive to. The irony is, had it been in a more exciting locale that required a plane trip, more people would have attended and I would not have wanted to leave.)

This . . . this was not the FitBloggin I have come to love after attending in 2014 and 2015. Attendance was drastically down -- there were about 50 people there. Total. Partially from last minute Southwest Airline issues but lots of regular attendees didn't even register to begin with and then, in the weeks and months leading up to the conference, people were dropping out nearly every day. Some of it was people being unimpressed with the Indianapolis location but for others, it was just life taking over. New jobs, new babies, new priorities. Which, y'know, are totally understandable but also may just be indicative of the state of the community as a whole. We just have different priorities now.

It felt . . . lacking. Maybe those of us who have attended in the past have just been spoiled but it's like there was no passion or heart driving the event behind the scenes. There was no Roni. Literally. Roni, the woman who founded FitBloggin, was not in attendance and while I don't know why, I know from David that it happened sometime in the week leading up to the conference because he was tapped to moderate the panel pretty last minute.

I also know this was not communicated to the FitBloggin community. Like, what? Where they just hoping we somehow wouldn't notice Roni wasn't there? And even if she had the most reasonable, perfectly understandable excuse ever, how do you not tell the community and alumni? Because, lemme tell ya, it looked bad. I even had a first timer ask, saying "She's not here, is she?" and when we said no, this was pretty much her reaction:


That, of course, brings us to the big question: what the fuck happened?

After last year, there was a change in management, so to speak, although some of the people I spoke with this year started to see a shift in Denver last year so who knows, perhaps Zephyr signed up to steer the Titanic and didn't realize it. I believe they tried. I also know, from conversations with other people, that the location debacle was really outside of their control. They did their best. And I also know they run other conferences and maybe what their way of doing things works for those other conferences and it must be really, really challenging to come in and take over a well-established conference with a tight-knit community and try and make it work while both satisfying their needs and our needs.

But this wasn't communicated. Nothing was really communicated. In the past, everyone behind FitBloggin was always really open and honest with the community and alumni about the good and the bad and we didn't have that this year and I think that led to some mistrust which led to some rebellion which led to 50 people showing up at a hotel in Indianapolis.

Something just did not click.

And you wanna know what it was that made me realize it didn't click? The lack of bacon at breakfast.

This year, breakfast was a yogurt parfait bar.

Which I mean, I get. Breakfast was sponsored by a yogurt company, so coolio. But . . . yogurt parfait just ain't gonna do it for me on the protein front. Even fancy "protein packed" yogurt. And it wasn't even like they had big bowls of yogurt or anything. They had like those lil single serving 100 calorie cups of yogurt and then you could put toppings on it like fresh fruit and granola and almonds.

Which, y'know, is great and all but what I just described? That's a fucking snack. That's not breakfast.

Now, if that's enough for you for breakfast, more power to you. But that will not and did not cut it for me, which is why during the mid-morning break I stopped at the Starbucks in the lobby, bought a breakfast sandwich, and changed my hotel reservations.

Which brings me back to bacon.

I know, that seems kind of like a dumb thing but if you ask around the FitBloggin community, we fucking love our bacon. It is its own food group in our world. My friend Samantha told me that she made a comment to one of the Zephyr people about bacon and they were just startled by the suggestion. Bacon, they told her, was not healthy. Correction from Samantha: It was more they didn't understand the big deal. Which, in some ways, makes it worse because it's sort of missing a key part of the equation 

Well no shit bacon isn't healthy but it's tasty and delicious. As someone else said, we are a Run Your Own Race kind of crowd. We are a Progress Not Perfection kind of crowd. We are average, every day, run of the mill people all on our own paths and journeys. Not all of us are weight losers. Some of us are weight gainers. And some of us are okay with that. And, sure, there are hardcore athletes and fitness professionals within our midst, but the community as a whole runs a wide spectrum of ages, abilities, and sizes. And that's why I love this community so much.

A community that also really fucking loves bacon.


And if you don't understand why the missing bacon is problematic then maybe you don't understand us. Not really. Oh, it's easy to understand that we all use our blogs and social media to chronicle our healthy living lives and all that, but that's what we do. That's not really who we are.

I like to think they tried their best, but maybe it was all just the circumstance and things not jelling and, I dunno. Trust me, I expressed everything in my post-conference survey and I signed it with my name so they know it came from me. I didn't feel comfortable telling any of it to them over the weekend -- when one overheard I was leaving Saturday morning (my session ended at 10 am. I was on the road by 10:30) what the fuck was I supposed to say? "I'm leaving because you fucked up FitBloggin"? Yeah, that's gonna go over well.

One comment I did make in the survey was that it might be best to skip 2017 and focus on 2018 -- at least for the purposes of the location -- and to be more open with the community. We love FitBloggin, we want to support FitBloggin, but maybe it's jumped the proverbial shark. I always leave the conference excited for the next year but not this year. For one thing, I don't even know if there will be a next year and even then I don't know if they can recover from this year.

Time will tell, I guess.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

32 comments:

  1. I appreciate your honest review! I first went to Fitbloggin' it's last year in Baltimore. Then made it to Seattle, then Denver. It's sad that the conference has lost its spark (literally, with no Ignite). My recap from last year literally has bacon in the title.

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  2. I'm so sorry this was your experience Jill and it makes me sad. One of the reasons I moved on from FitBoggin' was because I couldn't keep up with the heart and passion needed to run it. I was burnt out and I thought getting someone to take the reigns was a good idea. The community could live on. The conference will still be organized. It would just continue.

    At first I was staying involved and active in the planning but time moved on and so did I as that was the point of giving it up. After 6 six of FitBloggin' being my life I needed a break. I eased out, they ease in.

    My priority when planning the conferences of the past was always experience. We're bloggers, right? We want to do things and then blog about them. We want to try new food, see a new city, workout in new clothes, etc, etc, etc. Zephyr approached conference planning from a different perspective and I just think it didn't vibe with the exception I set up in previous years.

    You were right when you said Denver was off a bit too but I attributed that to me. I was already in burn out phase. I didn't make any money that year, like none, even though we had great sponsors the revenue I raised just covered expenses so it was a wash. So here I'm burning out and literally have nothing to show for it. Well, financially at least. I worked for an entire year and made nothing.

    Which was totally my own fault. I was never in the conference business to make money. I was in it for the people. And the people is what kept it going as long as it did.

    As for not attending this year I made the decision the week before not to attend. My mom has been ill so between vacations, traveling to see her and juggling my kids it was just too much for me. Plus, and this is completely honest, my gut told me the same thing yours told you and frankly, I didn’t want to witness it in person.

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    1. I know I said this on Facebook, but the whole community appreciates all the hard work you have put in but I'm sure we also underappreciate just how much work that is so I completely understand wanting to bring in another organization who may be better equipped to run a conference. You gotta do what's best for you! And maybe it was just everyone coming with a different set of expectations and not realizing the other side's.

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  3. I went to another Zephyr conference a few years ago. I had high hopes for it after my first Fitbloggin and was let down by the unblogginess of it even though it was marketed as a blog conference.
    Although I did buy an early ticket I dropped out and didn't go because of a combination of life (new job, cross country move) and intuition. My pocketbook is kind of thankful for that now.

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    1. Leaving early at least saved me some money.

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  4. I am 110% with you! I left Saturday after closing because there was literally nothing keeping me there, and Friday night, when things ended at 6 (and I hadn't really "bonded" with people enough to seek out dinner plans), I went and grabbed food and spent the rest of the evening in the hotel room. There was a LOT left to be desired. Thank you for not being afraid to put it into words.

    www.divaandthedivine.com

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    1. Oh man, we never got to talk about Harry Potter, either, after you saw my Slytherin hoodie!

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    2. This this this!!! Brianna, this is my main reason, along with money, for not attending. I don't have enough bonded friends who were going to attendand I was really was worried, this year especially with all the drop outs, that I'd be alone, attending panels alone, eating alone, roaming Indy alone.

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  5. After five years in a row of attending the conference I did not make plans to go this year, and unfortunately, I'm glad I didn't. Between the location, the way it was handled on both sides, the hotel choice and lack of events I grew stronger in my belief that Fitbloggin is over. I made friends at the conferences that I believe I will have forever, but the days of attending FB appear to be over for good. I searched hashtags all weekend, hoping that it was going better than it appeared to, but there seem to be very little happening at all. I know it must've been difficult to write this post, but I had appreciate your transparency. It puts to rest any ideas that I have about the possibility of going to FB again. I think everyone should just come and visit me in New Orleans. 😃

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    1. The lack of hashtags and social media posts REALLY stood out to me, even as an attendee.

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  6. Loved your post. This was my first year, so I have nothing to compare it to. The lack of heart was very apparent, however. I think the conference was excellently organized and eun, but it was done so as a business event - not as a passionate endeavor to educate and promote positive wellness. Perhaps that's the price of growth. Perhaps not.

    You also hit the nail on the head by pointing out that people with no training in what "healthy" truly is were tasked with organizing a conference around a topic they were unfamiliar with. It was obvious they were oblivious to the fact a yogurt bar was worthless and potentially harmful to anyone with a dairy allergy. The fact nothing was organic was another red flag.

    As for bacon? Bacon actually has many health benefits. (See http://goodworkswellness.com/health-benefits-bacon/) Which again proves that having a health, fitness and wellness conference run by folks with no formal training in those themes may not be wise, especially when they make choices based on mainstream, status quo ideas of "health" and not on the truth. Minor point? Maybe. My suggestion is that they establish a board of advisors consisting of experts who can guide thwm. Just a thought.

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  7. I will seek out some grief bacon in honor of the Fitbloggin' that was. I missed seeing everyone, but it seems that I might have missed it even if I had been there.

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    1. I know, I need grief bacon in honor of the lack of bacon.

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  8. Grief bacon! You, Liz, know FitBloggin!

    That breakfast would have NOTHING for dairy free person like me? Where were the foods for all our dietary needs? The paleos were left with fruit? Or buying our own breakfast elsewhere?


    Guess I'm glad that SW screwed me out of attending.

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    1. I think a lot of people went off site for breakfast on Saturday. I went into the conference room around 8 am and there was NOBODY there.

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  9. I was one of the alumni who dropped out as we got closer. And now I'm glad. I wouldn't have minded Indianapolis, but I've found health and fitness through keto this past year, and I don't blog to make revenue, so the sessions just didn't appeal to me.

    It's funny that you bring up bacon, too, because it's emblematic of Fitbloggin stopped being relevant. There are plenty of interpretations of "healthy," and though bacon isn't a popular one, it's practically the mascot of keto/high fat-low carb eating, which is what I do now. It IS healthy on my diet. My primary care physician fist-bumped me at our last appointment. I eat fatty meat multiple times a week, add butter and to coffee, and I add salt to everything. That goes against average beliefs about healthy.

    But it's a version that works for many as healthy. At Fitbloggin, I've looked forward to eggs at breakfast! The perfect food. But there were different versions of healthy available, which I appreciated.

    For me, yogurt has way too much sugar. That bar would have offered me nothing to eat. I don't need everyone to hop on my diet bandwagon, but what I appreciated about Fitbloggin was an open forum to discuss different approaches to health. Something for everyone. I didn't find anything for me on the schedule this year. It was sad.

    I do hope Roni found/finds a profitable passion! She deserves it.

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    1. That's actually a really, really good point: the food was clearly catered to the benefit of the sponsor but not the people eating it.

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  10. I'm not a fitness blogger, but I follow several, and I've always enjoyed their posts from FitBloggin. I noticed this year that those people weren't there, and I was curious as to why. I also noticed Roni's absence. I'm sorry about the bad experience. I felt it even as a lurker.

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  11. I didn't know what to expect since this was my first conference ever. I did have fun despite so many dropping out.

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  12. Hey lady!

    I'm so glad we got to reconnect and really spend good time together over the weekend. I also love your brutal honesty (mostly because I am the same way!) and it is extremely difficult to put that down into words for everyone to see. I do want to correct myself though, I don't think the Zephyr contact said bacon wasn't healthy, but more along the lines of they didn't understand exactly what the big deal was. I felt that there was a distinct difference between those who were there for fitness and those who were there for blogging/emotional support and we weren't every really able to bridge that. Not having an ignite dinner or planned evening meals made it difficult to really spend time with any group of more than 5-6 people, as most of the restaurants would have been tough accommodating that size. Overall I really do hope that there are more Fit Blogging's to come (even if not in 2017) and I truly agree there needs to be more open communication between the organizers and the community.

    Hope you had a great weekend and miss you already!!
    ~Sam

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    1. I'll be sure to update the post, sorry for misunderstanding/misquoting what you said!

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    2. That part about no organized evening events and it being hard to go to a meal with more than 5-6 people, and the conference being for emotional support and connecting, I didn't see any of that happening! I agree.

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  13. Wow,Liz! Kudos to you for this honest and heartfelt review. Last year was my first year at Fitbloggin' and it was a great experience. I'm glad I got to meet Roni before she handed over the reigns. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly and accepted everyone else no matter where they are on their own journey. It was extremely empowering to be among that many women in one setting and not ever feel judged.

    As a side gig because I love meeting planning (yes, I'm that much of a dork), I have been a conference/meeting planner for several organizations since about 2008. I wish I had been involved with Fitbloggin' prior to Roni deciding to jump on board with Zephyr because I totally would have stepped in to keep the atmosphere as empowering as it was and give her the behind the scenes break she needed....and I would have made sure there was bacon!

    I agree that you have to be passionate for what the subject matter is otherwise, you're just running an event based on backend meeting planning business perspective and not trying to engage the community to help grow the community. Clearly, if this event went like that, the input from the Committee of past Fitbloggin' Alums that was formed last year was not taken into consideration.

    I couldn't come this year due to my daughter's swim team championship schedule. I'm glad I wasn't able to after reading this, but I'm sad that this conference suffered without it's visionaries spirit.


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  14. I was JUST thinking about you and Fitbloggin' and wondered why I hadn't seen any social media posts about it in the last couple months. Then I saw this...

    I'm so sorry this year did not live up to expectations. I had the *perfect* time in Portland and honestly was hesitant to go again and tarnish the fabulous weekend fitness conference experience I had.

    That being said - this is a wonderful post and I'm so glad you published it. It's so hard to be critical of things we love and cherish. You are so brave - and absolutely funny.

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    1. thank you! Yeah, I had a blast in both Savannah and Denver and I was so disappointed this year but at least I have those awesome memories from the previous years.

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  15. I agree with a lot of what you said. I tried to make the best of the experience I had, but it definitely was not the same conference.

    I tried to reflect both sides in my review.

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    1. Your review helped me write mine because I noticed you were trying to reflect both sides and I thought "Oh good, it wasn't just me."

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  16. It was definitely a different year...

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