Last week, a flock of bloggers, social media influencers, brand representatives, news agencies and more -- to the tune of nearly 1,000 -- alighted upon downtown Miami for an intense 4-day conference. Now in its third year, Hispanicize is the Latino equivalent of SxSw, with over 60 panels and activities ranging from interactive brand experiences, film screenings, lavish parties and more.
Principal founder Manny Ruiz, a Miamian who writes Papi Blogger, definitely impressed Silicone Bitch with his brainchild. It was a marathon, non-stop event, where of course, there was plenty of opportunity to share and learn, but also to network like mad.
Mass breakfasts and lunches with keynote speakers on stage made the already delicious fare taste even better at downtown's swanky JW Marriott Marquis. Attendees heard Cesar Millan, host of Dog Whisperer talk about how he got started in his career. "I asked people if I could walk their dog for free."
Emilio Estefan -- do I really have to tell you who he is? -- regaled us with stories about his humble beginnings and insanely successful career as a musician and producer. Bumping into another Cubano, Stephen Bauer of Scarface and Que Pasa, USA? fame, wasn't too shabby either.
But the real celebrities here were the bloggers. So many of them, in fact, that it was dizzying, but in a good way. Faces I have seen on avatars and names I have tagged on blogger communities in Facebook became real for me for the first time.
At the core here was simplemente pasión -- passion for self-publishing and homegrown entrepreneurship which is the motivation for many bloggers.
TENGO BLOG: WILL TRAVEL
Yours truly presented on a panel about travel blogging along with Manny Ruiz, Laura Spencer, a PR representative from Disney and Tracey Friley from One Brown Girl.
A general takeaway from the panel, via One Brown Girl: "don't just write because you're expecting something from a brand or a sponsor. Write about it because you were going to write about it anyway." And from me: "You don't have to travel to China to be a travel blogger. Focus on what's unique in your own backyard. Become a travel resource for visitors to your own community."
WARM AND FUZZY MAGIC HAPPENED
No business cards were harmed during Hispanicize.
I wasn't able to attend all the events because of work commitments (it's hard to go on vacation when you're a local), but even with my limited participation I made great connections with filmmakers, other journalists, brand agencies, PR reps and of course, many bloggers.
At one of the parties, hosted by McDonald's on a yacht, I ended up doing some impromptu coaching for a young blogger I truly admire, and there among the noise and disco lights, I helped assuage certain doubts and anxieties about her blog.
In a funny moment, someone confessed he'd been stalking my food porn on Twitter for over a year and a half.
Dinner with three other bloggers turned into a great mini-forum in sharing our best practices.
Someone who stopped me in the hallway asked if she should quit trying to get published in print. My answer: "Don't quit trying, but don't put all your eggs in one basket when the world of online publishing is your oyster. A byline on paper isn't the same it was 10 years ago."
I helped another blogger figure out how to plan a travel series without depending on brand sponsors.
The panels were great, but it's these moments in between the seams, the personal connections, that I carry with me. The sense of community and bonding was my best takeaway.
MOST OF ALL, IT WAS JUST SUPER FUN!
A smart marketing move: print your blog logo on a tote bag.
Yes, it was divertidísimo, with lots of dancing. Oh yeah, mucho bailando.
And in case you are wondering about Ted Rubin, he's a dynamo of a guy, a great motivator whom I always bump into at conferences. His talk on ROR (return on relationship) was extremely popular, so he was quite possibly the most interesting man at Hispanicize. I'll let the video do the talking … (and thanks to Ted for being a good sport.)
Kudos to Hispanicize leaders, staff and volunteers for putting together this event. Follow them @hispanicize and track the hashtag #hispz12. Year-round, Hispanicize is a resource of Hispanic social media marketers and Latino bloggers.
More photos on Facebook.