Weeks before my fellow writers and I were to participate in JCK’s “Power of Blogging” panel as part of their JCK Talks education sessions, I started to think about what would make a good presentation. As it was somewhat explained to us, this wasn’t to be the sort of panel where you get up in front of the crowd (if you were lucky enough to have a crowd attend) and *tell* them how to blog. Rather, we were told to explain to those in attendance what worked for us as successful bloggers. The only issue with that as I saw it was that we only had four minutes to speak, so I knew that I needed to not only get my points across, but that I also needed to make those points impactful. And how does one make a presentation impactful in merely four minutes? Well, my friends, one does so by using The Element of Surprise…
DAY ONE, COUTURE:
Quoting (paraphrasing, actually) my friend and fellow writer, Andrew Hanelly during a recent conversation about how beautiful everyone is at the COUTURE show:
“I felt like a vagrant when I got there last year.”
Andrew was missed this time around during Vegas week but his statement rang as true as ever. The reality is, I often felt like my game was strong when I was exhibiting down at JCK. In other words, I could walk on the show floor – all 6+ feet of me in heels – and eyes would follow; heads would turn. But at COUTURE? I may as well have been taking out the garbage… and by “garbage” I mean ¾ of the kale salad/no dressing left of the “lunch” that was smelled eaten by the ridiculously svelte, model-esque sales associate working for Ivanka Trump.
Everyone at COUTURE is stunning. Let me explain further…
The old dudes are stunning: They possibly hail from Italy or other fabulous European countries so their loafers are made of the softest Italian leather and their pocket squares are Gucci, or Prada, or Valentino.
The young dudes are stunning: They’ve got handsome beards with cool long hair or white-boy afros and their metrosexuality puts Brad Pitt and his fedoras to shame.
The older women are stunning: They speak French/Turkish/Spanish/Russian, and with an unassuming grace they kiss you on both cheeks and reek of a sexuality untamed by age.
The younger women are stunning: Because youth, because Crossfit, because kale, because yoga, because fashion, because hats, because winged eyeliner, because boobies.
But let’s face it, folks… doesn’t jewelry just make everyone a little prettier? And what lovelier jewelry is curated in one place than the lines that exhibit at the COUTURE jewelry show, right?
With a pride beyond what you could ever imagine, I stepped up to the GUMUCHIAN booth and stared in awe. GUMUCHIAN had partnered with Instagram sensation, Sew Sketchy, and the end result was a magically chic world combining beautiful product images, a ridiculously tall supermodel, and hilariously-written catch phrases. It was colorful, whimsical, and powerful, and I expected nothing less from the women who run the company I work for.
One of the highlights for me of showing at Couture was that I’d being doing so alongside people and designers who are very dear to my heart. For one, Vicente Agor would be showing at Salon 137 along with five other Contemporary Jewelry Design Group designers. Vicente and his husband (that’s right, his HUSBAND! THANK YOU, SCOTUS!!) Michael really came through for me (along with the AWESOME, PATIENT, and PROFESSIONAL Andrea Hill) when it came to getting my logo in order for the banners that were to grace the room at the Power of Blogging panel. There are no two finer humans on this planet and I absolutely LOVED them the second I met them (that’s for you, Vicente!). Also showing at Couture for the first time were the RAD women of Buddha Mama, whom I met in NY in January after an introduction by Michelle Orman, and who have been super warm to me since.
One of the best feelings I’ve experienced in this industry is when I meet people who are genuinely their own people; those who don’t follow a crowd, or a clique, or a trend. I’m an acquired taste, and I know that about myself, so I appreciate it when people like (or, even dislike) me based on their own experiences with me. I welcome everyone to judge me by determining in their mind how they think I’ve interacted with them, and I promise those people in return that I will treat them how I feel they’ve treated me. In this regard I can honestly say that there are several COUTURE vendors who have welcomed me and accepted me with open arms. People like Zoe Chicco, and Victor Veylan, and Todd Reed, and Paula Crevoshay, and Jennifer Dawes, and Julie Romanenko, and the gals at Jane Taylor, and Erica Courtney, and the folks at Omi Prive, and Jade Trau, and Margery Hirschey and… well, the list goes on. Thanks, you guys. Thanks for making me feel welcomed at Couture, and being interested in what I’m doing on this blog in terms of its honesty and sincerity. It means a lot. A whole lot more than you could ever imagine.
Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, shall we? It’s time to discuss, The Panel….
DAY ONE, “THE POWER OF BLOGGING” PANEL, JCK TALKS
It was my absolute honor to be included in a blogger group containing Monica Stephenson (Idazzle.com), Danielle Miele (GemGossip.com), and Katerina Perez (KaterinaPerez.com). JCK could not have picked four more diverse and different bloggers than we four, and I felt honored to sit alongside the three of them on our “Power of Blogging” panel, moderated by Diane Warga-Arias, who was in charge of running JCK’s education programs.
My boss, Myriam, has given me an unbelievable amount of support as it pertains to my blog. She knows that I don’t make money from it and that I do it as a hobby in my spare time, but still, I was nervous to ask her if I could leave for HOURS so that I could do this *thing* at the other end of the strip that would pull me away from my paying job. But Myriam is nothing short of amazing… she welcomed the opportunity and wished me only the best of luck and for that, I cannot thank her enough. It really is a privilege to work for this woman.
When I showed up at Mandalay Bay, I found Monica and Roger Dery going over some things for their upcoming African excursion. Roger explained that he’d be at the panel, so naturally, I handed him an “I read Adornmentality because fun” pin that I had made for the event. Oh, I’m sorry, do you not know about those yet? Well, you will soon enough.
When I finally got to the room that the panel would be in (after walking for what felt like a year and a half) I met up with Danielle, Katerina, and Diane’s assistant, who was prepping us on how everything was going to go, and how she would tell us how much time we had left to speak during our presentations. After Monica showed up and the four of us were hooked up to our microphones (hello? Is this thing on??) I informed the girls that I had a bag that contained several mini bottles of scotch and asked if any one of them wanted to do a quick shot with me to calm their nerves…
Monica: “I probably shouldn’t.”
Katerina: “I don’t drink.”
Danielle: “I’m in.”
Me: “(Glug, glug, glug.)”
OH MY GAWD THE ROOM IS STARTING TO FILL UP. And by “fill up” I mean my friend Jay Mednikow is here. Thank heavens. That means that there’s one for my team so even if I f*ck up royally, I can count on Jay to give me applause. I hope. But frankly, it didn’t stop there…
So many of my pals, colleagues, and readers came out to support the blogging community. Andrea Hanson, Amanda Gizzi, Helena Krodel, Marylouise Lugosch, Rebecca Moskal, Jennifer Heebner, Erika Winters (as well as her husband, Peter), Amy Rosevare, Robyn Hawk, and Peggy Jo Donahue just to name a few. Oh, and our fellow #VegasGem Cheryl Kremkow LITERALLY got off of a plane and came right to the panel! Now’s THAT’S some SUPPORT! When the four of us were finally asked to step onto the stage after a short introduction by the lovely Mark Smelzer, we looked out at the crowd and were pretty amazed. It was standing room only, and that, my friends, was a damn good feeling. Nerve-wracking, but good. And the feeling only got better.
Diane started with an introduction and spoke about the importance of blogging as it pertains to our industry. Once she introduced the first blogger, however, the room became immersed in hearing our stories. Monica was the primary speaker, followed by yours truly, and then came Danielle, with Katerina being the last of the four of us.
When people have asked me how the panel went, I’ve answered the same way each and every time: “I feel like the four of us spoke in a manner that was reflective of how we write our blogs. Monica spoke about how she writes with stats and facts backing her up, in the diplomatic fashion and Zen-like vibe that Monica is known for. Danielle spoke largely of her love of jewelry and yet still managed to make the crowd laugh with a story about how she was no longer with the guy who helped give her the idea to start blogging in the first place. Katerina spoke of the world of high jewellery, and why details and professional imagery are so important when she blogs. And I, of course, gave a batshit crazy presentation that started with a prop and ended with me throwing mini bottles of single-malt scotch out to members of the audience.” I mean, could all four of those have gone more perfectly? I think not. I think not.
When it was time for me to speak, I stood up, grabbed the diamond-plot-shaped-prop I created (out of foam board and electrical tape… because, you know, I’m a mom…) and put a bag of buttons and bottles on the podium. The ONLY thing I had practiced for my entire presentation was my opening line. I decided I would wing everything else as I didn’t want to have to look down at notes or read from a card. I stood, taking center stage in a red dress and, as Danielle described it… hair that was pageant worthy, and introduced myself to the roughly 150 people who had taken the time to come see us.
“Hi guys! I’m Barbara Palumbo, and I’m the blogger that Rob Bates warned you about.”
This, thankfully, made this audience laugh, whether they knew what I was referencing or not. However, I continued by telling the crowd the backstory of that opening line…
“If you attended the AGS conclave you know that Rob Bates, while speaking of the president’s party during his monologue, told the crowd that it was New Orleans and that they could get crazy and wear masks and have fun. Then he said, ‘Just don’t do anything that will land you in Barbara Palumbo’s blog’ and he was right, because I’m telling you right now: If you’re out tonight and you see me somewhere at some bar, I suggest you start your conversation like this, ‘Hey! Barbara! Off the record…’ because if you don’t, whatever you say is landing in my blog, okay?”
I then went on to explain how I started blogging in the first place and that I had formerly written pieces for BlogHer.com and had been offered full-time paid writing gigs at other popular blogging sites but had turned those offers down because, “who needs money?”
Once the backstory was established, and through the use of six different colored papers fastened to my foam board diamond prop, I began telling the crowd about what has worked for me, with each paper containing a different word or phrase:
The Element of Surprise
Every topic was accompanied by a short explanation as to how they’ve worked, or why, until I got to the word, “Diplomacy” which was followed by silence, since, let’s face it, has diplomacy ever really worked for me? Yeah, no. Never has. Not in my blog. Likely never will, either.
By the time I reached “The Element of Surprise” I was roughly forty seconds over my four-minute mark (thank you so much to Matthew Perosi, who sent me some fantastic pictures that he took, as well as the audio of my presentation which allowed me to see just how long I ran). So Diane, thinking I was finished, started her wrap-up. But I, knowing that the best part was yet to come, said loudly “wait a second, I’m not done” and started throwing buttons and bottles of scotch out to the audience, who responded with an eruption of laughter, hoots, and applause. I then thanked the crowd, bowed, and took my seat, feeling satisfied and spent.
After everyone spoke and the Q&A from the audience was over, we were able to do a quick meet and greet in front of our banners before being ushered out into the hallway to continue answering questions anyone may have had. This was a defining moment of the entire experience, I felt, because we were all now able to breathe, relax, and meet some of the faces who had been merely likes, clicks, shares, or tweets before this very moment. It’s humbling to hear someone you have never met say to you “I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I just wish you would post more” or “you crack me the hell up” or even “wow, you really are as tall as you say you are.” It’s humbling, for sure, but man, it’s super effing rad, too.
So, a BIG thank you to JCK for having me as well as an apology to them for running a little over my four minutes. A HUGE merci to those who came out to hear us and to the folks who introduced themselves; it was my pleasure to share a piece of myself with you in person. And lastly, to my fellow bloggesses – my Bloggerati, if you will – you guys were fantastic and I hope we get to take this show on the road someday.
The next series of posts will include stories from the Diamond Empowerment Fund’s “Diamonds in the Sky” gala as well as this year’s “Rocks the Beach” experience (spoiler alert: I walk on water).