Well, as promised here is a more detailed post regarding our visit to Chicago, courtesy of Facebook. Now, way back in April, Admins of Facebook Groups were offered the opportunity to apply to go to the Summit – a link appeared on Administrator’s timelines. I read the comments that were appearing on the post, and a lot of the people thought it seemed too good to be true.
It was vague, but it did appeal to the greedy pig in me. FREE FOOD, in a FREE HOTEL ROOM! Courtesy of Facebook. There were so many negative comments on the post, and I admit, I did have my reservations. But I am an impulsive creature, and I often say to myself “Well behaved women, rarely make history” so for the sake of the free food, and hotel room, and a trip to Chicago, where I had not yet visited, I thought it was worth at least trying.
So I filled out a fairly extensive application form, and at this stage, I really wasn’t even certain, that it wasn’t some prank, not even a real Facebook link. A couple of weeks later, I received an email from Facebook, asking me if I could be available for a conference call with Facebook employees. I replied and we arranged a mutually satisfactory time. The day that I called in for my conference call was rather amusing, as they didn’t know who I was – basically, they are on California time zone, and I was calling in Alaska time. So I had to rearrange another conference call, and I’m very grateful they gave me a second opportunity. As I was heading to Palm Springs the following day, we arranged the call for 2 days later. And i remember lounging around in 90 degree heat, lying on the grass, passionately expounding about my Nail Art Group to possible Facebook employees. I still had no clue whether or not they were real Facebook people, but sometimes you just take a chance. They thanked me and said that if I was successful, I would get an invite via email, in early May.
Well guys, early May came and went. And being a Group about nail polish, and all things nail related, I figured that we had been unsuccessful, because there are many many worthier, and more meaningful groups on Facebook. So I just forgot about it, and got on with day to day life.
But then, on May 21st, I got THE EMAIL saying congratulations, you have been invited to the first ever Facebook Communities Summit. And as I received it on 21st May, I had exactly one month to plan and prepare. We were told that we could take up to 2 of our Co-Admins with us, but none of mine were able to attend. Facebook said, that’s fine, bring 2 of your members with you, if you’d like. Finding 2 members was also equally difficult. You’d think I was offering them a trip to the dentist for teeth extractions without anesthetic. It was that difficult. A couple weren’t able to get time off work, a couple said they could not leave their kids. However I took Carol, a friend who also lives in Alaska, and Dawn, a lady who used to be my most trusted Admin.
We had to purchase our own airfare, but everything else was covered by Facebook. Details about the event gradually emerged over the course of the month, before we were due to set off. Facebook created a special Group called Facebook Summit Attendees, and we bounced rumours around amongst ourselves. We got to know each other quite well in the Group, before ever setting foot in Chicago, and I shared a picture of my Facebook manicure I did for the event in there, the night before we travelled. We knew there would be workshops and speakers. We knew there would be evening celebratory events. My friend from Alaska, and myself decided to stay an extra couple of days, so we booked our flights, and got another hotel room. A few nights before we were due to leave, we discovered that Mark Zuckerberg himself was to be the first Keynote Speaker, kicking off the event. This raised our excitement levels, and as I had been working on the Zuck mani for almost two weeks, I was hopeful he would get to see them. We found out that they were accommodating us in THE CHICAGO HILTON. Very nice indeed, not too shabby, but there were no rooms to be had after the event, so we booked another hotel for our final 2 days. Here is a taste of the Chicago Hilton, on the 2nd floor, where we had to collect our badges. Collecting the badges took quite some time, because the Facebook Staff saw my nails, and were very enthusiastic, they’d known about them from my post in the Attendees Group.
We also got goody bags, which had some lovely items in them, a leather bound journal, a pen with a stylus tip, a lavender buckwheat eye mask, a bag of banana chocolate snacks, and a card detailing our Group stats.
After badge collection, we could go rest in our rooms, and I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep, however, according to Dawn, my member from Florida, who arrived a little later than us Alaskans, she was hammering on my door, shouting “Police, open up!” Yet I never budged, cos I didn’t hear a thing! I set an alarm for 3.30 in case I fell asleep, and I got up, thinking I’d not even fell asleep, but I called Dawn. And she came down to my room, and told me she had already been banging on my door. Anyway, I called Carol my Alaskan friend, and had her come down, so they could meet each other. It was amazing meeting someone who was such a big part of the Group, in person, rather than just talking to her on Messenger. Carol, from Alaska, I know her pretty well. We chatted for a while, and then I got ready for the evening shenanigans. Remember they had not told us where any of the evening events were being held,
Unfortunately, I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the first evenings venue, but it was a large space, with food stations around the periphery of the room, and open space and tables in the middle. Shuttles were provided, and they took us to the event, we were all given a punch card, and told to get 6 punch holes for a surprise at the end. You took your card to each station, sampled their wares, in a manageable sized portion, and they punched your card. First, we had Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, of course we did. Then sliders, poke, tacos, avocado toast, bruschetta. There was a lot more to eat, gelato, and a chocolate bar. A regular bar, and a cocktail bar. Yes, there was free alcohol. And by the bar, artists were having the Groups fill out little cards with our Group details, so they could paint a logo, on canvas, to take back to their HQ with them. Here’s ours.
But I don’t drink. It was awesome, and we met some other Groups at the event, for the first time, although having the Summit Attendees Group, it was more a matter of recognizing them from their profile pictures. People knew me by my nails, and SO VERY MANY people kept shouting at us, “you’re the Nail Girls!!” I honestly did feel like a celebrity, and that everyone already knew us, and I cannot even count how many people wanted photos of our nails. We mingled, we schmoozed, we posed, we danced, and we collected our treat on the way back to the shuttles. It was three cookies in a box. Like I had room for more food! These are Carol’s nails that I did for the event.
The second day, after about two hours sleep, we needed to be up nice and early, as we had to be gussied up for the evening event – we would not be returning to the hotel after the daily events. Facebook had provided us with tickets for two free breakfasts at the Hilton, either at the buffet, or the little store, where you could spend 23 dollars on sandwiches, coffee, yoghurts or snacks. I opted for the buffet, and I’m so glad I did. Take a look. These are both my plates, and I couldn’t physically cram any more in. Dim sum for breakfast? Why yes, I don’t mind if I do! Orange juice, coffee, pastries, toast, bagels, muffins, fruit, waffles. Literally the nicest breakfast buffet I’ve been at.
So we headed to the shuttles, and got on our bus, and we’re driven to the secret location of the Event Venue. There were security guards, they searched our bags, we had to remove our metal items, and go through an extremely sensitive scanner, before being allowed inside. We were lined up, waiting to go into the Circle room (all the different rooms had shape names) but the Keynote Speech was to be in the biggest, the Circle Room. One of the Facebook Staff started shouting “Wendy, Wendy, come here!” So I go to see what’s up, and he is standing with a photographer, who claims he’s been looking for me all morning, and can he take pictures of my nails. So he takes me to a quiet part of the building, and awkwardly poses my hand for what seems like half an hour, and he tells me that Mark loves my nails! I was a little shocked he had even seen them to be honest. Anyway, this is his photograph, which Mark Zuckerberg reposted all over his own social networks, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. He didn’t mention me by name, nor did I get to meet him, which I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed about. Here’s his reposted picture and my original watermarked version.
Now I can’t compłain, íts exciting to say the least. And his Keynote speech was excellent, it detailed his new mission for Facebook, which is to bring the world closer together, and new tools for Groups, to help us grow and, manage our members easier. Already, the Groups that attended, and there were 120 Groups in attendance, have got these new tools, other Groups will see them soon. He was down to earth, not stuck up, and he did not talk down to us, I mean, we were hand selected Admins, the best of the best. Power Admins, what Facebook considers, the elite. I’m happy to wear that badge and do my utmost to earn it, and live up to it. There are millions of Groups on Facebook, and I don’t know how many of those applied to attend. But I still feel special nonetheless.
Lunch was provided after the first two Keynote Speakers, but I was physically, still very unwell, and I only ate a micro Thai salad. Everything else made me want to hurl just looking at it. Tables were set up around the periphery, and in the center, with the most delicious looking food, but I had zero appetite whatsoever. There were also tables with just snacks and drinks, coffee stations, latte stations, candy, popcorn, and fridges full of cold drinks. As much as you liked. I stuffed my bag full of them. My stomach literally hurt, so I knew I needed no more food till dinner time. In fact I scarfed a couple of Pepto Bismol pills down my neck. Such was my discomfort.
The afternoon was devoted to Workshops. Seminar type events. Basically, we sat with people who were NOT from our own Groups. This had caused a huge amount of concern, fear and anxiety amongst some attendees, and it’s rumored that some did not come because of this. It was only announced two days before we were due to attend the Summit, and caused several backbiting threads, that went quite mean. As I was unable to find at least two of the more anxious people who had expressed concern about this development, and I know of those, one definitely did not attend, it’s my belief that it was just too much for them. I went out of my way to befriend some of those who had attended alone, because some Groups have no Co-Admins, and I felt that it would be kind to include them in our bunch. I’d like to think someone would have done the same for me, if I’d attended by myself. Because some people were very cliquey, not very welcoming, and I even encountered a girl just turn her back on me outright when I went over to introduce myself. Rude bitch.
The workshops were hard. It was a lot of information on the new tools, and ways to increase activity in the Groups, deal with conflict, engage your community, grow your membership, rewrite Guidelines. All very useful stuff, and I did learn a lot from it, am already implementing changes in my Group. But four solid hours, sitting on hard chairs without a break – I did find it hard going. And immediately afterwards, without a break, we had to go to the shuttles for the evening Mystery event.
So off we went to THE ADLER PLANETARIUM for dinner and dancing. Immediately at the entrance was a photo booth for us to take pictures with our Groups. That was fun. A cocktail reception was served on the terrace before dinner proper. Lots of canapés and cocktails for those who drank. I had ginger ale. Here’s a few pics. I was able to eat a few canapés by this point. My stomach was ready for a bucket of food.
And we went in for dinner. Here is the menu.
And that was really good. The entree proved less popular, because my two members and the girl I invited to sit with us, did not like fish. I was like “But it’s SEA BASS!!” But they just curled their lip. I ate all of mine anyway.
And then dessert, which I’m not really much of a dessert person, but I couldn’t believe they served us Alaskans, A Baked Alaska of all things. How deliciously 70’s throwback. You never hear of it anymore. Anyway, it was very good. The whole thing was good, and I was feeling uncomfortably full again,
Following dinner, they brought out coffee. And then there was an after party, in a domed room that had a glinting roof of stars, and great old school hip hop, with the ubiquitous free bar, of course no alcohol for me, but naturally, I’m the first one dancing in the middle of the floor. Almost the oldest one there too, however, Dawn and Carol were exhausted and I managed to dance to three songs before we headed back to the hotel.
And again, very little sleep. I was finding it an overwhelming experience, and quite hard work actually. The second day, we had arranged to meet at 7 for breakfast, as the shuttles were going to the venue at 8. No sign of Dawn, and I tried to contact her three times before eventually giving up. We had to leave our suitcase in storage at the hotel, for later pick up. And off we went in the shuttles without Dawn, and not able to contact her. There was another Keynote Speaker, and then a Workshop before lunch. Lunch, yum. Lou Malnati’s Chicago Deep Dish had been recommended to us before we went, and Facebook did not disappoint, and served us with huge piles of personal pizzas, in boxes. Little finger sandwiches in boats, and salads, also in little bamboo boats. The usual menagerie of snack tables, and drink options, as well as a lady standing handing out tubs of Gelato. Amazing food I have to say. Kudos on the catering.
At about 11am I get a message off Dawn, saying Fuck. She had only just woken, after being in pain all night with her back. That’s what happens when you try to dance with the big girls, and you’ve got a bad back. Anyway, they told her to just stay at the hotel for the rest of the day. We completed our final three workshops, filled out a survey, and collected our T Shirts. There was a wrap party afterward for those who wanted to linger, but we had a date!
One of my friends from Alaska had sent me a message the night before saying he was in Chicago (his home town) and did we want to go for dinner and a meeting. Did I? Well I surely needed one, after the previous three days. So he took us out for Indian at Gaylord, on E. Walton. Utterly divine, I love Indian food. And then to Bagpipers Meeting, which was awesome, then we stopped so they could have gelato on the way back to the hotel. I don’t like cold food, not ice cream, not gelato. None of that for me thanks, I’ll have the fried dough, and they brought out a huge tray of it. Lord have mercy on my distended and sore abdomen.
The next day, we went shopping on the Magnificent Mile, and Carol spent rather too many dollars in Neiman Marcus, (I was going to be specific, but she might read it and be angry with me) on perfume and eye products, I was a little more reserved. She immediately got scared and sent her husband a text lol. You only live once right? I bought hubster a big bag of mixed candy from Dylan’s Candy Store, and was amazed by how they have different rocks embedded in the wall outside.
We went for lunch at The Cheesecake Factory, and pigged out yet again. Later we went on an Architectural Cruise down the river. That was actually much better than I anticipated, he really knew his subject, all the architects, and seemed passionate about the buildings, and styles. I’ve included some here, so if you’re not into architecture, you can skip them, I won’t judge.
Whilst we cruising down the river, we saw that were waterside walks, and places to eat, which we hadn’t really been aware of. And when we decided to walk back to our hotel, using Google Maps, it did actually take us on this riverside walk, which was so pretty, so we stopped and ate at Chicago Burger Company, right on the river front, in the evening sunshine. It took forever to get served, despite asking several times, but we got there in the end. Carol opted for the Chicago Dog, with sport peppers, celery salt, on a poppy seed bun.
And following that, we thought a casual 20 minute saunter back to the hotel was in order. I desperately hoped that my 15% battery on my phone would get us there. It was dark by then, all the streets were very lit up and pretty, and the worst thing that happened, if you can call it that, was that some young dancing black guys tried to sell us their CD, asking if “You queens wanna listen to some beats?” Having been warned not to wear the wrong colors in Chicago, I had been apprehensive about walking around at night, but I did not feel at all unsafe. I loved Chicago. I loved the Facebook Communities Summit, I wish to return forthwith for more Chicago-ness.
I hope I can go again sometime, and especially, maybe attend the next Summit.
I also made the news with my nails, despite having to send them a correction. So here is the Huffington Post article, featuring my manicure. But you saw it first here my friends.