Monday, April 8

Blogwest 2013

I finally figured out why I haven't been catapulted into blogosphere super stardom.

Because it takes me A MONTH to write about my first experience at a blogging conference.

AN ENTIRE MONTH.

I am shaking my head and wagging my finger at myself.

Before I talk about what an amazing experience Blogwest was, I first have to mention the wonderful ladies of She's Connected because they are the reason I was able to attend the conference.

A HUGE, HUGE THANK YOU, LADIES!!

To be honest, I'm still a little shocked that I was sponsored to attend a conference.

I've looked into sponsorships before but figured I had as good a chance as a snowball does in hell.

Timing is everything, folks. Timing and luck.

And Twitter!!

Sadly, because all of this was very last minute, I was only able to attend the last day of Blogwest. Though I'm not sure I could have handled all 2.5 days. My head was packed with so much information and inspiration after just one day, another day and a half might have made my head explode.

I have to give Blogwest creator, Felicia Dewar, a huge hand. She put together a fantastic conference. The speakers were ah-mazing! Every session was interesting and captivating, they all ran over time - because they were so awesome - and I...well, I'm not even sure how to express it. I had ah-ha moments all over the place!

I know it sounds corny but the speakers were THAT good. They were passionate, knowledgable, HONEST and inspiring. Every single one of them.

The biggest takeaway from my day at Blogwest was the importance of authenticity.

I get caught up in the whole blogosphere sometimes. Even though I want to have my own voice and tell my own story, it's hard sometimes to not look at the blog next to you and think, "Why aren't I that successful? Why aren't I doing that?"

The reality is I am not for everyone. And I am no one but me.

And, while being able to support my family - or even just bring in a few bucks - would be really great, that's not why I started blogging.

Plus, trying to be someone else is hard. And icky.

The Workshops


The first session of the day was on blog content strategies with Idris Fashan of Red Paper Clip.

Folks, I could listen to this guy talk all day. He had this really cool vibe and is just an excellent speaker. My end of the sponsorship deal with She's Connected was that I had to tweet for them from the conference and I was so focused on listening to him, I barely tweeted and took almost no notes.

Which really sucks because there is SO much more I know I wanted to remember. Thankfully, the slide show is posted on Red Paper Clip - a site I must spend some time on.

Favorite quote from this session: "Mistakes are the mentors of success." And also Sturgeon's Law that "90% of everything is crap."

HA!

Next up was all about monetization with Jody Arsenault from Mommy Moment and Kathyrn Lavallee from Mommy Kat and Kids.

Um, holy full disclosure, Batman!! In my experience, getting monetization information from bloggers is kinda like trying to put two watermelons in a marble bag. But Jody and Kathryn held NOTHING back - including (roughly) how much they make through their blog.

!!!

I was blown away by their extremely candid talk on monetization and I have a FULL PAGE of monetization strategies to explore. Until this session, I was sure monetization was out for me. But now I know there are opportunities out there for me, I just have to find the right ones.

Biggest takeaway from this session: There are SO many ways to make money *through* blogging but not necessarily *on* your blog. For example: twitter parties and other social media promotion, freelance writing, etc. It's all about networking, right?

After a very delicious lunch break, there was a small hiccup.

I chose to attend Sinive Seely's workshop on finding your passion but everyone else decided to hang out in the Pinterest session. I *almost* scored a free life coach session but Felicia jumped in a did some last minute rearranging so everyone could attend both sessions.

Initially I was bummed.

Then I listened to Angie Pitre of Echoes of Laughter for 5 minutes.

I see Pinterest in a whole new light now. Angie is AMAZING at what she does and what she does is BEAUTIFUL. The worst part? She makes it all seem so effortless. It's obvious Angie has found her niche and she does it so, so well. I definitely left her session inspired.

My takeaway: While Pinterest is a HUGE but FUN time suck, it can also be really freaking useful when it comes to blogging!

One of the last two sessions of the day was cancelled due to sickness so I was stuck in a Wordpress workshop. Not gonna lie, I was not looking forward to it. I've talked about moving to WP for over a year but it's all so complicated and there is so much I don't know. I was sure this session was going to be a waste of time for me.

I could not have been more wrong.

Paul Letourneau of Paulletourneau.com is another speaker I could have listened to all day. In fact I was trying to come up with a way to convince him to move me to Wordpress and teach me everything I need to know in exchange for a bottle of really good scotch.

Some of what Paul talked about went over my head because I don't have any Wordpress experience, but I understood enough to know I DEFINITELY want to make the move sooner than later. I also learned that post tags are kinda important and I have some MAJOR work to do. I sad panda'd ALL over that realization.

Quote of the session: "You blog is like a filing cabinet, the tags are the files in each drawer." My filing cabinet is full of unorganized papers thrown all over, willy nilly style.

Sad panda.

Sinive Seely's session on finding your passion was squeaked in after Paul. I want this girl to coach my life. I chatted with Sinive for a few minutes in the beginning of what was supposed to be her session and her topic spoke to me deep in my heart. *I* am feeling stuck, wondering is there is more to life than this. *I* want to find my passion and create something more.

Quote of the session: Purpose, passion, potential and possibility = power.

The day, and the conference, was coming to a close. But before the closing keynote, we met Lori Andrews, The Ten Cent Designer. Lori brought a stack of Blurb books with her, including her own, I'll Wait Here. Nearest I can tell, Lori does pretty much everything I'd love to do and I want to be her.

She's so stinking cute, too.

Elan Morgan of Schmutzie closed the conference and I do not know how I managed to keep a dry eye. I had heard of Schmutzie before Blogwest but I knew nothing about her. I wish I could change that. I feel like everyone needs a little Elan in their lives. She is hilarious but she is also painfully real. I've not experienced half of what she has, but her story still spoke to me, deeply - once again, the importance of authenticity. The theme of Elan's talk was self doubt, what it means and how powerful it can be. It was incredibly moving.

Quote of the keynote: Self doubt is immensely useful as a signpost to show you what's important, a self-defence mechanism when you are in danger and a speed bump to keep your ego in check.

Lastly, because oh em gee how much more can I write, in addition to the amazing speakers, I met some really cool local(ish) bloggers like:

Tiffany of My Dirt - There is something about this girl, I don't know what it is but I want to know her.

Julie of 3 Chickens and a Boat - This girl is hilarious. She kept talking about chickens and, because I was late to the party, I was so lost. Which only made it funnier. I like her straight to the point attitude. And her incredible ability to make a chicken joke out of ANYTHING.

Heather of Shift Mama - I made a joke about hitting the bong with my kids (which I DO NOT DO) and she was the only one who laughed. I like her. Plus her husband works in a field, I suppose, adjacent to mine so we kinda live the same lifestyle. It's nice to connect with someone who can understand how we live.

I am still reeling from the experience and the information overload. I did not expect Blogwest to hit me on a personal level just as much as it did on a blogging/professional level. I am excited to find (MAKE) the time to really go over all my notes and spend some time on the blogs and websites of those who spoke and who I met with.

I HAVE to thank She's Connected again. I would not have had this experience if not for them. And I have to thank Felicia Dewar for her hard work. Great work. Truly.

I am hoping and planning to attend Blogwest 2014. Maybe I'll see you there?

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