Well I am back home and catching up from my crazy conference weekend. It was a great trip. But the blogging conference was full of a lot up great UPs and a few meh Lows.
I had a good time at the conference getting the chance to meet other women bloggers who are not all 20 something trust fund kids traveling the world without bills to pay. Most were mothers like myself who came to the conference to get the chance to learn more about our craft, share stories, and meet new friends in the field.
I came armed with my business cards and a fresh batch of confidence. And I am glad that I did. Exchanging cards is a big deal at the conferences.
The hotel, the Hilton Austin, was beautiful and spacious. I am so glad that I stayed right there on site, it was easy to run back to my room to drop off some of the swag and take a 5 minute breather between sessions.
So what sucked? The sessions weren't targeted towards bloggers of all ranges. Instead they were focused on big name brands, those who were already successful and really didn't need much help. But not all conferences will have the best or most exciting sessions to attend. Then what? Use your time wisely!
Tip: When you have some quiet time or a really boring session- it is a good to look at those cards you collected, sort through the ones you want to keep, people you liked, and the crazy people you can ditch their cards now.
At my conference The Closing Keynote Speakers were by far the highlight of the weekend. Admittedly, I wasn't sure I was going to like any of them. In fact, I was really hoping for Freddie Prinze Jr.'s wife – Sarah Michelle Gellar would have been there instead. HOWEVER, I was so surprised at how much I actually enjoyed the closing talks. He was very inspiring and I took away from his talk so much more inspiration and joy than any of the other speakers through the conference. Why? Because he knew his audience, knew how to make people relate to him, and made us laugh. Success doesn't come instantly, it comes from being authentic, working hard, learning from your mistakes, and knowing when to change plans and try something new. After the session they had his cookbook for sale and photo ops.
After talking to a lot of the other bloggers at the conference, overwhelmingly we were disappointed with the lack of excitement and inspiration by the sessions and speakers. Here gathered hundreds of women with a common interest, and yet there was very little enthusiasm for why we were there. So I made a few notes of what I would do differently for the next time.
However one of my sessions about Instagram was Pretty awful. It was like listening to your 16 year old's friends try to explain Instagram to each other only they didn't actually know anything about it or why they were InstaFamous. They just like taking pretty pictures and everyone thinks they are cute.
Many of the sessions were focused on Social Media, with speakers who often weren't bloggers themselves. None of the sessions were fully focused on building better blog content, gaining readers, or managing a working blog. Instead it was all about being social media's next rising star. Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook videos… all were the main topic. While those were sort of interesting, they weren't enough to keep most focused in on them and many of us were on our phones, catching up on blogging, and even leaving the sessions to go network with the vendors.
Tip: If you are going to speak at a conference, know who your audience is.
Irvin Lin of Eat the Love talked about how to find your inspiration for your food content from decidedly non-food-related sources. – I loved this session. It really helped me to see the world as inspiration, including really boring speakers at conferences. So I began taking notes about everything. From what made people laugh, what people did who weren't listening, and conversations being had in the halls by other people who escaped.
You don't have to stay in a session that makes you want to crawl under the table and make a fort of solitude! Leave! Go out and get some fresh air. Make sure you grab your stuff just in case you don't return, or there is a fire alarm.
One of my sessions, one on Pinterest, stood out. The focus was on all expertise levels of Pinterest and how to make your pins better and photos that get more views. Yes! A session that actually made sense, was full of tips, and wasn't just pitching how cool the speakers are.
Tip: Grab Pen and Paper, sometimes getting out of a dull session is easier when you have a grab and go set up. A full lapop, water, mini-hotspot, ect. load isn't easy to sneak out with. If the session goes south, start packing it up quietly.
Network! Network! Network! Getting to know each other, bonding, and small session brainstorming is one of the best uses of your time at these conferences. I really wanted to feel more excited about my trade so I put on my brave face, drank a lot of Texas Sweet Tea and put my hand out there to shake. Yes, there will be a lot of bragging. So much that you might feel a little intimidated like I did. But this is also your chance to shine too, brag away!
But one of the biggest frustrations for me was eating alone. *Sigh* Dinners are usually on your own to pair up with a group. But if you are new, or introverted like myself it can be really hard. The last night I had the most fun with two other women of completely different backgrounds from myself because we left the “wrap-up party” where the music was loud and everyone was drinking and instead looked up a great restaurant close to our hotel. That night we had a great dinner, sat and talked about everything from blogging and food to current politics and the upcoming election. I left feeling like I wished every night could have been that much fun.
Tip: Message other conference goers and plan dinner groups ahead of time. Scout ahead to find a close dinner place with decent reviews, plan with your dietary restrictions ahead of time. Call the restaurant and ask questions.
Really what I learned from all of this was that each conference is going to be a mixed bag of goodies. Sometimes you'll reach in and pull out exactly what you wanted. I really enjoyed getting to know some of the bloggers I met and I'll follow their blogging adventures all the way. Sometimes you'll find something unexpected, like a speaker that inspires you to take your adventure further. And then there are the times you reach in and find that weird peanut butter chew wrapped in the funky paper that's half opened… those are the sessions that you find yourself actually meditating for the first time ever… successfully because your brain can't listen to anymore of this and it has to go to a happy place, with a beach and drinks with umbrellas.
Will I go back to that conference again? I don't know… I kind of doubt it. But I will go back to others with high hopes of meeting new people, having new experiences, and maybe learning something as well.
Next week I'll share my Taste Of Austin, reviews on some of Austin's local flavors. Come back next week Y'all!