First, let me say that is was very well run. I know that isn't what you are looking for in a recap but there were a lot of moving parts and the organizers made it look so easy!
The conference can best be divided into Opening Reception, Day One, and Day Two. I posted my pics from the Opening Reception on Friday but I didn't post pics of my blog business cards that I picked up that night - I love them! I have no design skills, so I just used my blog header on the front and then I took six instagram pics that I feel sum me up pretty well for the back. I opened them in pixlr.com and just uploaded the image onto moo.com. I am super impressed with the quality and got lots of compliments!
I had to miss part of Day One but I arrived in time for a panel on working with brands as a blogger. There was lots of interesting info, but I didn't feel like it applied to me - I am a very tiny fish in a huge pool of awesome bloggers with thousands of followers. But I kept reminding myself all weekend that I write for me - and for you, who have found me here and keep coming back every day and leave a comment and email me back when I respond to your comment and tweet to me and text me and are becoming my friends in real life. Would I love it if a company like Kroger agreed to like, pay for my grocery trip so I could blog about what
I Andrew makes for dinner? Uh huh. And do I think that some of you might go buy a product that I recommend just because you know I love food and wouldn't steer you wrong? I kind of do. But my reach isn't that strong right now, and I know that. But there was a great emphasis on being passionate and staying true to myself and my readers and that was definitely a message that never gets old.
Lunch came right about this time and the conference organizers had worked out deals with restaurants in the development that housed the conference (City Centre) for meals and gift cards for everyone. It was really cool! I got to try Flora and Muse, which I have never been to before. I got to chat with bloggers who I kind of knew but not well (Chelsea and Whitney) and got to know them better and I met Kelly (who founded Houston Moms Blog) and her sweet baby Hadley. It was a great lunch and a fantastic idea.
Appetizers to share | Pear and Gorgonzola flat bread | Chocolate Hazelnut Torte
I next went to a session on vlogging. Holy cow! I never spend any time on YouTube. Do you? I mean I might click a link but I don't have an account or a playlist or anything. So I learned that a whole 'nother world exists over there that I know nothing about. Crazy.
One topic I was really interested in was SEO - my blog gets a good amount of traffic for dosants in Houston, the Austin 360 Amphitheater, and visiting Oxheart, so I wanted to see how I can do more of that. Basically I need to register my own domain and switch to wordpress. Noted. That just sounds like a lot of work! I also learned some tricks for SEO that I am going to use to think of content, which is fun for those days when I have no blogging ideas (which is like, three days a week...). This session was a ton of great info that I need to process, but I think it will make more sense if I ever switch to wordpress.
That night, it started pouring. A bunch of us needed a coffee break, so we went to Sweet for caffeine. Then we got ready for the dinner and dance that night! They were going to announce the winner of the Woodlands Staycation contest that I entered via this post and you had to be present to win. Wellllll the people at the Woodlands Resort are awesome and decided to give a trip to all eight people who entered! How awesome is that? So I will be having a little staycation very very soon! The rain was pretty awful that night so I left early but I hear it was a great party!
At Sweet with new friends and old friends: Amber, Sarah, Rachelle, Miranda, me, Whitney (photo stolen from Miranda's Instagram) | Me with Puffy the Pinecone from the Woodlands Resort | Me, Miranda, and Sarah (stolen from Sarah's Instagram)
Oh Day Two. Day One was intense, but I was really looking forward to the speakers on Day Two. The first session was about having a brand ambassadorship - again, I had to ask myself what I was doing wrong for that not to even be on the horizon for me. I was in a room full of people paying rapt attention (and the speaker was fabulous!) but it was a feeling of "this doesn't apply to me." Does that make sense? Like I was listening to an amazing lecture on biology but I don't want to be a biologist, I want to plan events. There was tons of great info, but I'm just not there yet and I'm not sure how to get there or if I ever will. When you hear that you need 1000 twitter followers and at least 100 blog followers, you know it's true but it just emphasizes that brands aren't looking at you yet. But, I learned about a lot of cool tools for getting noticed and again, there was a huge emphasis on being yourself. And I am the best me I've ever seen. So there's that.
The second session I went to blew my mind. The speaker went over a ton of social media tools that I didn't know existed. I would share them with you but I haven't processed them yet. They are intimidating because they may either save me tons of social media time or cause me to spend more time on the internet - I am excited to see which is the case. After that I went to a session on Google Analytics - bottom line is I need to play with it more. A bunch of us had a fun lunch after that at Grub Burger Bar. YUM.
The afternoon is when I started to really get tired. I had a long week at work and my brain was filled with tons of info! But, I wanted to get all I could out of the conference and I hate feeling like I missed out! I went to a session on Google Plus that changed my opinion of that site completely. I really want to get into it more. I know a few of you have me in your circles. Do you use it often? Do you like it? Teach me where to start! The final session was by Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks.com. I knew her name because I'm a huge fan of The Bloggess and I just had a feeling that whatever kool-aid she was selling I was going to buy. It was like a friend of my friend is my friend (clearly I am not actually friends with The Bloggess but after reading her blog for several years and her book I feel like I "know" her and that she wouldn't be friends with anyone who wasn't completely amazing).
So basically, this was the presentation I had been waiting for. I learned so much at this conference, don't get me wrong, but a part of me questioned myself. That's just my personality - always a tiny bit insecure. I felt like I was wrong for not making money from my blog and not taking every opportunity and for frankly, almost not caring that I wasn't seizing all the opportunities because blogging as a business is HARD! And basically Karen (can I call her that?) got up there and said that her talk wasn't about getting followers - it was about community. Boom. That was the message I needed. That I need to have a purpose for my blog, that I set the tone, and that I will get back what I put out. I love that I have people who I can expect to hear from at least weekly via my blog. I love that I see you all commenting to and tweeting with one another now (not necessarily because of me, obviously) and it feels like we are all in this together. I feel like we are our own little club, and really the more the merrier, but if we can just claim each other as our own then we are doing pretty well. Community. I think I'm doing it right. If I never make a penny off of the internet, then I will still feel successful as a blogger. And that is what I wanted to get out blogging. It just took a really great talk to remind me of that.
As far as networking, I don't think I did so well. I met a lot of bloggers but didn't always exchange info. I got to spend a ton of time with bloggers I've only met once or twice and kind of realized that I am really good at knowing Houston bloggers. If we met this weekend, please say hi. If you attended this weekend, say hi so that I can read your thoughts on the conference. And if I knew you before this weekend and I didn't find a pic online of us to steal, I am super sad! I still have so much to review and process but honestly, the last thing I wanted to do on Sunday was blog! Instead I enjoyed the beautiful fall-ish weather and decorated the house, went to breakfast, watched the Giants lose, the Emmys, and Breaking Bad (O-M-G!!!), and just generally hung out. Hope you had a great weekend, too!