Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dear Conference Newbie


Dear Conference Newbie,

Now that you have attended a giant, 2-day conference without your Dears, you can throw that one into the 'Done' bucket.  You just didn't have any idea how it was going to KICK YOUR BUTT.  You also didn't expect a whole lotta other things as well.  Oh, and by you I mean this person in the reflection, wide-eyed and taking a selfie when no one was looking.  <Clears throat>.


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Our room with a view
There were a few things I did expect.  I expected to have a good time.  I mean, really, two days of kids-free, grownup-filled, major blogging conference in the city--how can that not be fun?  Plus, I was going to have a great friend as a roommate and someone that can include little quiet me in conversations with new faces (though I knew that at some point I was going to have to step outside my comfort zone at an event like this).

But there were many a things I did not assume would happen.  And here are the #TopTen things I didn't expect at BlogHer13:

10.  Keynote Speakers.  I had known the list of keynote speakers, but I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy their talks.  To kick-off the conference, Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman gave a talk (and sang a song) with a slideshow of her blogging career.  She was lovely, charming, and hysterical.  I simply adored her.




Next, Guy Kawasaki, an author, speaker, and business advisor, talked to an audience of bloggers and writers about the how-tos of self-publishing with his newest book, APE (Author, Publisher, Entrepeneur): How to Publish a Book.  He further spoke about the relevance of the social platform, Google+, as well as his love for Android.  He was both entertaining and tech-geeky, and gave out free copies of his ebook!




I missed out on two speakers (Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook CEO and author of Lean In, and Gale Anne Hurd, producer of The Walking Dead, among other fine works) and was very bummed .  But as of now the transcripts of the conference are live, and I need to go catch up.  But I did get to hear Lourds Lane, singer/songwriter and creator of a Broadway-bound show, who gave us a heartfelt and inspirational storytelling and musical performance about the superhero inside of her.  *Tears*.




#TheyMadeTheKeyInTheNotes

9.  Dresses.  So that nifty convertible dress I bought for the conference?  And the burgundy spaghetti-strap tank dress I dug out from the depth of my closet?  Didn't wear them.  Didn't even come close.  The entire event was so casual and tight-scheduled that it seemed almost silly to go change into a dress and heels.  I was also lazy and tired.  But it was all good.  I'm sure my feet are thankful to have lived three days in my crotchet Toms flats.  #MyToesDidntGetToSeeTheLightOfDayEither

8.  Swag.  Oh. The. Swag.  Vendors came to this event armed with their products to thrust at the attendees.  Official and unofficial BlogHer sponsors were exceedingly generous with their stuff.  They want to get the word out via bloggers, so they gave out free samples, had drawings, and enticed with prizes.  To thank the brands, I tweeted about products/causes that I really liked or were important to me.  It was staggering how much stuff was in the luggage-check room.  Stuff!  #StuffWeAllGet

7.  Meeting people.  I hadn't expected talking to total strangers could actually be pleasant and not too intimidating.  I met many wonderful women and mostly listened learned about their blogs and interests.  Truthfully, I'm much better one-on-one.  Stick me in a group and people will forget that I'm still there unless they notice my big smile that's supposed to substitute for all the talking.  But it was still a good experience.  #CrashCourseSchmoozing

6.  Starstruck.  I didn't expect--well, a little bit, maybe--to meet a "famous" blogger, except to see them on stage.  But going down an escalator, I realized that Zakary of Raising Colorado was in front of me, talking to a friend.  I had just moments to think this through.  Do I miss out on a chance to say hello to someone I've been following for years, or just swallow my pounding heart about to jump out of my throat so I won't have to be coherent and seemingly normal?  We got off the escalator, and I followed her for about ten seconds and then hesitantly poked my index finger on her arm.  I stepped out of my bubble and said hello.  She was so nice and lovely (and tall)!  She was going to speak at Voices of the Year that evening, and I wasn't going to miss it.  I wasn't altogether intelligible but it wasn't a complete disaster, so I was really proud of myself and my little poke.  #FistPumpNumberOne

5.  Share at a session.  Furthermore, I actually spoke into a microphone at a breakout session.  Yes, little quiet me.  I couldn't believe it either.  At every session, I sat in the back and asked no questions and made no comments.  But at my very last one, the speaker asked us to write a six-word memoir in three minutes.  I wrote one, and felt that I really needed to do something I hadn't done yet.  So I raised my hand and shared my words.  Again, I wasn't totally articulate (the transcript even proves it), but I think the audience caught my drift and the speaker nodded many times.  #FistPumpNumberTwo

4.  VOTY.  Each year, 100 bloggers are honored for a piece they wrote, first nominated and then selected by a panel for Voices of the Year.  Then 12 are chosen to be keynote readers for VOTY.  I had heard that as a newbie, the one thing one must attend is this reading, because the words will make you laugh and make you cry.  I laughed and I cried.  I loved it.  I was simply captivated by their voices and words.  VOTY had invariably exceeded my expectations and moved the ground under me.  Added bonus, Queen Latifah was the emcee for this event.  #RemarkableWomanWithPhenomenalWords




3.  Sessions.  I had gone to this conference ready to learn.  Since I wasn't particularly there to work with brands, and I didn't need to be more techy with my blog, I was drawn to many of the writing sessions, hoping to gain some insights into better writing.  Interestingly, I found that what the panel or speaker presented was not new to me.  In other words, I realized that I was already doing what the experts were telling us.  At first I felt a little gypped about not learning anything new.  But then I realized that I was walking out of the sessions a little taller, my shoulders pulled back an inch more.  I actually felt good about my writing from this seemingly disappointing aspect of the event.  No boasting here; I'm just telling the honest truth.  It was actually quite a telling moment for me.  #WarmFuzzyFeeling

2.  Exhaustion.  BlogHer KICKED. MY. BUTT.  I cannot believe how fatigue took me by my excitement and gave me its medicine to match.  The walking, in a place as giant as The McCormick Place (convention center); the late nights, schmoozing and girl-talking at our 40-Somethings Slumber Party; my eyes, wearing my gas permeable contacts for 16+ hours a day; and don't judge--the carrying, as in swag.  It's [partly] how I missed Sheryl Sandberg's talk.  It's how I felt every single muscle in my body ache after I returned home.  It's how I couldn't feel any less zombified for two days after the conference.  But I wasn't the only one.  All across Twitter and blog posts, attendees all claimed such lethargy as if it were an honorable BlogHer specialty swag.  #YourTakeHomeSouvenir

Cheers! from my roomie and me
1.  My Voice.  I think the most important thing that I took away from this conference, unexpectedly, was not something concrete like session notes or a how-to handout, but believing in myself--something that is as abstract as the edges of the universe, but as tangible as my own beating heart.  It's there, and it's started to pulse steadier and louder than it has ever before.  For the two years that I have been writing, I've been quiet and reserved, sharing my blog only with my friends and family.  Each time I began making a Facebook Page for the blog, I quit because I couldn't shake the notion of success being measured by a number next to a little blue thumbs-up.  Something from this conference told me to let go of my many insecurities and move onward and upward.  It could have been the encouraging words of my awesome roommate; it could have been the messages of the keynote speakers and session panelists; or it could have been the inspiration of seeing five thousand women doing exactly what I'm doing: writing and sharing and community-ing and loving it.  I'm happy to be a tiny seed amongst millions of others that do what they can to inspire others.  I don't need to become a big tree; even small flowers make contributions in their own ways.  #SoIMadeMeAFacebookPage (see right side bar up there at the top)

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So, Dear Conference Newbie, from the meals and drinks to the swag and your confidence, you sure got your money's worth out of this conference!  You can even now be promoted from BlogHer Newbie to Oldbie--swanky!  (I can't wait to find out where BlogHer14 will be.  Maybe I'll have less of a deer-in-headlights look next time.)

Sincerely,
Me

23 comments:

  1. I'm glad that you had a fun time although you were exhausted! I love #1, because you're right. You don't have to be a top 10 world known blogger to still make a difference :) #FistPump

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    1. Awww, thanks, Cassie, for stopping by for a Fist Pump! Right back at ya! It was definitely FUN, but it drained all of my essence from under me! I'm all recovered now, thankfully. Hope you're feeling well and not waddling too much yet! :)

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  2. Loved reading your insights from your very first BlogHer experience. I think I walked away with many of the same realizations. It's not exactly what I expected and I didn't walk away with a ton of knowledge about how to better my blog, but I met some fascinating people and was amazed at the power of the blogging community!

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    1. And, by "walked away with many of the same realizations," I meant when I attended the BlogHer conference a few years ago. =)

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    2. Hi, Nilsa! I'm glad that my experience was very similar to yours--it just means that these conferences are meant to bring people together to inspire them from the inside out. It doesn't necessarily make you a better blogger, per se, but it empowers you in a way that all bloggers need to keep at it. Thanks for your previous advice based on your experience--it helped a lot!

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  3. Sandra, I'm so happy for you. It's wonderful that you had a good time and that you got so much out of the conference. I have to say, it seems that the recaps for this conference are overall a lot more positive than the ones for last year in NY. BlogHer food is coming to Miami next May - I think, I may just check that one out!!! :)

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    1. Susi, I heard last year a major problem was space and getting people from point A to point B. Perhaps it was the ginormous size of the convention center, but we didn't have any issues about getting into sessions at all. Plus, schlepping 5000 people from the convention center to the hotel didn't seem to be a problem either, so they did a really great job of putting this whole thing together. It was overall a very positive first experience for me. I can't wait to find out where it will be next year! Thanks so much!

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  4. That's right, you had those cool crochet TOMS!!!
    I was at the store the other day and was looking for them because I loved them so much.
    See?
    Most people have "normal" take away's from conferences.
    Me?
    CROCHETED TOMS.
    Loved meeting you.

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    1. Kari! Thank you so much for stopping by! I LOVE my Toms--they're so comfy and go well with everything. You MUST get a pair! It was lovely meeting you as well. I hope I didn't have too obvious of a newbie look (who am I kidding, ha!)? :)

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  5. so happy that you had an incredible and eye opening experience. Now, I am going to go check out your fb page (congrats on making one!)

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    1. Well, it took me long enough, didn't it? Thank you for coming over and being a part of my new page; I'm so happy that you're there! Have a great weekend, Cindy!

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  6. Sounds like you had an awesome time! I think #1 on your list is the best takeaway!

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    1. Hi, Rachel! I had a great time. I know that I couldn't have gone alone, though; it would have been quite intimidating. It will be interesting to see where it will be next year and if I'm actually willing to *travel* to get there. We shall see! And yes, I am thankful for the best takeaway of the event--can't put a price on that one! :)

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  7. I am so bummed that I didn't get to meet you at the conference. Luckily, we live near each other and that problem can be easily remedied.
    I stand among the "small flowers" too, happy to be there with you.

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    1. Hi, Shannon, it's funny because I met every single one of the nice ladies in your pic (getting ready for BlogHer) except for YOU! Bummer! But I am sure we will get a chance soon.
      But if you claim to stand among the flowers, you must be of the largest variety, as it is quite an honor to be a VOTY Honoree! It is wonderful to have "met" you, even if only on social media so far! :-)

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  8. What a beautiful recap of #BlogHer13, Sandra! I'm so glad you found your voice because it is an awesome one at that. As more time passes (it's only been a week but in some ways feels like it was months ago!), I feel more self confident just from attending. It helped me so much to meet and hang out with you and Maria. I can't wait to read more of your blog. Good for you for making the Facebook page. Baby steps for building your blog up until it's someday a household word. I'm so impressed that you spoke at one of the sessions. What was your 6 word memoir?

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    1. Hi, Chrisor, funny you ask, because I shared my 6 words on my Facebook page! I first made a disclaimer that it could be only 4 words because of the hyphens, but they were "Embracing the cup-half-full life." It was rather difficult to come up with something in 3 minutes, but that's what I had. I used to post twice a week here, but over the summer with kiddos at home, it's been down to once a week if I'm lucky. Thank you for coming over to read, and I'm glad to have met you at BlogHer, too!

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  9. As someone who hasn't attended this conference, I enjoyed reading your top 10 list. I have attended a small writing conference, but it was more of a local thing, and not quite so intimidating. Good for you for speaking up, finding your voice and gaining confidence!

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    1. Thanks for reading, Janna! With so many attendees, it was a tad intimidating, for sure. I guess it helped me know that I don't need to do great things in big ways. I'm happy with doing little things in small ways because writing is something I enjoy. That's not a cop out, right? ;)

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  10. Great to read your experience! I'm attending my first blogging conference in January (Dad 2.0 Summit) and am super stoked. I can be a bit reserved at times, too, so look forward to pushing myself out there. I had 2 blogging friends (both dads) chosen as VOTY winners (or whatever they're called). It's definitely something I'd like to attend sometime — and aspire to! :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by to read and take the time to comment, Designer Daddy! I came across your blog today via a friend on FB, and I knew a good thing when I saw one, so I followed you on Twitter. I'll be back--it's really nice to "meet" you! And I'm sure you'll have a great time networking and learning at Dad 2.0 Summit!

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  11. Glad you enjoyed yourself at BlogHer. It can be overwhelming with so many choices and activities, but sounds like you made the most of it!

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    1. HapaMama! Thanks SO MUCH for stopping by! I almost can't believe someone who walked on the BlogHer fashion show runway is here and commenting on my post!

      I had a great time, and I'm learning so much more about BlogHer. Next year, if I can make it, I *will* have to come find you at the Asian American Birds of a Feather Table!

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