Thursday, February 11, 2010

My BlissDom Conference Experience

Thursday, February 4th, I traveled to Nashville Tennessee to attend BlissDom Conference. BlissDom is a conference for women bloggers who find "bliss" in blogging. It featured workshops and panels to help hone our blogging skills in the form of writing, back end SEO technologies, integrating social media, how to find your niche, and to of course NETWORK with 499 other women (including two men I think) who have at least one similarity, they love to blog.  BlissDom creators Alli Worthington and Barbara Jones created a laid back and welcoming atmosphere.  The event was flawless with lots of personalization and surprises. In this round-up, I'll include my personal thoughts and reactions to the conference and I'll provide a short list of the top items I learned.

I'll admit, I'm a bit of a introvert.  Coincidentally, I love meeting new people and chatting but I do think I was a little overwhelmed with the size of the room and the amount of people who filled it. I have shared the following thought with a few BlissDom friends and my family so I'll share it with you too: It was amazing to me how hard it was to find ONE person in a room of five-hundred.  Even with technology like twitter, texting and even having the ability to access these things with my phone, it was nearly impossible to meet up with a few folks that I had planned to meet.

I mentioned that I attended this conference alone right? So yes, I traveled alone, checked in alone and attended the sessions, meals and social events alone.  Now, you're probably wondering well, where were the other 499 other woman she mentioned above?  They were there too, they were sitting in chairs across the room and next to me and I talked and networked with those around me as best as I could but I still felt alone.  During the workshops and sessions, none of this mattered, since I was intently listening and learning and drinking in the Blissdom vibe. But after the sessions, we all seemed to go our separate ways.  On top of that, even if I wanted to stay and chat, I had to run off to deliver thank you gifts for my client, tracking down these folks was a full time job and it ended up taking MOST of my free time to complete that task. Just a note, I'm not knocking that client, I'm just stating that my duties for them took over a lot of the time when I probably could have been networking more. 

One area where I was not alone was in my hotel room, I did have the chance to meet a colleague and share a room with her and I'm glad she suggested it.  She is QUITE a busy woman and wow is she knowledgeable about blogs and networking. If you have a few minutes, check out Kim's blog, Hormone-Colored Days, and while you're at it check out her newest initiative,  She's a wealth of knowledge and a good person. Ironically enough, Kim's Blissdom review post was about this same "alone" topic above.  So at the very least, I know I'm not alone in this feeling and that helps. 

Aside from the alone parts, the conference was a HUGE BOX OF GOODIES in the form of knowledge and inspiration. Wow! Note that it's Thursday and I've been home for 4 days and this is the FIRST time I've put my feelings and thoughts about this three day conference onto paper or into 0's and 1's.  It has taken me that long to absorb and then finally share my thoughts.


Wisdom Workshops. I attended a workshop called SEO & Counting What Counts, the panel included Kelby Carr @typeamom Angela England @AngEngland. After this workshop, I wanted to go straight to my room, lock the door and optimize my blog.  SOOO many great tips and ideas!  Look for some new features in the next few weeks as I start using some of these tools. For a review of the session from one of the panelists herself, Angela England, head to her blog:

The following day was the official start of the conference, the opening speaker was jaw dropping and awesome. Kevin Carroll was well, really 'effin good.  Go visit his blog read his about me page and if you're so inclined find a copy of his book.  If any of my readers hold jobs that requier you find speakers for graduations or conferences or anything really, consider this guy.  He's absolutely amazing! One of THE most moving speakers I've heard.

The conference went on to offer information about the FCC and how to understand their involvement with bloggers and how to keep your own blog safe within their guidelines (very helpful information, if anyone is interested in hearing more about this, contact me directly, it's simply too much to share in this post, if you do reviews or give products away this is a topic you need to learn about if you haven't already). The sessions went on into two tracks, business track and writing track.  I feel that my writing is "ok" at best so I wanted to focus more on the business aspect of things.  The sessions were open and laid-back.  The panels consisted of 4-6 bloggers who were all very knowledgable within each topic.  Within the Business track, topics included: Personal Branding, Leveraging Social Media to Build Your Business, Evolving Into a Professional Blogger, Niche Blogging and a few others. All of these topics were very informative.  The best part was within each session the panel had a short list of topics that they wanted to cover but then they quickly opened up the floor to Q&A with the audience.  The questions from the other attendees were REALLY good!  Everyone was interesting and most everyone shared some personal and really insightful thoughts with the group.

Each day the sessions ended around 5 pm and that only meant one thing, it was time to party.  There were official cocktail parties one included a four song set by Harry Connick Jr. JUST FOR US! I'm not a HUGE fan but I enjoy his music, so that was a good time. Along with some great food.  Afterwards, there were a few non-official parties sponsored by outside companies, they were very interactive, one was a potato cook-off or sorts, similar to the cookoff shows we have all watched on the food network.  The contestants were all Blissdom attendees who are part of a regular cooking group called The Tastemaker Challenge, check the link for a full description of this fun event.  There were others events similar to this one too many to hit all of them.  Especially, after I had just spent the day being more social than usual.  I called it quits and went back to the hotel room  to catch up with Chris and friends back home were were being buried under a HUGE and HEAVY blanket of snow and Facebooking about it. 

The following day was much more of the same.  Again a LOT of interesting topics and panels then a closing keynote speech from the internet famous @MckMama  (I know there are many women out there with opinions of her, some negative, some positive) Regardless of those opinions, she recounted the efforts of the thousands and thousands of people from across the globe that reached out to her and her family as she dealt with her sick son, Stellan.  Her point, the power of the internet and the power of those who create the content out there.  Most of the women in that conference room at the very least knew of her.  A few learned about her for the first time that day.  It was hard to NOT be moved by her story and the love that complete strangers gave to her.  

I have plans to attend another blogger conference within the next year, this one was a great 1st experience and really it can only get better from here right?  I would love to go with a friend, if any of my IRL friends are interested in going, let's talk!

A Short List of Things I Learned and Want to Share:
  • To increase readership and to cross network with other similar bloggers, ask bloggers that you enjoy reading to guest post on your blog. Eventually, they will return the favor and it will be worth it to you, your readers and your guest blogger.
  • Optimize your blog, research some simple SEO tricks and start using them.  Google Analytics is a GREAT place to start. 
  • Make good use of your keywords, categories, tags (these terms all mean the same thing by the way).  Google Webmasters Tools is an AWESOME site.
  • Social network your blog.  Link to your Twitter account, link to your Facebook Fan Page and do it from all three sites and others you prefer to use too.
  • Comment on blogs and you will receive comments, more views and gain readers on your own blog. It takes time, but it will come back to you en mass as the internet is VERY karma driven.


Angela England (@AngEngland) said...

I'm so glad you found the SEO workshop helpful! We struggled with where to start out at, what to cover, etc but ended up starting at the very basics and moving our way through to the more complicated. It really helped Kelby and I to have such an engaged and active audience because you guys were popping out the questions left and right! Awesome! :-)

It was overwhelming at my first conference too. Next time you go you'll recognize people and find that they recognize you as well and it will feel SO cool.

Angela <><

Cara said...

Thank you so much for the comment Angela! It means a LOT!

Jessie Kaitlin said...

I had a blast meeting you! Hope to see you at the next conference :)

Amanda said...

welcome home! we saved you some snow :oP

thebeadgirl said...

loved your post! and i totally understand how you felt! i brought my husband...that was my fail safe way of having someone to "hang" with!

thanks for being honest!

@jenniferswilson said...

I can totally relate to your perspective. I had plenty of nice conversations, but never felt truly a part of things.

I don't believe we met - but I'm already following you on Twitter. Maybe next time around?

Cara said...

Jennifer - Thanks for the comment, I don't believe we met either and I would love to meet you next time :)

Hollee Temple said...

Wait a second... Cara... were you delivering Steaz goodies with Kim? We may have met when I was in my PJs. I was with Laura and Amy from Chambanamoms. Did you come and deliver that treat?

I can't believe we never met in person but you're right, it was overwhelming. Next time for sure!

The (Un)Experienced Mom said...

Great recap!! I didn't make it to the workshops, but I am wishing I had.

I know first conferences can be overwhelming. It was mine & you're right - even with Twitter it was hard to find some people. Still some I never found!

I haven't officially launched it yet, but I started a site called geared towards newbies in social media/blogs. Conference info and tips about attending will be housed there. It's officially being launched at the #conferencenewbie Twitter Party on 2/24 at 9-10pm EST. Hopefully this site will help newbies prepare for these conferences! ;-)

Thanks for linking up on my Blissdom Recap link up. Sorry it has taken me so long to get over to read your Blissdom posts!


Mary said...

I'm looking back over your posts in preparation for meeting you this weekend, Cara. And guess what? I was at this conference too and felt very much the same way. What a small world. I see you're going to Type-A. I went last year with my family, and we all LOVED it. I'm trying to wrangle up a sponsor so we can do it again. See you soon!