I think I may have started this blog post 5 different ways. I mean, how else could I fully capture the BlogHER ’12 experience? After all, prior to attending I wasn’t a part of the BlogHER community. As a PR gal I’d heard of the conference as the perfect avenue to reach women bloggers, but it never occurred to me to actually go. I have a small, travel-centric blog; a blog that really serves as a place for me to share my writing with others instead of keeping it tucked away into my trusty Moleskine. So the possibility of joining the ranks of fellow bloggers was slightly intimidating.
But as luck (and my new job would have it), the opportunity presented itself…a week before the conference began.
Thankfully, as an avid reader of blogs, I knew I could do a quick scan online and see what I could expect from fellow attendees (past and present) and I was thankful for the tips. I was equally amazed at the amount of chatter that went on about what to wear. Side note: this was perplexing – I mean, sure the event was held in New York, but it’s New York not a TV version of it. That’s the beauty of a city with 8 million individuals – style is in the eye of the beholder and virtually anything goes (Naked Cowboy, need I say more?).
But back to BlogHER. After 3 days of panel discussions and keynotes with the likes of Martha Stewart, Katie Couric, Christy Turlington and Soledad O’Brien, it was easy to see why you’d want to attend a blogging conference. You may not learn something that will completely change your life, but you’ll find a bit of inspiration, meet some friendly people and learn something new about yourself in the process. So with that, here’s what I learned:
Inspiration: “Just write.” “Be authentic.” You couldn’t walk past an open meeting room door without hearing this sentiment being echoed. And it’s true. The women who have found their voices are successful, passionate bloggers. They write because it fulfills them and they can’t imagine doing anything else. It came at the perfect time as I think about what it would mean to expand my blog beyond the world of travel. One thing I will say: I did my best to share any insights I gleaned over Twitter that weekend, but actual learnings were few and far between (it kills me to say that). The best session I attended was about deciphering HTML and CSS to tweak visual blog elements. The rest made you feel good and inspired you, but there weren’t a lot of tangible, real takeaways.
Introductions: Networking. The one activity I’m really not a fan of – walking into a crowded room and making small talk. But, BlogHER made it quite easy to plunk yourself down in any row or at any table and start with whatever opening strikes your fancy. From “Is this your first BlogHER?” to “What do you write (or blog) about?” – a friendly smile and question made it [relatively] painless and easy (for a girl who is, admittedly, more of an observational wallflower).
Introspection: To monetize or not? The biggest lesson of all. I think I can safely say that I have ZERO desire to monetize my blog. This was the one aspect part of BlogHER that I had the hardest time wrapping my head around. This was best illustrated by the Exhibition Hall: Marketers toting their latest wares to the women of BlogHER, offering free swag out the wazoo. The amount of tweets related to women heralding their procurement of the latest gizmo was a bit deflating (to me, it epitomized our “stuff”-obsessed society). And did I mention the gift bag? I almost wish I had taken a picture of it. I took one look inside at the offering and promptly offered it to the woman who asked me what room the gift bags were in. I’m sure there comes a point in time for every blogger when they make that decision, and whatever they decide – good for them (no judgement). Mine was this weekend.
And with that, my BlogHER ’12 chapter comes to a close. While I’m glad I went, I wouldn’t attend again for my own personal blog (attending for work is different story altogether). What I’m looking for in a conference experience is a place where I can meet fellow writers who are there to share how they create vs. what they can take.