My guest blogger today is Molly, author of the blog A Day in Mollywood. She’s sharing a personal story reflecting on her experience attending her first blog conference. I know her words will resonate with you, no matter how far along you are in your blogging journey.
A week before I attended BlogHer (my very first blog conference) my friend Heather, aka Theta Mom, gave me some advice:
“DO NOT care what ANYONE else is doing but YOU. It’s a fact that there have been tons of bloggers that actually STOPPED blogging after attending conferences in the past because they let their insecurities and comparing themselves to others get the best of them.”
How could anyone stop blogging after attending such a popular conference? I thought it impossible and even giggled a bit because I knew that would never be me. Only, it almost was.
My struggle with depression put a big damper on my conference experience. So much so that when I returned home I didn’t blog for a week, with the exception of a scheduled post for my son’s birthday. I had no inspiration and when it did spark I was too ashamed to have wasted a wonderful conference trip that many would have loved to attend. Then there was Heather with more wise advice, telling me it might help to write about it. I finally caved. I wrote about it and I’m so glad I did. The support from the blogging community was nothing short of amazing. Suddenly, I got my groove back.
So today, I want to share with you the valuable but difficult lessons I learned from attending my first blog conference:
*Do your research. There are so many blog conferences to attend. Yes, your twitter feed might be blowing up with BlogHer hash tags. There is a reason for that, of course. It is an amazing community of bloggers and although I had trouble while there it had nothing to do with the conference itself. I really do hope I get a second chance! But now more than ever I realize I should have checked out all my options instead of basing my decision on where everyone else was going. There are conferences specifically targeted to social media mavens, crafters and handmade goods, review and coupon blogs, and brand awareness. These conferences provide opportunities to meet and network with people in your niche. Some will boast 4,000 attendees and others will provide a more personal setting where you can get to know twenty people well. Who knows, maybe there is one close to where you live! No matter what, please do your research before deciding which one is right for you.
*Put self-confidence on your packing list. No doubt about it, BlogHer is a BIG conference. From the moment I walked in I felt overwhelmed. I naively thought that I would get to meet all my favorite bloggers. Let me save you the trouble. It’s not possible at a large conference. Pick a few “must meet” people and make it your mission to get in front of them. I may not have met everyone on my list. But I did get to meet three of my blogging idols! Let me tell you, it was totally worth coming out of my comfort zone to meet them. One of them even used my business card to find me!
*Remember, it’s not a competition. Blog conferences are not the time to brag about your feedburner stats and followers – unless of course you’re in a class to discuss those topics. The reality is that no one is there for that reason. I came up with four reasons people attend blog conferences: to see blogging friends they have already met, to meet and network with new blogging friends, to learn something new and – all of the above.
If we want to get the most out of a conference we must remember that everybody is somebody. You might see a group of people talking to one person and think, “Wow, they must be somebody!” Well, guess what? You’re somebody too. I don’t care if you have 20 followers or 2,000. If you are there for A, B, C or D, then you’ve got something in common with everyone else there. There are no losers. Everybody wins.
Find out who you are.
After attending my first blogging conference, it took me a few weeks to realize who I am as a blogger. There were clues while I was there but I didn’t see them until I left. Looking back I wanted to meet authors and writers; bloggers who practice their writing craft every week, bloggers who inspire me with their writing every time they post. It wasn’t until I returned home that I realized where I fit amongst all the attendees. I love to write. I love to blog. I am a writer-blogger! It only took me five years of blogging to realize that!
But now that I’ve got it figured out I can move forward in a more productive and meaningful way. I don’t have to push myself to sell ad space and do reviews on my blog if I’m not comfortable with it. If an opportunity comes up which interests me I might act on it. But I don’t have to force myself to compete. I’m simply a writer trying to spread my words around. The conference helped me realize that.
My best advice? Think about the posts that you have written over the past two months. How did you feel when you pressed publish? If you felt uncomfortable then that’s probably not your niche. If you felt excited and super happy each time you got a comment on that particular post then that is what you’re meant to be writing.
Don’t give up.
If you came home from a conference feeling defeated – do it again anyway! Push yourself. We’re rarely at our best in the beginning. Like Heather said, don’t let your insecurities win. Go to another conference, the same one or try a different one. I don’t care. Just try again. I never thought I’d say this, but I will be going to another conference. I don’t know which one or when, but I will and I know I’ll be better for it.
If you are interested in guest posting at Theta Mom® please send me an email since I am currently accepting submissions. Full details can be found on the Network page.