I'm proud to have been invited to be among the welcoming crew of the BlogHer Newbie mentors for BlogHer '13 -- and couldn't wait to share my my three tips for anyone headed to any blog conference. Promote yourself, know why you're going and remember to breathe.
Image: Danielle Tsi Photography
On the Touchy Subject of Self-Promotion
When I first began blogging almost four years ago, I had to teach myself everything about having a life online from the ground up. Starting from putting up a blog, to deciding whether or not to claim a niche. These things took time and determination, and the first time I uploaded a video and successfully had it play on my blog, I high-fived myself till the cows came home. One thing, however, that took me months of work and convincing to take the plunge if I ever wanted to see something happen for my writing being noticed, was self-promotion of my work.
Why oh why is this so difficult? What is it about submitting my work, asking others if I can guest post, or emailing bloggers I'd like to work with, that is so uncomfortable? I'll answer that for you: it's fear of rejection, and all that we think that will say about our abilities. It's called a comfort zone for a reason, it feels safe there. What I've since learned is that any kind of growth involves extending ourselves. An email that begins with "Unfortunately" will always hurt, yes, but if we don't chance those emails that can come back with "not this time," then by the same token, we'll never chance the emails that begin with, "We loved your work and would love to see more from you!" You've got to play to win, and no one is going to toot your horn for you.
So, straighten those shoulders, put on a big smile, and pass out those cards. Give out your url, send in your work, tell people what you do and where they can find you. What they'll come away with after meeting you is remembering a voice that confidently promises, "Come see what I can offer you."
On Choosing Your Sessions
I look at BlogHer Conference offerings like most women drool over jewelry counters. "ooh, this one... no, this one. BUT LOOK AT THIS ONE!"
Learning is my candy. I love BlogHer for many different reasons, and seeing the people I interact with daily online is a huge magnet for my annual attendance, but best of all isthe variety of sessions and panels made available to conference goers. Deciding on where to be can feel overwhelming because there are sessions on Things You Want To Learn, Things You Know You Need to Learn, and People I Want To Hear. What to do? For me, I highlight everything that excites me, and then one at a time, I fairly pick from NEED TO KNOW, like how-tos, another from WOULD LOVE TO LEARN, like photography on your site, and then a choice from PRESENTERS I LOVE, like Deb Rox. I also take into account different environments: do I want to sit and listen or do I want to interact (panels vs. Room of Your Own), then I think about the awesome clinics-- the ones on humor and grammar tips, and other topics, that are an intimate 5 or 6 people to a table.
Choosing your sessions is important to feeling like your time at BlogHer is well spent. Doing your homework before you go prepares you with a mindset of what to do once there. Structure is something that keeps me from feeling like I've lost my mommy in the grocery store (like you don't know what I'm talking about....). BUT, that said, even though I plan my time of where and when at BlogHer, once there, I also know when my brain is fried and my eyes begin to cross, and I skip the session or panel and get fresh air outside instead, or find a new friend and invite them to sit at an outdoor cafe with me, or pull my keycard out of my purse and work my way back to my air conditioned hotel room and breathe. Choosing sessions helps you keep sane, but breathing plays a bigger part in that.
The best advice I can give on what to do about the mind candy store that BlogHer is, is to decide by taking STEP NUMBER ONE: Why are you going? Your answer to that, will serve as a divining rod as to which agenda to follow.
Good luck, have fun, and remember that you don't have to eat your candy all in one day... BlogHer has more for every day you're there.
On Being a FanGirl/On Meeting Bloggers You Admire
I know. This topic, a touchy one -- but one too ripe to ignore.
BlogHer is as close as you can get to having accessibility to the people you have grown to love online, right there at your fingertips. It's tempting. It's so tempting to reach out and touch that someone you feel you know because you've read them every day for the past four years, I mean, YOU KNOW THEM.
This is where you put the brakes of reality on and talk sense to yourself. You feel you know them, but does that mean they know you? Think about this, especially for bloggers with site comments that number in the 300+ on up.
It can hurt if you feel you've been brushed off, but to be fair, it can also falsely represent who that person us. If you approach them with star struck eyes and they know not one thing about you, you may not get the reception you've been dreaming of in your head. You can stare at your fave blogger incredulously and keep repeating, "but it's me... you know, your biggest fan!" and given some time, they may cycle through their mental data files and eventually say that yeah, oh yeah, it's you... the first one to comment on every single post of theirs for the last four years; but when they're caught off guard and in the midst of the din of 5,000 people... they don't have the time to mentally place you.
Give your favorite blogger a few seconds to regain themselves... you saw them, you know them, you approach them, you're ready set go to say hi but they've got no idea you're headed their way. See? Remember that you follow them, but they may not follow you. Everyone reacts to crowds in different ways, some are born able to land on their feet, and the rest of us, stumble through blinking 50 times in a row stammering when we're caught in a situation that wasn't on our radar.
Truth be told, I've had a bit of every kind of experience in meeting my favorite bloggers. Some surprised me with their instant kindness and others surprised me with how different they were than what I imagined them to be. When I came come after my first BlogHer, I explained to myself that there is no way I could understand what it's like to be in their shoes, the shoes of having someone wanting to meet you every second for three days in a row, and that no matter my thrill or disappointment, I would not let my experience at BlogHer be determined by someone else's action or reaction to me. It's not personal.
People are people, and bloggers we love are there to meet and be with bloggers they love, too. They come to BlogHer to be with their favorite people, and we can only control what we do from our end.
Choose to take the higher road, and focus on the good interactions that abound at BlogHer. 9.9 times out of ten, your enthusiasm for meeting someone will be returned with a smile and a "Thank you for reading!"
You could also run into someone like Alice Bradley of Finslippy, who handles it all with a class act response when you tell her you love her, "I love you too!"
Alexandra is wife to one, mother to three. She is a three-time BlogHer VOTY and has appeared onstage with Molly Ringwald for The Moth National Live Storyteller's Tour. Alexandra happily blogs from small town Wisconsin, where, yes, we are all cheeseheads here. Follow the adventures on her personal blog Good Day Regular People.
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