Going to BlogPodium was a bit of a surreal experience. I still feel like a newbie to this whole blogging thing, but a professional conference made me feel almost… professional.
I will admit I was a little star struck, starting right at the beginning when Handyman from Rambling Renovators checked me in at the registration table. Thankfully, I restrained myself and didn’t blurt out, “Hey, you’re Handyman!” right to his face.
I felt like my head kept whipping around doing double takes of, “Hey that’s Jen from Rambling Renovators/Sarah Richardson from TV/Karen Bertelson from The Art of Doing Stuff/Margot Austin from House & Home!” or “I’m sure I recognize her. How do I know her?” It turns out my brain has a hard time translating people I’ve seen on screen, in print or on TV into real life.
I did manage to overcome my geeky excitement and introvert tendencies to actually remember why I came to BlogPodium in the first place: to learn about blogging, connect with other bloggers and figure out how I can develop my blog.
I’m going to start with two simple lessons before going into more detail about what I learned from each session (warning, it’s long).
It may seem silly, but wearing a distinctive outfit and posting it on my blog beforehand actually helped me to connect with people. Lots of people came up and introduced themselves to me just because they recognized my bring pink plaid shirt. (By the way, I went with the blue purse, the yellow wrap (which I ended up not using) and my pearl studs, for those that are wondering).
What didn’t work:
I wish I had done a better job of connecting with people before the conference either over Twitter or through the BlogPodium site. I think that would have helped with some of the initial awkwardness of walking into the room and not knowing anyone. As well, for the next conference, I will prepare an “elevator pitch” in advance to explain who I am and what my blog is about.
And now on to the sessions:
The day started off with the keynote presentation from Sarah Richardson. Sarah’s confidence, positive attitude and openness really impressed me. She talked about the need to evolve to stay relevant in the design and media careers. Or as she termed it, “I’m the last woman standing surrounded by contractors.” Thinking about HGTV’s current line-up, I can definitely see where she’s coming from.
As important as evolution is, she talked about how she focuses on designs that last and creating a signature style. This lesson applies to blogging (writing style) as well as how you treat a room. The most unique moment of the presentation was when Sarah described her design sense. Rather than using standard labels like modern or traditional, she uses four words: shore, lane, boulevard and sidewalk. Each of these represents a different element of her style from her signature blues and greens, to her love of the country, to the polish of “the finer things,” to youthful family friendly fun. Isn’t this a unique way of thinking about your work?
Sarah’s presentation was very powerful for me and was an amazing kick-off for the conference.
The first session I went to was on what bloggers can learn from magazines with Corinna vanGerwen.
The way Corinna described it, magazines are the original blog. They’re all about content, bringing images and words together, sharing ideas and inspiring people.
Corinna gave us a top 10 to use in our own blogs:
- Find your niche — What makes you different from all the other design and lifestyle blogs out there?
- Think like an editor — Look at the topic you want to write about but also how it fits into your overall blog, the best way to tell the story, how will it attract readers.
- Use an editorial calendar – Balance topics, formats of posts, length, frequency, themes, and most importantly your own workload.
- Write eye catching headlines – Sell the benefits not the features and be clear (puns and plays on words don’t always work). Interesting tip: look to magazine covers and men’s magazines for the best headline examples.
- Write for your audience — To grow your blog it has to be more than a vanity project. Get to know your audience by monitoring your analytics, reading comments, following your followers on twitter or pinterest, analyzing your most popular posts.
- Practice the art of packaging – Think of different ways to present information, whether it’s a how-to, recipe, list, trend piece, review, profile, interview, charts.
- Edit your content to give it professionalism and finesse — Look at the big picture of your editorial calendar and blog theme. Look for length, flow and clarity. Favourite quote (as someone who tends to write long posts): “Just because there’s all the room in the world on the internet doesn’t mean you have to take it all up.”
- Have a style guide – Establish standards for grammar, spelling, numbers, prices, names, measurements, etc. Be consistent.
- Fact check your work — Credibility and trust are vital.
- Identify advertising — Transparency and disclosure are essential in blogging
Session two was from blog to business with Stephanie Sterjovski.
Stephanie impressed me with her confidence. She had a very positive, no BS attitude, as you can probably tell from her tips:
- Keep it positive. Don’t spread negativity.
- You don’t have to know everything. Build your skills. If you want to perfect something you have to work at it yourself.
- Readers want content that is fresh. Get off Pinterest and start creating things people will pin. Take your own photos. Invest in a camera. Learn.
- Post only about what you truly love and what reflects your brand.
Over a delicious lunch, it was time for a panel discussion about traditional media, new media, and social media moderated by Leigh-Ann Allaire Perreault of Hue La La. Panelists Margot Austin from House & Home, Jacquelyn Clark of Style Me Pretty Living and Lark & Linen, Emma Reddington from Chatelaine and The Marion House Book and Rhonda Riche co-founder of Covet Garden all had really interesting insights to share about the intersection between blogs and traditional media (mostly magazines. One of the most encouraging statements was that blogs are feeding the print product and making it stronger.
The session after lunch, grow your business using social media, was another panel featuring Brittany Stager, Neil Gazmen and Meredith Heron. This session was a mix of the philosophical (“It’s not about number of followers. It’s about their engagement”) and the practical (how Meredith uses social media: photograph what I’m working on and post it to Instagram first. Share the Instagram through Facebook and Twitter. Later, use the Instagram photos for blog content. Pin everything from my blog posts. Name every project and use a hash tag. And then repost photos on Facebook).
Whew! It’s paying off for her. Meredith could trace beaucoup de bucks in design work that’s come directly through leads on social media.
The final session of the day was the art of monetization with Karen Bertelsen. Karen was as funny in person as she is on her blog. She was also super open about numbers and dollars, answering all of people’s questions.
Step one in monetizing your blog is growing your readership. Karen advised building readership by sharing your work through other sites and blogs. If one of your posts is featured on Apartment Therapy, your audience will spike (and recede), but over time it will build. Karen also gave a good overview of different advertising options from Google Ad Sense to vertical ad networks to private ads to sponsorship, how they all work and what some of the different considerations are. She gave us a preview of the big announcement that she shared on Monday, which led to tips on working with magazines and other brands.
Some of her other tips:
- If someone wants to use your content, don’t give it away for free.
- If you want something and see a partnership opportunity, pitch the company.
- If you have a question, reach out and ask people or other bloggers who might be able to help you.
- Look at your blog as a business and it will become a business .
Rounding out all of the presentations were the amazing sponsors. Look at all of this swag that was in our packages!
The biggest takeaway from all of the speakers, all of the sessions and my overall experience of BlogPodium was collaborate. Build relationships and work together. Connecting with 250 other enthusiastic passionate bloggers was a good first step. I’m so glad that I decided to attend. Thanks to Jen Flores and the rest of the BlogPodium organizing team for an amazing day.
If you’ve made it to the bottom of this incredibly long post, congratulations and thank you. If you somehow haven’t had enough, read other BlogPodium recaps here.