Blissdom 2012 was my fourth blog conference, and the first that I could call a success (for me). Part of this was because I am more comfortable with myself, and with HH, in the blogosphere, and part of it was because of Blissdom itself.
Last week a reader asked me "How do you know which conference to attend? I've read about various conferences, but I'm not sure how to find the right one for me." This is such a good question. I answered,
Most of the bigger conferences have a certain reputation that you can usually judge by the posts or tweets about them (Alt Summit is super creative, Mom 2.0 is great for the business side of blogging, etc.), so I suggest that you weigh that with your own comfort level. Sometimes its nice to start with a smaller conference - maybe one thats closer to home for you so it's less of a commitment.
Blissdom 2010 was my first blogging conference and I chose it because a) it was a manageable size (500 people or less back then) b) several of the bloggers I followed were attending and c) it was in Nashville, where one of my very best friends lives, so I got to visit her and have a backup plan in case I had a total meltdown.
A couple of mistakes I made that first conference: My blog was only 3 weeks old. In retrospect, I wish I had approached the conference with a different attitude if I was going to attend so early in the game. I knew NO ONE. If I were doing it again, I would go with a friend, either one from real life or one from online.
The short of it is that there is no way other than trial and error. The blogging world has surprised me in many ways.
I read that answer now and think, yes, the blogging world HAS surprised me in many ways.
Until this last weekend, I've gone to blog conferences with a certain set of expectations and have come home confused and, truthfully, deflated. Instead of feeling inspired, I've wanted to totally scrap my current blog and start over. Instead of feeling like I'd made solid connections, I felt like I'd been speed dating with mixed results.
This time I approached Blissdom with a "what happens, happens," attitude. I did not expect the sessions to give me direction for HH. I did not expect to meet or connect with every single person on my list. I viewed everything that was to come out of my weekend there as a bonus. And without all this self-inflicted pressure to make every moment count, I experienced 1,000 bonuses.
There was a last minute one-on-one lunch with a blog friend who has become a real friend, there was a dinner with a group of "big" bloggers who I did not know previously, there was a completely unexpected lunch with a group of people I hope to know better that may possibly change my life, there was an introduction between sessions that may add something huge to HH, and there was more laughter with old friends than I had experienced in probably a year.
By letting the weekend happen to me, instead of trying to micromanage every interaction and schedule, I was blessed beyond. This might not be the right blog conference style for you, but I've tried it the other way and this worked better for me. Infinitely better.
A few things about Blissdom that are different from what I've attended before:
- There are no corporate "invite only" parties. Every event is open to every attendee. So maybe this means less swag or less drink tickets, but I cannot tell you the difference it makes in the overall vibe. It's not exclusionary. It takes the inherent competitive nature down about four notches.
- Blissdom tried a new format this year called 30-30-30. Instead of large panels speaking at you, most sessions had 30 minutes of presentation, 30 minutes of workshopping it with your table, and 30 minutes of Q&A. None of the sessions I attended worked out to be exactly 30-30-30, but there was definitely a solid presentation and then workshop time. You could sit anywhere you want, but there was the option to sit with your niche. I definitely met many new faces at my tables during the workshop portions than I would have met otherwise, since I am shy by nature. It was, in a sense, forced interaction, and it WORKED. Some of the best conversations of the conference came out of those roundtables and they were (primarily) with people I didn't know.
I wish I had taken a bunch of pictures with friends and bloggers and Joe Jonas, but I just didn't. I brought three cameras to Blissdom and didn't use them. Letting Blissdom happen just didn't involve staging this time.