I spent the weekend at the Casual Blogger’s Conference. Had an amazing time, attended some great sessions, met some amazing women bloggers (and even a couple of guys). These conferences are the best way I know to learn the craft and technical side of blogging as well as a wonderful way to connect with a great group of other bloggers.
Normally, that’s pretty much all I would post, but one of the lessons I learned was to be a little more authentic in my blogging. And if I have to be honest, it was kind of a mixed bag for me. I had some good experiences with it and I had some less than positive experiences with it. I guess that I had such a magical time at SITScation and Bloggy Boot Camp, I was expecting to have pretty much the same experience at CBC. And it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but that’s usually the way it works out when you come in with expectations.
Let’s start with what went right. The location was fabulous – anything that is 5 miles from my house is OK with me and the Miller Center was laid out quite nicely and a great venue for a conference like this. The Girl’s Night Out with Teresa Collins was really nice. They had massages, aroma therapy, eyebrow waxing, several different crafts, and several great vendors showing off their stuff. Very cool and it was laid out in a way that made it easy to network with a lot of the other participants. My only comment would be NAMETAGS. I have a horrible memory and nametags are just a must at any of these events!
The swag bags were extraordinary. I’m going to be taking some pictures and showing you some of the great swag I received, and I will even be giving away some of it to my Followers (whoo hoo, so stay tuned!). You could tell that the organizers worked so hard to line up some great sponsors and to make the signage and everything look really wonderful. Tons of prizes too, though sadly, I didn’t win any of them, although I was sitting next to the lady who won the iPad (Angela from The Artists House)!
The vendors were great too – there was a nice variety of vendors – although there were about five scrapbooking vendors, I’m certainly not going to argue with that! The speakers were amazing. I don’t know if I can even pick my favorite speaker because there were so many good ones. I’ll say Matt Townsend was the funniest, Marie Ricks/Sarah Kimmel were the ones that were most useful to me personality, and I think CJane was the most touching (although at that point, I was at the tail end of 12 hours of speakers, so I was a little too shell-shocked to really connect with her).
Now here’s the other side of the story – I hope next year, they are more aware of the physical needs of a group like this. The Miller Center had pretty limited options for food and drink and there were several times when I was very thirsty and/or hungry, and that’s not a fun feeling when you are pretty much a captive audience. Lunch and dinner on both days was a pretty disorganized affair and I think they really gave up a great opportunity for some good solid networking over meals. But this was their first year and there is probably a bit of a learning curve with it, so I’m sure they will do better with this next time.
Apparently, there has been some controversy about the Mormon Mommy Bloggers and something about a Church video that was shown during a session on faith blogging. I missed that whole session because I was physically and emotionally exhausted and I ended up taking a little snooze in the parking lot after lunch. But I can honestly say it was a little awkward for me as a Presbyterian/Methodist married to a Catholic/redneck and I felt that they could have been a little more inclusive of not only other faiths, but a wider variety of women. It seemed to me that most of the presenters were Mormon stay at home Mom’s with young children, and that was a dynamic that didn’t really click with me much as a 9 to 5 career woman with grown children & grandchildren.
I do think maybe they could have made it a little more clear in the title. Casual Bloggers Conference doesn’t necessarily translate into the Mormon Mommy Bloggers Conference unless you do your homework, which I hadn’t. I’m not saying I felt particularly offended or anything, just a little “on the outside looking in”, if that makes sense. But I do live in Utah, so I’m pretty used to that.
The Saturday night entertainment was very nice. I had never heard of Mindy Gledhill or Cameron Raferati, so I wasn’t as excited about some of the other people to see them. They were both very good, but I would rather have had something quieter that allowed for a little more connection and conversation between the participants. That really is the whole point of these conferences is the networking. One of the suggestions I had and several of my friends liked it, was to have a round of blogger “speed dating” instead of the entertainment. Just a chance to meet other bloggers that you might not have had a chance to get to know.
I think that was the big difference between this event and the events my beloved SITS girls put together. The Bloggy Boot Camps place so much emphasis on keeping it small and intimate and everything is focused to keeping the participants in constant touch with each other. That I think is the main improvement that could be made for next year’s conference. There were so many times at this conference when I felt completely disconnected and isolated, which was not what I expected because I came into the conference knowing at least a dozen different people.
I think we all have insecurities and shyness problems when we are plunked down into a large group of new people, especially an all-female group. I’ve had so many hurdles and difficulties in female friendships over the years, it’s no wonder I had a lot of feelings of awkwardness and feeling isolated. But I’ve also got a lot of experience in covering up these feelings and seeming more confident than I really am, so I suspect no one realized how uncomfortable I was feeling.
It also didn’t help that the timing was horrible for me. I literally had to say goodbye to my best friend, my cat of almost 18 years at 8:30 on Friday morning because he was going to be put to sleep that afternoon at the vets. Then I had to pull myself together and put my “game face” on by 9:00 because I was going to be meeting several dozen new people and I didn’t want them to think I was a basket case. So it was a hard morning and even harder when no one I knew made an effort to sit with me at any of my sessions that day, or wanted to go to lunch with me.
So, it was kind of an odd, sad day. I slipped out at our brief lunch break for a solitary burger, and had a bit of a sniffle. I’m not usually the “pity party” type, but as I said, it was a hard day for me.
Saturday was a little better and I had made several new friends by then, but I still ended up with a solitary lunch and again no one to sit with during most of my sessions. Fortunately, sweet Kathy Dalton invited me to go to lunch with a group of very nice ladies, and that was probably the brightest spot of my conference.
So, sorry for writing a novel (I really am trying to get better at that!) but I had a lot of complex experiences and feelings and it was nice to get them all out on paper. I am glad I went and I came away with a lot of great friendships and a ton of good information that I will be going through for weeks. On the whole, I think the organizers did a wonderful job and I look forward to what they will put together next year!