My Weekend at the Casual Blogger’s Conference

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!


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Comments

  1. Thanks for mentioning me and my blog 🙂 That was very nice of you!

    Great post here, so much information. I too wish we would have had better food options and breaks. I’m glad I stashed away snacks in my bag.

    I want to say that I too felt a little uncomfortable at times, not being of the LDS faith. ALL the woman were lovely and sweet; I’m glad to have met some great new friends. Yet at the same time, I was a bit taken back that most everyone assumed I was LDS. I never really spoke up otherwise and probably should have, I just didn’t think it was relevant to the conversations we were having. I just thing a little more awareness would have been nice.

    Thanks for your wonderful post, full of honesty and great information.

  2. I can’t have gluten and there were no options for me, so I left the campus for lunch & found myself too exhausted/starved to come back very fast. Lunch at 2 pm was also way, way, way too late for me.

    For a first year, they did a great job, I think, but I think this kind of feedback is really constructive and I’m sure they will take it!

    I love the idea of speed dating, that really would have helped us get to know each other more.

    I didn’t attend any socials either. I think there were a lot of us.

  3. Well first of all, I’m totally bummed that I didn’t go. A ton of my friends, people like you and Sarah (Tech4Mommies) were there. I understand about the no-food thing. That was BlogHer last year. There was no water ANYWHERE and not really many snack options. The breakfast and lunch were provided.

    I’ve seen the video that everyone is talking about. As a non-practicing lapsed Catholic who hangs out with way too many LDS peeps, it doesn’t bother me. I guess that I’m used to the LDS stuff by now.

    But seriously, this was nothing compared to Blissdom. The Christians were shoving religion down your throat down there. I’ve never seen my LDS peeps like that.

    As a Blogger, I’ve come to understand and respect everyone’s religions, etc. I’ve never been around so many religious people until I started blogging. People just aren’t like that in California. You hear about people going to church, but it’s not really so in your face.

    I’m sorry for the loss of your kitteh….

    xoxoxo

    Julie

  4. That speed dating would have been so much fun! I loved the concerts but I did feel like there was a missed opportunity for socializing over meals.

  5. I was the one you talked with a bit after the organization session. Thanks for the tips! ;D

    I’m SO BUMMED I had a migraine on Thursday!! I paid full conference, missed out on a whole night as well as ALL the SWAG!! :`(

    Friday I had mixed mania, so I was bouncing between emotions and didn’t want to SCARE anyone and slightly kept to myself. I have a daughter that lives in Sandy that brought an Arby’s sandwich to me and we ate in her car for the short time for lunch. I was not paying the $$$ for the box lunches…

    Friday night, I hadn’t ever seen either artist, but I thoroughly enjoyed Mindy… When Cameron came on, I’m sure he was likable for many, but it was a little loud and headache was coming on fast and I didn’t want it to go migraine before driving home… so I headed. I welcomed the entertainment (of Mindy) because I was not in the networking mode and it gave me something to relax a bit about and I opened up more to those around me. I think it would be great if they’d have partially partitioned so those just wanting to network could do so and the entertainment would just be in the background.

    Saturday I was a bit more manic and opened up a bit more and finally started making some connections. In the end, it was a good experience and I will likely come again.

    I did go to the Faith session which I viewed from the start as a mini optional time slot. I didn’t feel like it was pushing any religion, although 3 of the 5 on the panel were LDS… I found great insights from all of them and the overall message was how to weave your faith and be yourself without SHOVING it down your readers throats… I commented twice in the discussion on the post from O My Family in detail.

    I find that faith is a part of who a person is. When I’m reading someone’s post and they talk about things of their faith, whatever it may be… it helps me understand their story and perspective, and appreciate many similarities while overlooking the differences. The video was touching and about Stephenie Nielson and how her faith helped her and her family through trying times. There was a quote from a leader of the LDS church in it and it was produced by Mormon Messages, though. The quote was not something that would differ from views of any person of any faith. I am LDS, but I have quoted leaders of other faiths that are motivational or inspiring to me many times… So I think it was a matter of a presenter that just didn’t feel like she got the full scoop properly before coming, but even she agreed that she had a good experience.

    I also think that where the conference is, advertisers present what they think they can sell. And much of the stuff was mixed, meaning there were LDS type things they sold, but also other things. I think it’s harder to control your booth advertisers… Just a thought.

    I’m glad that in the end it was more good than bad. (Did I interpret that right?) (((HUGS)))

  6. oh wow!
    You had a lot to say about the conference/ good and bad. I too think meals could have been better to allow for more networking.

    As for the religious video, I’m not sure what they showed cause i missed that one. I took a long lunch that day.

    I am just glad I got to meet you in that organization class and I got to see your pretty nails and bag!
    Awesomely done.

    I am sorry you had to see your cat put down after such a long time. that must have been hard.

    i can’t believe you got to go to a SITS conference AND bloggy boot camp. I would LOVE to go someday. And Blogher. And Blissdom.

    And others. Mom 2.0 Summit.
    Disney’s media mom’s convention
    And many others!

    someday.

    But i will definitely attend Casual blogger next year. They can only get better right?

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