Blogpodium 2014 Recap: 4 years later

Good Morning!

I finally got my Blogpodium 2014 recap written! Yea, me!  First of all, I had a great time at Blogpodium , I always do.  I was using my iPhone for photos that day, and the venue was a bit dark, so needless to say this post is going to be Texty McTexterson so bear with me.  After this Blogpodium was all said and done, I definitely had lots of thoughts about blogging in general, which I will get to later, but first I want to share some of my highlights.

I loved the keynote speech by Donna from Funky Junk Interiors.  It had humour, passion, and grit.  She drew us in with her story, which really showed us how she got where she is today.  She did give us some tips and hints but it was her story of perseverance that made us all relate to her and it really set a great tone for the day.  I loved the picture she posted talking about people’s reactions when you tell them you are a blogger….

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Now, I have been blogging for over four years and generally haven’t really paid much attention to the numbers.  Recently, I have been trying to figure out traffic, the best ways to improved my google rank, and other techie things, and well, it been frustrating.  So this year, I decided to nerd it up and focus on the technical sessions. I went to 2 sessions.  One by Nicki Lamont on Essential SEO and one by Avery Swartz from Camp Tech on Google Analytics.  Both were really, really helpful and I left with a much better of a grasp on all those crazy blogging metrics.  And can I tell you how much I love Camp Tech?  Seriously.  They had a nerd station at Blogpodium where bloggers could ask questions and get specific help for their own blogs.  As you can see from the photo below, they were pretty busy all day!  Also they have the best tag line ever.

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And I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the panel discussion with Jen Flores, Scott McGillivray and Monika Hibbs.  I knew Jen would be great….obviously she has the finger on the pulse of bloggers.  But I’ll be honest, although I enjoy both Scott’s shows and Monika’s blog, I went into the session wondering what exactly they would bring to the table that would be applicable to the average blogger.  Well, I will tell you I was really impressed with both of them.  They told their stories which were very interesting in their own ways and also they provided good advice on career paths. And they both had a huge amount of drive, which resonated with me.  What I took from that discussion was be true to yourself, make a plan and then go get what you want.

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Another great thing that I always love about Blogpodium is seeing all the bloggers I don’t see in real life often enough.  This year I was so happy to have my friend Sarah of More than Denim, staying with me for her first blog conference.  Sarah is a Canadian blogger over at More than Denim, who just recently moved back to Halifax from the US and is excited to get tapped into the Canadian blogging scene. Check it out for some fabulous fashion and food posts.

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Now on to the more introspective stuff. I have been attending blog conference since before I had an probably had any right to do so. I’ve been to all four Blogpodiums and I also attended Alt Summit in Salt Lake City in 2012.  Looking back, I will say that for the first 2 Blogpodiums and Alt, I KNEW NOTHING. I learned a lot but maybe not a lot that applied to me directly since my blog was so small and newer at the time.  Now, that being said, my blog isn’t much bigger now than it was then, but I would like to think it’s slightly more sophisticated. I certainly would say that the last 2 Blogpodiums were the most rewarding. but also very different. Last year, I left feeling super inspired and motivated. For me it was about the relationships and connections, but looking back I didn’t leave with a huge amount of tangible information to actually apply on my blog.  This year, however, while I didn’t leave with a sense of euphoric blog bliss, I learned a ton and left with so much information that I could put into action right away.  It wasn’t better or worse than last year, just different.  But I think maybe that is the evolution of attending blog conferences.  Every experience is unique and speaks to you differently.

Now, it’s no secret that the word on the street is that that blogging as we know is dying. Readership is down, comments are down, major publications in the US are shutting down blogs.  And for sure, all that may indicate a significant change to blogging.  The next big thing may take blogging in a whole new direction.  Big changes. But just because something is changing it doesn’t mean it’s dying.

And I think something is missing from this conversation and that is that people don’t ever get tired from hearing stories. About a month ago I read great post written by by Erin Loechner over at Design for Mankind titled Blogging, Now  that was posted back in August and talked about the state of blogging.  I think Erin’s take on the topic is bang on.  I would encourage you all to take a read of the entire thing but I want to share with you a quote from the end of that post…..

“Blogging won’t die, because it was never truly alive. The stories, the voices – that’s where the heart beats. And storytelling, friends, is forever.” – Erin Loechner, Design for Mankind

Truth. Look at my Blogpodium highlights above. Do Donna and I have the same aesthetic?  No. Do I love every single project she does?  Not necessarily.  But I still loved her keynote and love how she writes on her blog. Why? Because she is genuine, tells a story and I connect with that in some way.  And then, Scott and Monika, two people that I didn’t anticipate taking much away from who really surprised me, and why?  Because they told their stories before they launched into the advice. I understood where they were coming from.  Genuine stories make all the difference. Isn’t that how blogging started?  It doesn’t matter what a post is about or how short it might be, if you there is a reflection of you and your story weaved in there in even the smallest way, someone is likely to enjoy it.

And I’m off my officially getting down off my soapbox. (*Drop Mic)

XO,

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Alt Recap Round 2: The things I learned…..

It’s now been more than two weeks since the last day at Alt and although I already posted my Recap – Round 1,  before I shared Round 2 I needed to take some time to mull over the things I learned .  I’ll apologize in advance for this word-heavy blog…I promise pretty pictures will be back tomorrow! In the meantime, here is a small snapshot of what I learned….

1) Your blog is your personal brand. It should reflect you and look professional.  There should be consistency with your header, fonts and icons.

I have come to realize that I need my blog to be re-designed professionally.  I’ve redesigned my header (and still I am not 100 percent sold on it), and need to get the sidebar in order.  I would love to do it myself but the reality is I don’t have time to learn code right now and my time is worth too much these days.

2) Always post the best photos possible. Most of the beautiful photos you see on blogs are Photoshopped, so learn to use a photo editing program and present the most professional looking shots you can.

I do not take great photos, but I am learning to use Photoshop to my advantage. At some point I think I should take a photography course but in the meantime, Photoshop is going to become my new bestie.

1) Post original content that reflects you. Content should be based on your research, your expertise, and your experiences.

Readers can find nice pictures and great home decor ideas anywhere, but they will come back to your blog because they like how your have presented it or like the story you tell about it. Ultimately, your blog should be a reflection of you.  I need to ensure that I’m spending equal time, if not more time, on the story/idea for a post as I do finding or creating the photos for a post.

2) Hosting giveaways, having a “if you liked this post, you might like these posts” sections on your blog, and linking to social media (Facebook, Twitter) will all help increase your readership.

I have been relatively active on Twitter and have recently started a Recreated Facebook page, but I have yet to host a giveaway. I have hesitated because I don’t know how to go about finding things to giveaway and I don’t know how to set it up. I am sure it is relatively straight-forward so the bottom-line is I have to just do it. However, another thing I learned is that there may be legal rules around giveaways and that you ensure should ensure that how you are conducting them is legal.  Also, I am switching to wordpress.org soon and then I will be able to get plugins, specifically a “related posts” plugin.

1) If you are going to monetize your blog and take on sponsors you need treat your blog as a business.  Things like creating a posting calender and a sponsorship kit are important.

Oh how I need a posting calender!  Not just to ensure that I’m operating my business well, but to ensure my sanity.  How often am I scrambling to put posts together at the last minute? Um, very often.  How often do I think “Oh, I wish I had posted about that last week?” Um, very often.  If you are posting about Christmas ideas a week before Christmas, it’s too late for anyone to benefit from that content. A schedule will help you plan your posts for when they will be most effective. Also, as I am about to embark on the world of blog monetization, I will need to learn how to sell my blog to sponsors in a professional way. I think creating a sponsorship/media kit will be a good first step.

2) Look for creative ways to obtain sponsors or to do guest posts on bigger blogs. Think about packaging a series of posts together on a related topic. When approaching companies or larger blogs, make sure you know their brand and their content and can articulate what your post or your blog can do for them.

For example, maybe you are thinking of doing a series of posts on sewing.  So package them together and approach a sewing machine company to sponsor that series of posts.  Or a maybe a series on your garden and you can ask a local greenhouse to sponsor. The key is to make sure you pitch in a way that is mutually beneficial.

1) The sock bun. There were a lot of buns at Alt…and I learned that apparently most of them were sock buns. A sock bun you say? What the heck is that?  Well, for someone like me with thin, straight hair this is a miracle my friends.  I too can get a full Princess Leia sized bun with the help of a sock. I tried it and, god dammit, it works.

2) Some no-no’s for styling a room for a shoot (via Miss Emily Henderson of HGTV’s Secrets of a Stylist): don’t use gerbra daisies unless it’s for a kid’s party (amen to that), don’t put twigs in a vase and use it as an arrangement, and don’t karate chop your pillows.

3) The only thing worse for me than getting my picture taken multiple times, is getting it taken multiple times in front of various cheesy backdrops.  It seemed everywhere we went there was a backdrop for pictures. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very cute and fun idea, but for someone like me who hates to get photographed, it was a little too much.You can see some of these awesome photos in Recap 1 and on Jen’s Alt recap here.

So that is a TINY snippet of what I learned at Alt, but the things that I think might be the most helpful to others starting a blog or generally new to blogging. Also, if you are interested in learning more, Alt has launched the Alt Channel that features online classes similar to those features at Alt. So check it out!

Have a great day!

Alt Summit Recap – Round 1

So finally, today, a week after the end of Alt Summit and a few days after I returned from my post-Alt mini vacation in Utah, I’m happy to report that my blogger’s block seems to be gone and I’m ready to write again.  I don’t think I can possibly put all of my takeaways from the summit in one post so today I’m just focusing on the overall experience.

I cannot stress enough what a great experience Alt Summit was for me.  I learned so much, met truly lovely and insanely talented people, and had such a amazing time.  So, in other words,

(images via 1,2,3)

I had a kick-ass roomie, Miss Jennifer from Rambling Renovators, and whether it was mingling at the parties or having deep discussions about blogging, we had a total blast. The added benefit of having Jenn around was that she knows everything. I’m not kidding…she knew who people were, what blogs they were from, which people were on which panels, where we were to eat breakfast…everything.  This fuzzy photobooth picture depicts the essence of Jenn and I at ALT….Jenn doing it right while I have no idea what is going on.

(via photo booth sponsored by Epiphanie Camera Bags)

I attended many sessions sessions including the business of blogging, how to grow a readership, building a personal brand and a roundtable discussion on how to quit your day job.  Some of the best design bloggers out there were sitting on the panels, and let me tell you, these men and women truly know what they are doing.  There were some amazing keynote speakers including Ben Silbermann, founder of Pinterest and Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project. And to top it all of there were crafty courses on the Saturday – everything from calligraphy to photography.

Clockwise from top right: Jenn and I just before we met Ben from Pinterest (via Jenn’s camera), swag from the party (via me), Ben Silbermann doing his keynote (via b.a.d. photography), Alt shoes (via Justin Hackworth), Panelists Jordan (Oh Happy Day), Kelly (Design Crush), Nicole (Making it Lovely) and Maggie (Mighty Girl) (via me), helpful graphs (via me), Gretchen Rubin closing keynote (via b.a.d. photography), my textile design course (via b.a.d. photography), the crowd during a session (apparently I thought something was hilarious here) (via Justin Hackworth), the lovely Miss Emily Henderson of Secrets of a Stylist speaking during a session (via me).

After the first day I had an overall feeling of, holy sh*t, I am doing everything wrong! And I heard similar sentiments from many other bloggers.  But I came away with so many tools to improve my blog that it was hard to feel anything but inspired the whole time I was there.

Oh, and have I mentioned the amazing parties ….namely the “dinner en blanc” on Friday and the mini parties on the Saturday. Super fun and beautifully decorated…..

Clockwise from top right: Jenn and I in the Method “Smilebooth” with props, Dinner en Blanc (via Justin Hackworth), Jenn and I and some new/old friends Kathleen, Jason, and Cole (via Jenn’s camera), Chinese New Year mini party decor (via b.a.d. photography), the Girls with Glasses Parisian mini-party decor (via moss and issac), Jenn and I at the dinner en blanc (via Jenn’s camera), decor at the Wilson Art mini party (via me).

I was one of about 400 to 500 women (and 10 to 15 men) at the summit so one can imagine that it could get competitive or catty, but it was so welcoming and supportive.  The ideas of collaboration and community came up in one form or another in all the sessions I attended. I have always been amazed about the community and support given by the smaller group of Canadian design bloggers but I’m happy to say it is present even in the broader blogger community.  I feel very lucky to be a part of it.

In subsequent posts I’ll talk about some of the specific things that i took away from the Summit, but for now, I have to go figure out what to wear to the Canadian Design Bloggers Meet-up tonight at Brassai.  Can’t wait to see some of you there!

XO,

Post-Alt Summit Slump

Ok, …..let’s call today honesty Thursday.

I went to Alt Summit last week. I took in every last bit, and loved every second of it. The people, the panels, the roundtables, the parties.  It was truly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. And yet now…..I can’t write.

 I left Alt on Sunday feeling totally inspired to write and share all of it but it’s been 3 days and I just can’t seem to properly articulate what I learned or adequately portray the experience with pictures. I officially have blogger’s block (if that is even a term).

I won’t lie. I’m feeling pretty bummed about this situation.  Perhaps it is reading all the great recaps that other blogger’s have written or maybe it’s just because I was traveling for 14 hours yesterday but, I am in a post-Alt slump and I’m pretty frustrated with myself.

But here is the one very important thing I will share that I learned at Alt…

And this is what makes me know that the words will eventually come…

I promise by the end of the weekend I will have more to share on my experiences, I think I just need some time to reflect.

XO,

Photo 1 via and Photo 2 by me (of Cargoh sticker)

Heartfelt Thanks and The Mighty Life List

Happy New Year!

 To start of my new year I want to express a heartfelt….

(via Ken Barber for The Society of Design )

My decision to start blogging was, hands down, the best decision I made this past year.  I love sharing my passion for re-upholstery, design and fashion.  Having a place to share what I love and having a forum to connect with others who share similar passions and interests has been truly phenomenal.  I have learned a lot about myself through writing the blog and, more importantly, I have met some of the most incredible people.  The support and help I have received from fellow bloggers as I fumbled my way through the art of blogging, has been great and so unexpected.  The design blogging community has been great to me and I am truly grateful.  I wish you all the best in 2012.

And speaking of 2012, I’m going to….

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So, I’m not big on resolutions but I do have lots of things I’d like to accomplish and things I’d like to improve on to be a better me.  Back in September, Victoria from SF Girl by the Bay posted about the MIGHTY SUMMIT.  At the summit they came up with a Mighty Life List….basically a big list of all things you want to accomplish in your life.  I love the sound of a Mighty Life List, it’s so much better than a Bucket List which doesn’t sound nearly as hopeful.  So, I plan on writing my Mighty Life List in lieu of making resolutions.  Some things may be accomplished in 2012 and some may not, but having it on paper will ensure that I’m always working towards these goals.  It will take time to come up with complete list but I will take some time to think about it and post it in the next few days.  Hopefully you will start thinking about what is on your Mighty Life List!

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XOXO,