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This is YOUR BlogHer post… of what you wanted to know about BlogHer

1 Aug

Since I wrote a few posts on my first BlogHer experience last year and also already did a picture post of some fun from this year’s event, I figured I’d just keep my BlogHer breakdown easy. So,over on my Facebook page I asked what everyone ACTUALLY wanted to know and got some great questions to answer…

Talk about thermonuclear prostenigation. Then talk about how you had a sauuuuusaaaage. (Kari)
I googled “thermonuclear prostenigation” and it’s totally not even a real thing. So there. As for my sausage eating, one of my goals for visiting Chicago was to have an actual Chicago-style hotdog (I missed out when I visited Chicago last year).

I was super happy that after a long day of conference sessions and not enough food, my friends and I ended up at Portillo’s… which is apparently THE place to go for sausage and hotdogs. We may look all ladylike in this picture, but we devoured our meals like we hadn’t eaten in WEEKS. Oh and I yelled out something terribly inappropriate, because that’s how I roll.*

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What surprised you about this year’s event (Bryanne)
How incredibly different my experience was from last year’s BlogHer. Last year I had only been writing my personal blog for about a year and a half and was still kind of flailing around. I hadn’t really made any contacts before the event, so much of the time I was trying to reach out to make new friends but I wasn’t very successful. I also had a 5 month old at home, so instead of going to the parties at night I retreated to my room and rolled around in the bed while reveling in my freedom.

This year I felt MUCH more prepared. Not only have I been writing my personal blog for longer, but I also launched a successful blog at my work. I made a few really good bloggy friends over the past year and was incredibly excited to spend some time with them in person. Not only did I attend every single session that I could (and took lots of notes), but I also went to almost ALL of the parties, including some sponsored parties. All in all, my experience was much better than my first year and I wish I could do it all over again next weekend. After I get some sleep, of course.

Will going to BlogHer make you a better blogger? Was it worth the time and expense (Lillian)
Short answer: yes.

I’ve been working in marketing for almost 15 years now, so believe me when I say I’ve been to A LOT of conferences. However, if you approach the event with an open mind you will get a lot out of it.

Obviously you try to attend conference sessions that will educate you in the areas where you are lacking. But sometimes it’s a good idea to go to a refresher on something you think you already know. Many times I will still get a couple good nuggets of information.

Even if I’m not learning anything from a session, I still study how the speaker is presenting the information. If they have a really great Power Point, I can get ideas on how I can improve our presentations at work. If the presenter has a really engaging ‘ice breaker’ I can then copy it for a work event. Let’s say everything about the presentation is horrible? Well then, I know what NOT to do!

I also really enjoyed the expo hall and not just because it was a crazy free-for-all of giveaways. It’s really cool to be able to see which booths are attracting visitors, which promotional items were snapped up first and who was successful at using iPads to build their mailing lists.

As for blogging specifically, my favorite session was on SEO with real-life tips on how to improve both my personal and professional blogs. I made some great contacts at different companies that will not only benefit me, but benefit my readers. Lastly, I connected with my fellow bloggers on a one-on-one basis, which can then turn into some fantastic guest posting opportunities. Oh yeah, and I had a CRAPLOAD of fun, which makes Joules a happy girl.

If you could plan all the keynote speakers/workshops who and what topics would you choose? (Bryanne)
Wow, this is a great question! Let’s see, if I could choose keynotes for a future BlogHer conference I’d pick:

  • Jenny from The Bloggess,  because she’s an amazing and inspiring blogger who has MADE IT;
  • John and Sherry from Young House Love because they seem to have figured out how to juggle work and home life so well;
  • Tina Fey, because she’s smart, beautiful, funny and successful;
  • Ellen, because I think it would be fun to dance with her;
  • Oprah, because maybe she’d give us all cars; and
  • Train, because it is one of my life DREAMS to sing with Pat Monahan.

I’m not really sure why I assume that if I pick the keynote speakers that I’ll be able to meet/dance with/sing with them all… but that’s how it plays out in my head.

As for workshops, I’d love to learn:

  • Practical tips for connecting with your audience – but not connecting SO MUCH that you end up with a stalker.
  • How to use Facebook as a blogger and actually get to your entire audience (instead of 20% of those who “like you”)
  • More SEO tips. Lots, lots more.
  • How to make the jump from small blogger to huge superstar (if I could get this in 5 steps, that would be great).
  • Statistics behind using social media and what actually works (Facebook, Twitter, G+, Pinterest, Instagram, etc).
  • Making the leap from blogger to author.
  • So much more! I want to learn EVERYTHING!

I really enjoyed attending BlogHer this year and I hope that I’ll be able to go again next year. I feel like each year I build on my foundation of information that I’ve already learned. Which means 10 years from now I’ll deserve a Queen of Blogging crown, right?!

If you have a question about BlogHer, feel free to ask it in the comments and I’ll be sure to respond!

*Alcohol might have also been involved.

What I Wish I Knew Before my First BlogHer

9 Jul

Last year’s BlogHer conference was the first blogging conference I’d EVER attended. After freaking the frack out for weeks (ahem…months) before the event, it went by in a blur. This year I’ll be going to the conference again – this time in Chicago – and I feel like I’m MUCH more prepared. And maybe even much more excited, if that’s possible.

If you want to catch up on my thoughts before/during/after last year’s conference, check out these posts:

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Did I mention that I made out with Zac Efron at last year’s BlogHer?

Short and sweet, with more piddling
Freaking out before the conference
On my way
Was it worth it?
My Swag breakdown

I will be meeting up with some bloggy friends at BlogHer this year and have been pretending to be a BlogHer Guru to answer their questions. Since over 5,000 ladies attended last year’s conference, I’m sure that there are other people with questions on what to expect. If you’re anything like me, I scoured the internet for BlogHer tips for WEEKS before the event last year!

So here you go, the Pocketful of Joules list of what I wish I knew before my first BlogHer:

The Learning Part
There are a ton of really cool sessions at BlogHer. I mean, one of the main reasons to go is to LEARN, right?

There are keynote speakers each day (in the morning and at lunch) and my personal opinion is that they are usually AWESOME so you should definitely attend each of those sessions. Since almost everyone comes to the keynote presentations, it is a good idea to show up a little early so you can grab your food and get a good seat before the room fills.

The breakout sessions are organized by tracks, such as Marketing & Monetization, Tools & Technology, Interest & Identity and more. If you’d like, you can stick with one track… or you can switch it up and pick a little from each offering. Since there are so many sessions offered, I usually like to write down my choices before I go and include an alternate in case the room is overcrowded.

Take a notebook and scribble down lots of notes. Your first time attending (and probably your second time, I’ll let you know) will be incredibly overwhelming so it’s nice to be able to revisit your thoughts/session tips weeks and months after the conference. Even if they didn’t spark anything at the time, a few months later that information might be exactly what you need to hear!

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Bad Networking: I didn’t even get this blogger’s name. I was being a pretty princess though, so that’s obviously very important.

The Networking Part
Did I mention that there were over 5,000 ladies at last year’s conference? Yeah, I’ve got no shame in my game to admit that I was a little intimidated. Okay, a lot intimidated. The kind of intimidated where you want to hide in your hotel room and only come out for a session and then return back into your secure little space.

So what helped me feel less scared? Well, first, reach out to your fellow bloggers BEFORE the conference. If you read other blogs and someone mentions that they’re going, leave them a comment that you’ll be there too and would love to meet up. Go on twitter and checkout the #blogher13 hashtag to see what your twitter friends are saying about the conference.

On the first day of the conference there is a BlogHer Newbie Breakfast. GO! I know its butt-early in the morning and you’d rather sleep in a little extra and grab a coffee on the way… go anyway. Everyone in that room will be new like you. Which means it a little easier to introduce yourself, right?

Also very important: if you find someone you like GET THEIR BLOG BUSINESS CARD! Scribble a little note on the back of it to remind you who they are and what you talked about. That way, when you get home you can start following their blog and maybe you’ll become best bloggy buddies!

The Expo Hall & Swag
Last year there were a few different Expo Halls with trade show tables set up with tons of different companies. Once again, it can be a bit overwhelming when you walk in and there are dozens of ladies crowded around each table.

swag

This is the swag I brought home last year… AFTER I gave back what I didn’t want. Holy Swag Batman!

If I remember correctly, you get a map of vendors in your conference packet. This makes it easy to determine who you MUST visit. I also find it helpful to do a big loop of each room to see what’s there before deciding who to approach. Many companies are giving away free items and coupons. Other times you’ll see a representative that is looking to make blogger connections. Decide what you want out of the experience before jumping in.

If you like free stuff, you can literally FILL your bags with an absolute TON of stuff. However, before shoving three bottles of cleaning solution in your tote think about whether you actually want to deal with lugging it home. Before picking up your sixth cheepo t-shirt with a huge logo on the front… decide if you’d ever actually WEAR it before adding it to your collection. One really cool thing that I took advantage of last year was the BlogHer room where you can trade stuff – you drop off what you don’t want and take what you do want. So if you find yourself in a swag frenzy, you can offload a bit of it before going home.

Packing Tips
Okay there are full posts on what clothing to pack and what shoes to wear, because when you get a bunch of ladies together we like to dress up all pretty. Here’s the dirty secret though, you can really wear whatever you want. It’s true – sure there were some fashion bloggers dressed like they just stomped off a runway, but there were also plenty of people in shorts.

I wore a mix of everything last year, from a cute maxi dress to a pair of jean shorts. However, I felt most comfortable when I was a teensy bit dressed up. This year I will be bringing a couple dresses for the sessions (with a sweater because conference rooms tend to be kinda chilly) because I FEEL like I look better in dresses. Also, people tend to take a crap-ton of pictures and if I’m going to be photo-bombing a stranger and end up on their blog… I want to look cute, darn it!

For the evenings, it depends on your plans. If you plan to do a bunch of exploring, pack shorts and comfy walking shoes. If you’re going to a sponsor party, something business casual would probably be a good idea. If you plan to shake your tail feather at any of the dancing/drinking parties, add some sparkle or something ridiculous… like a tutu. Or jeans are fine too; if that is what you are most comfortable wearing.

biz cards

Love my updated business cards!

Another MUST HAVE to pack is some blog business cards. You’re going to be making a lot of contacts and EVERYONE will ask you for your card. You can make them super cheap online or even take advantage of this amazing deal from Moo for 100 free mini cards. I did!

Don’t Worry, They Feed You
One of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten is whether any food is provided at the conference. What can I say; my bloggy friends and I get along really well and will definitely not go hungry.

Breakfast
Breakfast is provided each day of the conference. On the first day you can choose to attend the regular breakfast or the newbie breakfast. Last year there was a huge buffet with typical breakfast food: scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, bagels, etc. And yes, there is coffee. The second day has a keynote presentation interview with Sheryl Sandberg (the author of Lean In) during breakfast. So there will most likely be another buffet for you to load up on before settling down for the talk.

Lunch
On both Thursday and Friday there are scheduled lunch events with keynote speakers. So before entering the room for the presentation, there will be huge buffet stations with lots of lunch options. Last year there was salads, sandwiches, a bunch of sides and cute little desserts. They also make sure you are caffeinated with soda available for everyone. I’m sure there was water too, but when I’m sitting in presentations all day I need something with a little more kick to keep me going.

Other Food
I honestly can’t remember if there were snacks offered between sessions, but I assume that there was probably something. Conference organizers like to feed you and keep your energy up! Some of the evening parties also have appetizer-type food, but you are on your own for your actual dinner. Believe me, you will WANT to get dinner on your own so that you can have something other than conference food when visiting Chicago.

So there you go, everything I wish I would have known last summer before I dived into BlogHer for the very first time. I feel a bit more prepared this year and am going to force myself to actually go to some of the evening parties to shake my groove thing. I’ve also been invited to special VIP party sponsored by Hasbro, so I’m pretty excited about that!

How about you – are you going to BlogHer this year? Are you jealous of my Zac Efron smooch? Is there a question/concern you have that I haven’t answered?

Attention Hotels: I have an Amazingly Awesome Marketing Idea

30 May

On my drive into work this morning I was thinking how it would be so nice to actually have some time alone with my husband.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE Jack even more than cookie butter on a spoon and a fresh roasted s’more all rolled into one – but we’ve had TWO date nights in the past 15 months. Momma needs some “not being a momma but a wife” time.

Then it hit me.

Pretty much the most awesome marketing idea that I can’t believe someone isn’t already doing. So if you run a hotel, listen up because I’m about to BLOW YOUR MIND.

You need to offer a “Parents Date Night” package which includes:

  • A beautiful hotel room with a king bed. Not for a whole night though – maybe just four hours (7pm – 11pm would be perfect) because it’s hard to find an overnight babysitter.
  • A fantastic dinner delivered right to the room at a set time. I’m thinking some kind of surf and turf deliciousness with a bottle of chilled wine. Of course there should be some kind of decadent dessert like chocolate covered strawberries. Oh and don’t just shove a room service cart full of food into the room… there needs to be a table set up with a tablecloth and candles.
  • A brochure listing all of the latest movies offered on pay-per-view that parents never get to see. Maybe they can finally see a movie without waiting in line and paying $50 to sit next to some asshat teenager that texts the whole time. Or watch something at a normal volume instead of having their TV on the lowest setting possible so that the fight scenes don’t wake up the kid.
hotel pic

It would be like this — our cruise we took while I was preggo — but fancier. And with more steak.

Imagine it… all you have to do is book the Parent’s Date Night package for Friday night and plan for a babysitter. Grab your spouse, check into the hotel and have a clean and comfy room waiting for you. You get to laze around in a plush hotel robe, have an amazing meal, watch a movie and have some (wink, wink) “grown up” time.

It would truly be like a little 4 hour vacation without really going anywhere. Bonus points if the hotel has a pool.

If this were offered in my area, I’d take advantage of it in a heartbeat. So, if there are any Maryland or DC hotels out there that want to make this idea a reality… please hook a mother up!

How about you, would you want a Parent’s Date Night at a local hotel? What would your ideal package include?

Ugh, Computer Stuff

28 Mar

I have a confession to make… I’m kind of computer stupid.

I mean, I can rock the crap out of some Excel, use Photoshop like a boss and find pretty much anything ever on the internet, but when it comes to the actual inner workings of a computer I’m absolutely clueless.

This usually isn’t that much of an issue, because I have a pretty awesome IT department at my job. They provide me with a work laptop and deal with any problems it might have. In fact, they even helped me out when my home computer had a virus, which was pretty great of them.

You know what wasn’t great? Lugging in an old-school computer hard drive. I swear, that thing must weigh 50 pounds and it’s way too heavy for me to carry from the parking garage, through the two entrance doors, up three flights of stairs and into the IT office. Which is why I totally packed it in a HUGE orange Heys suitcase and rolled that thing through the halls with pride. Yeah, not very convenient at all.

My home computer has been fine though. I use it to blog, internet surf and do some freelance graphic design a few times a year. It is about ten years old though, which makes it a total dinosaur in computer years. I keep putting off the purchase of a new computer time and time again, because really… it’s FINE.

Or, well, it WAS fine. I’ve been working on an easy little freelance job of designing a postcard and OH MY GOSH the computer is driving me crazy. It is so incredibly slow and outdated and I just can’t stand it anymore. Which means I need to go computer shopping – which I HATE. I always feel so stupid when the computer people start asking me about megabytes, hard drives, memory and processors. My eyes glaze over and I start drooling a little out the side of my mouth, only to rejoin the conversation by randomly shouting “There will be banana hammocks EVERYWHERE!”

Oh, do you not know what I’m talking about? Well, let’s take a little minute long break to revisit one of my favorite shows:

Okay, up to speed now? Good.

Well, I thought I was being super smart this time by asking my IT guy at work what I should get. He gave me the exact brand and MB’s I need, so I walked into the store with the goal of checking the laptop out in person. Yes, I said laptop because if something bad happens it will be much easier to bring to work. Well, I walked into Best Buy and their computer dude pretty much pointed me in a total opposite direction and recommended something else.

So now I don’t know what the heck I want!

Part of me thinks I should just ignore the whole computer issue again after I finish with this postcard design. However, I’m scared that if I keep putting it off one day it will die and never be able to be resurrected to spit out my iTunes library, all the graphic design I’ve done in the last decade and a bazillion pictures (I actually did back up 8 years of pictures on my Amazon Cloud, so I should get points for that).

Are any of you guys super smart computer types? If so, can you give me a recommendation for a PC laptop that I can use for graphic design, internet surfing, blogging and song/picture storage? My IT dude suggested a Sony Vaio with 6 – 8 GB of memory…

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