As a first time attendee I wasn’t completely sure what to expect when I arrived at FLBlogCon. I admit, I was a bit nervous as I’m new to the concept of blogging as a business. Like countless others, I’ve had a blog for many years that I’d post to here and there about this and that. Now I was ready to step up my game and decided what better place then FLBlogCon where so many successful, incredible bloggers would be sharing their knowledge, skills, tips, and tricks for being the best you can be.
As with most things in life going with a supportive, trusted friend makes everything even more awesome. My friend, Debra Fillingim, is that person for me. We decided we were going to enter this exciting, and a bit intimidating, blogging journey together. We met the night before to go to the pre-convention Blue Man Group party and afterward we did show and tell with our favorite art supplies and books. By the time the morning came for the event we were ready to conquer whatever the day brought our way!
The first thing that became apparent is how welcoming and friendly everyone was! There was a feeling of acceptance from the moment I walked in the door. Several of the day’s presenters I had been following on social media since registering. I was a bit awestruck to see them in person, but my apprehension for introducing myself to them was all for naught as every one of them was friendly and down to earth. I immediately felt like I was part of a large tribe of like minded people.
The event began with check in. I was impressed with how well organized and easy checking in was. I’m not much of a morning person, and Debra and I may have stayed up a bit too late the night before, so I especially appreciated how effortless the volunteers made this for me. And they knew how to get me to the Barnie’s coffee ASAP! BONUS!
The Unkeynote, as it was called, was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. At the designated time we were all asked to press play on our devices to listen to the prerecorded message. It was so much more than just a talk, it was interactive including stretching with Sunnybell the cow, taking a “shower” with Corey from The Real Iron Dad, and playing Never Ever Have I with glow wands in the dark. What a way to set the tone for the day! By this point I was completely relaxed, laughing, and ready for the day, whatever it might bring.
Picking my sessions proved to be much more difficult then it may seem. All the presenters sounded promising and all of the sessions were enticing. I chose my sessions about a month in advance. And then changed them the week before. And then changed a couple the night before. And, you guessed it, changed 1 more the day of…decisiveness is not my super power! My only disappointment, in regard to the sessions that I chose, was that I couldn’t clone myself for the ones I didn’t attend! Bess Auer and her team really know how to throw a blog conference that makes you want to come back for more and more and more!
The following are the sessions that I personally attended and my thoughts on them. I encourage you to check out these speakers on their social media channels if you’d like to learn more about them.
All the Avenues to Monetize Your Blog
This was a topic I was very interested in. I specifically wanted to learn ways of monetizing my blog without it being sales-y or too in your face, tacky looking. Monica’s presentation was what I was hoping for and more. She covered five general ways to monetize your blog going into detail on each one. I really appreciated how well organized her session was making it easy to follow. I left with actionable strategies that could be implemented immediately, even as a beginner. Monica’s “you can do it” attitude was contagious leaving me hopeful and inspired to put this information to use on my own blog. Bonus was the link to the extra goodies she had for attendees!
Understanding Your Google Analytics
Okay, I’ll admit it, I only took this because I thought I really should learn all this spreadsheet type stuff even though I don’t really understand it…it’s kinda boring to me. Oh, and Anna-Marie Walsh mentioned on the FLBlogCon First Timers Facebook page how excited she was about this class so I thought, “well, if Anna-Marie is raving about it maybe I should take a look…” At the risk of sounding like I don’t take my business seriously, this stuff gives me hives even thinking about it- I’d much rather be creating fun stuff! So this was the attitude that I had going into this session, but before I could fall asleep or worse yet break out in a spreadsheet rash, Tom took the stage. I’m not sure how it happened but there I was laughing, taking notes, getting really jazzed…about my analytics?! Really??? Yes, really! Tom made Google Analytics so much fun, which I NEVER thought I’d say in regard to this side of business. Before this session I would look at my Google Analytics occasionally because I knew I was suppose to, but had no clue what I was looking at or why. I certainly didn’t know what to do with any of the information or how to use it to grow my business. This session was over before I knew it leaving me wanting more…more of Google Analytics?!?! I still don’t love this part of my business, but at least now I know what I’m looking at and how to use it to grow my business. Clearly Tom is some sort of analytical hypnotist that leaves even the most right brainer craving more!
Hands-On Writing Workshop
Adam’s workshop was a whirlwind of ideas…dang it, did I just use a cliché?! His easy going, comedic manner put me at ease immediately almost to the point that I had forgotten I was there to learn. Make no mistake, however, his teaching style is powerful. By the end of the workshop I had more information and practical ways to use it then I had realized while doing all of the activities. I will be using much of what I learned on a daily basis in all areas of my life, not just blogging. On an unrelated side note, I’ve begun following Adam’s Instagram feed- his photography is beautiful!
5 Ways to Monetize Your Email List
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this session. I had never thought about how to monetize my email list before. From the moment Dan took the stage his go get ‘em energy was contagious! His presentation was well organized with many resources to go with each of the five main areas he covered. I especially enjoyed several of the general tips he shared in regard to creating quality content. He is obviously accomplished and successful in his field, yet he has the ability to create a learning environment that is welcoming and encouraging to a beginner. His information was down to earth with actionable items to get started right away implementing the ideas. He shared his philosophy at the beginning that this should be fun and also be looked at as a business. This struck a chord with me that I will be remembering long after the conference. My main take away? I want to be sitting at the beach with a fun drink hanging out with Monica while working…and that, even as a beginner, I can make money with my email list if I put the effort into it.
45 Tactics in 30 Minutes
I’m still processing Justice’s session! If you’ve never met him, as I hadn’t before this, to say this man is a dynamo is only the tip of the iceberg. I’m still recovering from mental whiplash after going on this exhilarating tour of social media tactics with him! Yet, and here’s the brilliancy of his session, the information stuck with me. It all made so much sense even though it all flew by so quickly. I retained more in this session then in any of the others. And this is before even processing all my notes. This man has a true passion for life and helping others succeed. If you’re ready for a good, hard kick into the next level of your business Justice has you covered! I will definitely be looking forward to following him on social media!
Podcasting Like a Rockstar
Kerry O’Shea Gorgone
I felt intimidated going into this session. I know nothing about podcasting. Enter Kerry to save the day. Within minutes I felt completely at ease. She clearly loves what she does and equally enjoys sharing the process with others. Her presentation was fun, interesting, and educational. She’s a very generous presenter. I left feeling like this was not only something I was more than capable of doing, but I absolutely should give it a go because…why not? As an aside, she’s also very responsive on Twitter. I had a question after the conference and she answered it quickly while also pointing me in the direction of another fantastic podcaster.
As a new blogger I haven’t thought much about working with brands so I wasn’t sure how valuable the closing keynote would be for me. Being tired from a full day of sessions I almost left before this started. I’m glad that I stayed to listen, choosing to be open to whatever the panelists had to share. Although there was a wealth of information shared, my main take away was that building trust is the key to success regardless of whether you are a brand or a blogger. Specifically as a blogger the main objective is building the trust of your readers. In all decisions that are made in regard to which brands to work with, your audience should be considered first. Thinking of your audience first versus making a quick dollar will help with long term relationships and success. It will also make it clearer which brands are a good fit for your blog.
There were so many aspects of this conference that I really enjoyed, but I think the biggest was the sense of community that Bess Auer and her team created. As I mentioned earlier I felt welcomed the moment I arrived. When I struggled to tell people what my blog was about, being that I’m still working to define my niche, I was met with nothing but warmth, understanding, and encouragement. I was treated as an equal with all the other well established bloggers. This helped to boost my confidence giving me a feeling that I too could be successful in this arena. All of the presenters, volunteers, and sponsors were professional, friendly, and generous with their information, time, and resources. I left energized to begin a new chapter in my business with the many new tools I can use immediately! FLBlogCon is definitely on my list for conferences next year…and not just because Bess Auer helped the Gators win!