On November 1, The Sacramento Bee held an informal panel discussion, “Blog Conference Insights,” led by local bloggers who are members of Sacramento Connect, The Bee’s blog and community news network.
The five panelists recently attended national blog conferences on a variety of topics – food, parenting, and the nuts-and-bolts business of blogging.
“For many bloggers, it’s not easy to break away for a two- or three-day stint at a national conference with your fellow writers,” said Lisa Howard, the Community Manager for Sacramento Connect. “We put together this panel so bloggers who attended conferences can share what they learned with their fellow bloggers.”
During the discussion all the panelists mentioned that the real highlight of attending a conference was the sense of community and connection. For Christine Young (From Dates to Diapers), the conferences offered her a chance to meet face-to-face with friends she had made online through her blog.
For Nichole Beaudy (In These Small Moments), a highlight was being around people who shared her interests. “It was great to talk to someone who was as excited about plugins as I am.” (Plugins are extra features that can be added to blogs.)
Another perk the bloggers mentioned was getting a sizable amount of free products from vendors who exhibit during the conference. Amy Ruiz (Limit Reached) made sure to plan for the giveaways while packing in order to avoid shipping charges.
The panel also spoke of feeling empowered. Regarding a keynote speech by Morgan Spurlock, the award-winning director of Super Size Me, Kimberley Morales (Poor Girl Eats Well) said, “He talked to us as if we are people who can change the world. It was very inspiring.”
Eileen Smit (Bringing up Bronwyn) experienced a writing breakthrough when she attended a session on how much to reveal in a personal blog. “I learned to let go a little after that.”
During the question-and-answer session, Catherine Enfield, another local blogger (Munchie Musings), shared that there were various ways bloggers could attend conferences for free, sometimes by volunteering for the conference (such as being a “mic wrangler” during large sessions), or by getting sponsorship from a local vendor. Red Lobster sponsored Enfield to attend a food conference.
The Bee has held two previous workshops on blogging, “Building a Better Blog,” and “Sticky Readers,” and plans to offer more on a regular basis. Registration for future events will be available on Eventbrite.
Below are additional resources and tools the panel recommended for anyone interested in blogging.
Resources and Online Tools for Bloggers
MomSpark.net. This website has a list of blog conferences that take place throughout the year. Although most of the conferences have already taken place, it’s a good starting point to see when the events regularly occur.
Groupme: An app that let’s you text message a group of people. Not specifically for blogging, but it’s handy when you are at a conference.
Pinterest. A visual website/tool that lets users organize and share images they find on the web. Bloggers should know that they can “pin” themselves, making images from their blogs available for people to find on Pinterest. Be warned: it’s slightly addictive.
GetClicky. Recommended by several of the panelists for getting blog analytics in real time.
StumbleUpon. A website/tool that offers up websites and blogs based on the interests you have selected (food, gardening, etc.). Bloggers can see big spikes in traffic if their blogs are discovered on StumbleUpon. Another warning: StumbleUpon can also can be slightly addictive.
The Sits Girls. Two of the panelists attended The Sits Girls’s Bloggy Boot Camp and recommend the workshop for bloggers looking for a more intimate conference experience.