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By paulag | August 12, 2010
This week I am back from the BlogHer ’10 conference in New York City. For me the weekend was a study in contrasts. Unlike BlogHer ’09 where I was a speaker, this time I simply planned on drinking in the experience without any specific time commitments. Last year I was stoked to be social; this year I am still walking the path of grief since my Mom died less than two months ago.
Since I was no longer a newbie, I knew what to expect – an overwhelming experience with a ton of women (2400 attendees up from the 1600 last year). That is a lot of excitement and energy in one place. And, not just any women… but the most powerful voices online today. You only need one snippet from the final keynote (quoted here from Denise Tanton’s post at BlogHer: You Are Powerful) to understand the magnitude of this power:
During the final keynote, I listened as Gloria Feldt talked about your power. I listened as she tried to tell you that the expo hall was filled with Fortune 10 companies because of YOUR power. I listened as Marie Wilson, Simran Sethi, and, Alison Stewart told you that your voice is important and you can achieve whatever it is that you want to achieve. I listened and I was thankful. Strong, powerful women were telling you exactly what I wanted to tell you. Surely we would all walk out of that keynote and feel able to embrace our power. What a wonderful way to end an event that really should send you home feeling strong, proud, and empowered.
As a contributing editor for BlogHer, I am particularly honored to be part of this community and am always humbled by the company I am in. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and connecting with many of my fellow editors on Thursday night which was a wonderful start to the weekend. Here’s the truth – you can own your own power and be humbled at the same time. It truly can work that way (and certainly does for me). Owning your voice is not about becoming an untouchable figure or icon on the shelf. It is about celebrating your brilliance and the brilliance of those around you.
I have to admit that this conference is normally overwhelming but was particularly so for me this year. It marked the two month anniversary of my Mom’s untimely death and frankly was my first major networking event since. Sure I’ve hit some of my local “regular” events, but nothing prepares a vulnerable soul for walking into the proverbial social experiment fryer known as BlogHer. Before I left home I had already set my intentions and given myself permission to ease in and out of sessions and activities as I needed to. Even so Friday felt like drinking from a fire hose. Thankfully I received a number of golden nuggets before I chose to spend a quieter evening with friends. Here’s a very light recap with much more to come in future posts.
I decided to indulge the writer in me and attended “Writing Inspiration: Stoke Your Creativity” with Rita Arens, Carleen Brice, and Jan Sokoloff Harness. I really needed this dose of inspiration. While I write for my business and love doing so, sometimes I forget that writing is a bit like your DNA. It’s far deeper than a task on your marketing plan. While I always write from the heart (it is never “just a task” for me), for some reason I can often lose sight of the joy of pure expression. I can lose sight of the impact Ihave on others that I don’t even know about when I am writing. I appreciated the wisdom of these women reminding me of ways to stoke the writing fires and get excited and interested about finding new and exciting ways to see the world, write it down, and share it with others. While this was my first introduction to Carleen and Jan, Rita is my editor at BlogHer. Well I have to say, I must have been living under a bush during all my communications with her because on numerous occasions this weekend, Rita totally blew my socks off with her wisdom, fire, her amazing writing voice, and inspiration. Who knew? (apparently everyone but me!) I’ll be writing about one particular moving instance in an upcoming post.
One of the most exciting things I did during the conference was get interviewed by Yahoo! Shine for their You. Reinvented. series. As I was walking past their booth, I thought – well wait a minute! I reinvented my career and I help others reinvent their lives and careers so I better get on the interview schedule! You can catch the resulting video on my career reinvention here.
Next up I hit the “Intellectual Property Law” discussion with Latoicha Givens and Wendy Seltzer. Another riveting discussion around the rights on the internet…from copyrights to trademarks and beyond. I am always interested in this topic as a writer, photographer, business owner, and web designer. These ladies kept what can be a dry topic very fresh and relevant.
I rounded out Friday with the “Social Media is Bringing Sexy Back to Branding – Do You Have the Social Media Strategy and Tools for Success?” panel. This room was standing room only with a fire hazard worth of people sitting in the center aisle. It was worth it though, because Susan Getgood, Beth Blecherman, and Kimberley Blaine gave an outstanding presentation on a gigantic topic.
I capped my day with the Community Keynote: Voices of the Year which will definitely make you laugh, think, and cry.
Like I said before, I took Friday night to have a quiet time with my friend (and talented singer and actress I might add) Linda Bianchi. She took me to see The Highline which has amazing views and then we had a low-key dinner. It was truly what my aching heart needed amidst this big ‘ole conference…a warm, loving embrace from friends who understand what it is like to lose a parent unexpectedly.
The quiet Friday night did the trick because Saturday I was much more energetic and ready for the crowds. Not to mention after the community keynote I knew someone very special that I wanted to meet was in the house…
Putting my best powers of attraction to work, it took me only a few minutes to find her at breakfast (by reading twitter I might add… a handy tool for finding someone about 20 feet from you at such a conference). I was thrilled to meet my friend Lissa Rankin of Owning Pink. You might recall that I interviewed Lissa for my podcast a while ago. If you didn’t listen then… definitely do so now. If you want a model of authenticity, look no further than Lissa. She is as gracious, gorgeous, and welcoming in person as she is through her very personal writing online. She invited me to have breakfast at their table which was a great blessing because I got to meet Dana Theus and talk quite a bit about the so many passions we have in common. For me this was the second time in the weekend where I really felt like I was able to come home. My heart was overjoyed by the love and warmth I felt. I can’t fully explain it other than to say that my heart felt seen and loved in all its grief all while I could simultaneously be enjoying the journey of what I’m creating with my work and the ballyhoo that is BlogHer.
I indulged my writing self once again attending the “Where’s the Line or the Lie: Storytelling, Memoir, and Poetic License” panel with Jory Des Jardins, Jenny Lawson, and Julie Marsh. To me there is nothing better than a serious topic that leaves the audience howling with laughter. Jenny Lawson’s stories were hysterical but very appropriate for demonstrating the conundrums, unexpected blessings, and unpredictable consequences of being vulnerable and honest online.
I then hit “The Evolving Publishing Ecosystem” with writing experts Kamy Wicoff, Florinda, Penny Sansevieri and Carleen Brice. Clearly I love to write and I have more than one book idea in my head. Frankly right now I have a full color photo book/coaching messages that I am looking to get published. The kind of small book that is highly inspiration with a dose of practical that you have sitting on your desk at the office to keep you anchored in what you most want. I learned some new information that will help me in that publishing quest.
I decided to take a break for the last session, but I did manage to hop over to the geek lab and get some excellent help from Liz Henry. Yes, even though I am a tech geek, I need other geeks to help light the way at times. It is awesome to have the ability to pop in and out of these small rooms of support (writing lab, geek lab, etc.) to get just what you need when you need it.
I already mentioned the amazing closing keynote at the top of this post and will likely be writing more about that soon… If you’ve read this far, bless your heart! It was a wonderful, wacky, and worthwhile weekend and I hope I gave you some food for thought and a few fun photos to enjoy.