Last weekend I attended The Sits Girls Bloggy Boot Camp in Atlanta.
In the name of adventure I flew into Nashville and made the drive to Atlanta. The countryside, beginning to show the colors of fall, was spectacular. To my dismay, I didn’t take even one photo. Not a blasted one.
Driving into Atlanta was its own kind of terrific.
As a fan of AMC’s The Walking Dead, goose-pimples rose as our car crawled at a snail’s pace into the city via I-75. With the skyline of Atlanta looming in front of us, I got so excited I started babbling to Susan. Since Susan had never seen The Walking Dead, and therefore didn’t quite appreciate my breathless excitement, I called my husband and described the skyline to him. I’d have to describe it to you, too, since I didn’t take one blasted picture!
Not to worry. AMC has a pretty good shot of the view:
I can now say with certainty Atlanta would be the last place I would head in the Zombie Apocalypse.
We arrived at the conference venue, Hotel Meliá Atlanta, where I took this picture of the Atlanta skyline at sunset from our balcony on the 22nd floor.
We stepped out for a delicious dinner at the Italian eatery, Baraonda, located next to the famous Fox Theatre. I had the Linguini Pescatore. Maybe a bit spicy for some palates, but yummy to me.
And then it was time for the first party.
The Party Outfit
I wore skinny pale grey jeans, my freakingly awesome white Guess shoes I bought in Paris,
and a fitted white jacket with grey pin-stripes that I bought years ago at JCPenney that shows off my waist very nicely.
Yep. No pictures.
You’ll just have to trust me that I looked fabulous. Everyone looked fabulous.
The Best Buy Party
Best Buy, a major Bloggy Boot Camp sponsor, hosted the pre-conference party on the 25th floor of The Hotel Melia. We were treated to a jaw-dropping 250° view of the skyline of Atlanta where Best Buy gave away a 23″ Gateway 7x Series All-In-One Touch PC.
You guessed it.
I forgot my camera
But The Sits Girls brought theirs. Check out this picture of Anne and Susan and our dear friend from the old Homeschool Forum Days, Liza Lee, at the Best Buy table:
I didn’t win, but I did get to meet the Twitterworld zeitgeist that is The Third Boob.
The Third Boob is the creative brainchild of Chach and Nellie (Nell is the one who had the third boob). These ladies have been friends since they were college roommates. I mention them because when they are rich and famous I want them to remember me.
I got to spend some quality time with Maddie from Domestic Anarchy, and her wonderful husband, Les. We shared war stories from the frontlines of parenting. They are terrific people.
After the party we had a drink in the bar with Anissa Mayhew. She’s quite something and well worth looking at even if she didn’t share her chocolate cupcake with me.
And Now for the Conference
If attending a BlogHer Convention is like trying to take a sip of water from a firehose, a Bloggy Boot Camp is like being escorted to your favorite table at your neighborhood Appleby’s and served your favorite entree by your favorite waitress who gives you a big hug at the end of your meal.
Tiffany Romero and Francesca Banducci, the two women behind Bloggy Boot Camp, sure know how to make a girl feel welcome. The conference was limited to a reasonable size (200?) and conference attendees were assigned seats during the first half of the conference to help people meet each other.
The topics covered the basics of blogging and even though I’d heard most of this content at BlogHer last August the combination of less people, less partying, the absence of a distracting Expo Hall, and, well, just less of everything, made it much easier for me to focus.
Amy Bradley-Hole of Freaky Perfect spoke on Authentic Branding.
This is straight from my notes:
If somebody else is doing it then you got to scratch it out and do something else. Your product needs to be unique. Chances are somebody is out there already doing it. What sets you apart? What makes you different? Focus on what makes you different. Focus on what makes your blog different. Give the people something to pay attention to. Attention is very limited today.
Stacey Nerdin from Tree, Root and Twig gave a humorously inspirational presentation on Avoiding or Overcoming Bloggy Burnout.
Comparing blogging to Twilight, she gave these five important guidelines:
1. Make the tough choices
3. Use Your Time Wisely
4. Make Time for Rest and Play
5. Don’t Be Afraid of Change
Melissa Culbertson from MomComm and Adventuroo presented useful ideas for How to Get Your Readers to Talk Back. Her talk was so content-rich that I could make an entire blog post just from what I learned from her. I really like Melissa and she’s a generous resource for us non-tech bloggers. Check out this great picture of Melissa, me, Anne and Susan.
After lunch, the conference broke into two sections, “The Business of Blogging” and “Writers Workshop”.
Kathy addressed what I see as MY biggest blogging challenge: How do I write with frank authenticity without pissing everyone I know off, losing my job, and/or getting sued.
Write like you are talking with your Best Friend in front of a stadium full of people.
Oprah does this very well. Me? Hmmmmm. Not so much. I need to think more about this advice and how I can implement it.
We then were given a writing prompt based on the poem, Where I’m From, by George Ella Lyon.
After the writing exercise, Fran explained SEO in terms I finally understand. I can’t thank her enough for that.
We then took a break for cookies!
After the break, the attendees came back together to hear Cynthia Wheeler of NWDesigns give a presentation on Blog Design.
I’d heard Cynthia speak at BlogHer in August and she was just as terrific the second time through. In fact I think I got more out of her talk the second time.
Shanell Tyus from The Sits Girls gave us tips on how to vamp-up the all-important About Me Page. I think my About Me page is the one thing I have done right on my blog.
And finally, Danielle Wiley and Allison Talamantex from The Sway Group revealed their secret for developing a successful Two-Year Plan.
Hint: Start from the place you want to be and work backwards.
I did not start my blog in 2008 with the idea of making it a business, and I think my blog reflects that. It lacks a clear focus or purpose. I’ve been asking myself some very tough questions lately. Specifically:
What do I provide that makes this blog worth your precious time?
NOTE: When I wrote this piece originally I answered the above question with three things I was definitely going to do with my blog. I didn’t do one of those things. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. I think the one truth about blogging is that you have to be open to change. Since writing this post I’ve come to see my blog not as an end in itself, but as a means to achieving other hopes and dreams. Hopes and dreams that go wayyyy back.
So my new question to you is this: Is there something you’ve always dreamed about doing, but didn’t know how to get there?
My biggest takeaway from BBC was that blogging can be a stepping-stone to many other things than just a revenue stream.