What do you get when you put 100 bloggers in a room with flower crowns, heart-shaped macarons, and nine incredible speakers? Thrive Blog Conference a.k.a. the best weekend ever. Thrive is a conference where bloggers from all backgrounds can come together and learn from each other and leaders in the blogging community. Coordinated by bloggers Whitney and Bree, Thrive Blog Conference is an absolute game changer for people like me looking to find a community for their creative craft. Today, I’m outlining my key takeaways from Thrive and how you can prepare for your next conference.
Bring Your Business Cards and Be Prepared to Speak Up
You know in school when the “cool kids” would gather around the courtyard while the shy ones stayed on the sidelines like anomalous, awkward wallflowers. If you were one of the wallflowers like me, it might have been difficult for you to make the first move and introduce yourself. At Thrive Blog Conference, the only wallflowers were actual roses at the Francesca’s display and you, my friend, are the cool kid. Thrive is an inclusive and collaborative networking experience. It fosters a sense of community with friendships that live on far after the weekend. Thrive isn’t a fling or a quick rendezvous into the blogging world, it’s a strong and growing network of bloggers who will be there to help you grow. Ah, so that’s where the name Thrive came from?
Bring your business cards and be prepared to network your little heart out. Don’t be too timid to interject at a table that may not be yours or chat-up your neighbor. I actually was lucky enough to be sat next to a blogger I admired through Instagram, Michelle Heath of Elle Talk. There’s nothing more odd and amazing than looking at someone and saying aren’t you “@instagramusername — we talk on Instagram all the time!” There will even be brands in attendance, so be sure to introduce yourself so you can open those doors. Think of the day not just as a contest of how many business cards you can pile high, but how many valuable and viable connections you can make.
Everything Will Look Beautiful… Bring Your Camera
Thrive Blog Conference is not just for bloggers but also by bloggers. What does that mean? Bring a camera and a phone charger because you’re going to Instagram the hell out of this. Everything in the room was beautiful, from the Balushka paper flower backdrop to the various Francesca’s-sponsored photo spots (complete with fresh flower crowns). There were so many times I felt unprepared for not having my DSLR to capture the images of the room. Dallas-based photographer Megan Weaver also shared a session on photography tips and in hindsight I would have loved to have shown her my camera and explored its settings. You are surrounded by experts in all walks of life, so take advantage of your resources.
No Matter How Successful the People You Meet Are, You’re In the Same Boat
Thrive Blog Conference preaches collaboration and kindness over competition. When you’re not involved with a blogger community, it’s easy to compare yourselves to others. Cup of Charisma is by no means the shining example of how a blog should run. The day started off with a keynote by Alissa Circle, blogger at Diary of an Addict and founder of multiple businesses including the Pollinate Media Group and Weave Made Media. Alissa shared invaluable advice that ranged from remembering the reason we started blogging to taking the time to find balance. It’s important to stay creative and energized by what you do. As Alissa asks, “If you’re always pouring out, who’s filling your cup?”
The best and most memorable part of Alissa’s key note was when we wrote down what’s holding us back. First, I wrote down “time.” Sometimes I struggle to show this project as much love and attention as I’d like because my day job needs to take priority. This is not something I’d ever want to change (I love my day job and my workplace), but a blogger who works a 9-to-5 knows this to be a delicate balance. Alissa, supreme girl boss, totally gets this. Another issue I deal with is a little embarrassing — it’s self-confidence. I’m guilty of the little voice inside my head that says I’m either not as pretty or talented — “why would people want to read YOUR blog, when theirs looks so much better.” Here’s a little secret: when I was in Dallas I did not shoot one blog photo because I felt “gross.” Gross is the adjective I threw around as a child to describe boys with cooties, so WHY do I feel like it belongs in a vocabulary used to characterize myself. I wrote down self-confidence a.k.a. feeling “gross.” Alissa then kindly asked us to rip up those papers and excuses, they meant absolutely nothing. This might be considered an out there confession, but my eyes got watery as I tore up the little pieces. Suddenly, I felt slightly more freed and on the same ground as the other women at my table who viciously tore up their blogging demons as well.
“Regardless of how many people are doing what you’re doing, they’re not you! You are different!” exclaimed Alissa. Amen!
You Guessed It: Be Authentic
As my dear friend and Thrive Blogger Conference speaker Ashley Rose (of Sugar & Cloth fame) put it, saying “be authentic” is the most cliche thing you will hear at any blogger conference — that did not stop her from saying it. Authenticity is at the core of what we do and helps us keep our readers, YOU! We have to take sponsorships with integrity and have to remain honest to be able to provide you with a reason to continue following our lives and learning from our lessons. By jeopardizing authenticity for a sponsored post or honing a false voice in the hopes for attention does not make us bloggers, it makes us solicitors. Kristina Braly, the vlogger behind Pretty Shiny Sparkly, exemplifies authenticity. She opened up about her deceased brother, negative comments and how she handles the vulnerability of video. This presentation was moving and almost convinced me to start a YouTube just to give a glimpse into my daily life and add a more approachable letter. I try to be authentic in my social media postings and writing, but at the end of the day I brighten and curate images and edit my posts over and over again. Blogs are authentic but in a very controlled medium. It’s our responsibility to try to break the wall between your computer screen and ours.
Know Your Worth
If you’re a blogger and you’re reading this, you know that you’ve either begun working with brands or are slowly starting to. We all stick to a 1/3 model (one third of sponsored content, with a majority of non-sponsored) but running a blog can be expensive, just like running a magazine. Speakers like Jessica Bailey and Sarah Skaggs, the ladies behind Pretty Providence, shared how they build relationships with brands. Virtual assistant and business expert, Skye Mclain, also shared how to build a media kit and setup a rates card. No matter how or why you started, you’re putting out quality work and deserve to be rewarded for it. Your photos, writing, and personal brand are valuable and should come at a cost like any other business who hires a contractor; thankfully, there are people out there to help you discover your value. This is the part where you may begin to feel minimal discouraged, I know some people did as different speakers talked about getting 10,000+ page views or even 100,000+ page views to stay relevant. My friend Jaclyn over at Beauty and the Binky made a great point after these stats were thrown around, it’s not about the numbers but about the content. If you’re producing valuable work and have an engaged audience, you shouldn’t feel afraid to quantify your work with a price. The worst that came happen is that you’re negotiated with or a brand let’s you know that they don’t have a budget — is that really so hard? It’s business, not a rejection to the homecoming dance. You keep the relationship and move on.
There’s No Magic Formula, Just a Lot of Passion
While Mallory Whitfield, MissMalaprop.com, was insightful enough to show us what to do with all of the Google Analytics data and Kristyn Merkley showed us how to be the boss of Pinterest with crafty tricks, I realized that while these speakers were invaluable but they were not the single all-knowing answer to success. From SEO to Pinterest to content calendars to photography, I can craft the longest run-on sentence about the many areas bloggers need to focus on during the course of a given day. The theme I took away from each and every speaker was the need to be consistent. How can we make our blog a part of our reader’s daily schedule? How do we join your routine to make your day better? These are the questions that keep us up at night and the answer is being consistent.
You Will Leave With a Conference High
The moment Whitney and Bree wrapped up their closing remarks, I realized that I needed to keep the rush of happiness and knowledge that was overloading my senses available to me far after the conference. I learned SO much in a single day and had pages to pour over the moment I got home. When Thrive ended, I quickly made a beeline around the room and tried to meet as many people as possible before we all said our goodbyes. After group photos and the common “keep in touch,” I anxiously held the steering wheel and buckled in for the hour-long ride home where I would begin plotting and planning. The first thing I did after my 10-hour day wasn’t getting on the couch, it was logging into Google Analytics and seeing where my traffic was coming from. I was hyped up on the momentum and am still running with it. That momentum is what led me to get up hours before work to right this post, to stay “consistent.”
The most important thing to do after a conference above tweaking your content calendar and twiddling with photo editing apps is staying connected and in touch. The conference may be over, but this is just the beginning of a meaningful journey I’m about to take with 100 powerful and passionate women who feel the same way I do.
Special thank you to photographer Med Cady Photography for capturing the beautiful day.