NOTE: This is the very structured recap post >> Go here for the heart- and life-change post.
There is so much I learned from The Influence Conference. Too much to share here. In fact, I wouldn't share them here even if I could. They'll have podcasts available for purchase if you're interested in hearing everything the speakers said. There were two speakers to choose from for each session, so I'll be playing catch up myself on the podcasts for the other six speakers I didn't hear.
Instead, here are those few key things that spoke to me and that I specifically am taking away from this conference...
1 | It's important to know why you blog.
In some ways, Alli Lehman's talk on branding was most powerful to me when she said, "I don't make money on my blog." She's an incredibly talented person that makes her money as a freelance graphic designer. Blogging is something she does on the side to share inspiration, advice, photography, and foster community.
This got my wheels a-turning to realize, I don't have to make money on my blog. It really can be something I do for other reasons, with writing being my main source of income.
This epiphany helped put Jessica Turner's information on affiliates into perspective for me. She had a lot of valuable information to share--some of which I will not use, simply because I know my blog will not be a place I promote or link simply to make money. I must already be linking/using a product in order to promote.
2 | Tell your story, not someone else's.
Casey Wiegand and Nish Weiseth both made this point: Any other main character in your post/story should be given the opportunity to "approve" or at least read it before posting. This will save hurt relationships, and bring feedback to make a stronger and more loving story. No post is worth hurting someone. As Nish put it: "Relationships trump content."
3 | Your influence is important, no matter how small.
Casey shared her journey and tips she followed along the way to foster growth. Her beginning was slow and small, and I loved her attitude about it: "If 12 followers is my influence, then that is my influence."
4 | Decide what involvement your children will have in your writing.
Casey said, "Anything I put out there is a love letter to my kids."
Hayley, however, said that she didn't want her kids to "have an online footprint before they're in school."
It seems everyone has a different approach to how/if they share information about their kids online--all acknowledging that whatever is put out there, is there forever. This was a good reminder to decide my approach for myself, and be intentional about what is or is not okay to post about my kids.
5 | Set goals.
Hayley said to set goals and make them actionable, measurable and time bound. Several other people made this reminder as well.
While I am always seeking to grow and improve (makes a good tagline, doesn't it?), I had yet to make specific goals for this blog or for my writing. Until today. Today I wrote out 7 personal writing goals for the next 12 months--all of them specific steps to get me started on even bigger goals. This conference was just the beginner of bigger things to come in 2013.
6 | Listen to what makes you cry.
So much from Emily Freeman's talk spoke straight to my heart and God's calling in my life. One thing in particular stuck out to me, and it was one of her 4 hints of what makes you come alive: "Tears say, 'Here is where your heart beats strong--what makes you come alive.'"
After this talk, my sister-in-law leaned over and said, "In case I don't remember to say this later, you should write a book." The tears flowed. Writing. That is where my heart beats strong; that is what makes me come alive.
7 | Considerations on your name, and naming your blog/business.
We had breakfast one morning with John Saddington. He was helping a couple girls work through their online identities, and especially talking about business and blog names. He suggested not using your personal name as your blog or company name.
He said this mainly because you may not (and probably will not) always do what you're doing now. By using your name you might be limiting directions you could go in the future. Of course, he gives this advice from someone who owns a .25+ million dollar blog, who would have difficult selling if the blog were his name--it would simply be difficult to separate.
I value this feedback as a writer as well. My name will always be on my work--whether that is my blog, a book I publish, or the check I receive from a freelance job. But it does not have to be my work. It doesn't have to be the name of my blog or the name of my book or the name of a consulting company if I ever chose to open one. And rather than complicating things by having multiple names, it actually simplifies them, because each project will be called something different and simply be by me.
Bonus: 8 | Decide who to speak for.
I sat in on a workshop all about social media for social good. I learned a few things about using my online presence to directly help nonprofits. The one point that especially stuck out to me was this idea: Don't spread your voice so thin that people tune you out.
Instead of reposting and sharing every good cause I find... it'd be better to explore what moves my heart and choose something to speak for. It could be a specific nonprofit organization, a specific issue, or a specific location. I look forward to exploring what moves my heart, and what social good God leads me to use my online influence to promote.
This being my first conference, I also learned a few things to remember next time. Some things I did worked out, and other things I didn't do but should have. Here is that list for future reference...
1 | Leave room for organic meet-ups.
In attempt to make sure people could meet-up with "their people" (ministry leaders, SheReadsTruth community, other moms, etc.) quite a few "organic meet-ups" were preplanned. This was a great idea, and lots of people jumped on board with their RSVPs and excitement over these opportunities.
I opted out, and I'm glad. I'm an introvert, and need a moment to regroup and catch a break or a one-on-one conversation or impromptu meal with a few friends before jumping back into the scheduled events. I also like being able to have the freedom to make plans with others in a more natural way.
2 | Write and learn your introduction.
These are the few things you'll say about yourself, your blog and what you do. These are the things that will engage people in conversation and make your story one worth engaging in. It's what you'll say as you hand them your business card. (I didn't do this.)
3 | Write questions to ask others.
What you want to learn from fellow bloggers. For instance, as a part of my 31 days series, I had the idea of asking other bloggers a few questions to share in one of the posts. That would have helped them engage in what I do on my blog, while making them feel valued and heard and building a connection. (#missedopportunity)
4 | Know what you hope to gain from the experience.
I didn't meet an overabundance of people or sell anyone on becoming a regular reader of my blog. While networking is natural in a conference setting, that simply wasn't my goal for this particular conference. Instead, my goal was to take in information and seek God's specific leading for my life. Any decisions I made for which speaker to sit in on, or what workshop to attend, or how hard to be on my shy self were run by that purpose.
Mission accomplished. I left this conference feeling a clear calling. Yes, I met some incredible people and hopefully some great friends along this writing process. But I am even more grateful for the way God showed up when I showed up.
5 | Be open to the unexpected.
Taking an unexpected detour added an hour to the trip, and gave us more time to chat with Amanda and Jessi. Adding two new roommates the day of the conference led to lots of fun hanging out with Dusti and Christine. And no dinner plans led us to great conversation with Darcy and Amber. Unexpected just seems to be one of the amazing ways God works in my life.
We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.