Thursday, July 25, 2013

Let's Talk Conferences: S.H.E. Summit, NExT Festival and Blogging While Brown

Today kicks off the biggest blogging conference of the year, and it's crazy, but I nearly feel conferenced out! After attending both BlogHer and Blogalicious last year I was on the fence about BlogHer this year, but I knew that attending Blogalicious '13 was a MUST. Now coming off our mini-trip to Newport earlier this week and leaving for my hometown of Columbus for a few days this Monday (hooray for the Ohio State Fair!) I don't know what I was originally thinking that I'd be able to fit BlogHer into the mix and now especially with my involvement with GoGo squeeZ's big event this weekend - to say there's a lot going on is an understatement!

I had mentioned attending Claudia Chan's S.H.E. Summit, NExT Festival as well as Blogging While Brown last month - all dynamic experiences - and I'm excited to finally share them with you! What's so great about social media (including the often abhorred hashtags) is that you can get an inside look from the comfort of your home or wherever you may be. 

Here we go with the top 5 learnings from each of the conferences:

NExT Festival*

The Vibe: C-level execs who were super approachable (I loved how I could walk right up after a panel and engage in a conversation without their handlers whisking them away!), tech-entrepreneur focus set in Willamsburg, Brooklyn at the charming Wythe Hotel (definitely the hispter scene!)

The Knowledge:
  1. The importance of storytelling - Warby Parker's CEO David Gilboa shared how keeping a common theme throughout his company's partnerships with other brands and initiatives have been able to create better outcomes; rather it be for your own start-up or your own self as a brand always think of the story you want to tell
  2. Consider becoming a B-Corp - I had never heard of this until this conference, but if you want to start a socially conscious venture consider looking into this option to stay faithful to your mission; check out B-Labs
  3. Niche is great, but passion is better - In the constant conversations about to niche or not to niche, I really appreciated this timely nugget from Anthony Casalena of Squarespace. He stressed the importance of not chasing a niche to exploit it but instead to do what you're passionate about
  4. Data is king - from analytics, to having accurate books prior to acquisition, the more on top of your data you are, the better your business life will be; crunch those numbers folks, or hire someone to show you how!
  5. Forgo the advanced degree - when it comes to entrepreneurship the tide is shifting from getting an MBA to getting in niche training at a fraction of the cost; in this economy there is a definite disconnect between expectations and the reality of higher education
 *Thank you to UHY LLP for my complimentary ticket!

Claudia Chan's S.H.E. Summit*

The Vibe: 2 days of women's empowerment: Day 1 covered Career and Leadership, but I attended Day 2 covering Lifestyle; attended by mostly women in their 20s, some 30s who are looking to change the world, lifting each other up in the process; I felt a connection to founder Claudia, also a product of single-sex schooling high school through college

The Knowledge:
  1. Refuse to be part of the tear-down culture - a great reminder not to get caught up in the trap that causes strife between so many women; the positive environment at S.H.E. reinforced that 
  2. +Social Good - an awesome new platform designed to link needs with interest in doing social good around the world; a Kickstarter of sorts for change! 
  3. Amplify your ability to succeed via collaboration - this was the same theme echoed at NExT ("collaboration removes competition"); working together vs. against each other is the way to go when it comes to building your brand
  4. 10% Challenge - Elizabeth Gore challenged us to invest 10% of our time, $ and/or resources into women and girls; this is a new MUST for me as an entrepreneur and champion of women! 
  5. Build STEM confidence early - my mother's in education and stresses this point to me and it was reiterated at the conference; especially those of us with daughters, it is SO important to get them on board with STEM early on; while my Lil Lovebird adores her princesses it makes my heart sing when I see her focused on building with her blocks and making structures - who knows? She could be be the first princess engineer!
 *I attended as part of the GoGo squeeZ Squeez Squad

Blogging While Brown

The Vibe: The go-to conference for bloggers of African descent - mostly women but some men present; a 2-day conference including a focus on the business of blogging 

The Knowledge:
  1. If you're not winning in it, don't do it - Markus Robinson's opening keynote was chock full of immediately applicable information including this piece of advice; in the fast-paced world of social media it's best to cut your losses and quickly move on; similar to this point Tamara Jeffries quoted Isaac Mizrahi in her session (Ten Tips for Great Blog Writing), and I've been loving it: "Decide which world you're going to rock and then rock it."
  2. Be an early adopter - don't be afraid of the next thing coming out; I have to say I was slow to Twitter and since jumping in full force about 3 years ago it's had an amazing ROI for my brand, and I look forward to further harnessing the power of Pinterest (check out this tool) and Google+ as well
  3. Educate yourself on protecting your cyber real estate - there are laws in place to protect your content and identity (and scary stories to prove what can go wrong - just do an internet search); you MUST include a copyright notice on your blog (::runs to do this STAT::)
  4. Be careful of pattern matching - this point was brought up by Elisa Camahort from BlogHer; I hadn't heard of this term before, but it sounds like what it is: surrounding yourself with those like yourself; while like often attracts like it's best to keep it diverse in all areas!
  5. Don't discount the power of email marketing - Markus raised this point, and I have to admit it's an area I've neglected (maybe because I get too many emails myself!); he shared that people still pretty much open their emails especially when it's so easy to miss news feeds with the pace of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook; being able to communicate to a captive audience via email is key to blogging success
Overall, I found I'm definitely a fan of the intimate conference experience, which all three were. Next up: Blogalicious in Atlanta!

Blogger or not, are you heading off to any conferences this season? Which are your favorites?