I'm really excited to announce I'm attending a conference this month: and not just any conference, but Alt Summit SLC Summer!
Alt is a highly anticipated conference that I've wanted to attend for years. Two weeks ago, I was unexpectedly offered me a ticket, which I excitedly accepted. I'm already busy and now overwhelmed, not to mention 33 weeks pregnant. Yeah I know... but it's hard to pass up on a dream, no matter how large and in charge I may be!
But that's not what this post is really about.
What I really want to share is my thoughts on this chart. I took the scale off, but this is the monthly number of sessions for this blog for my first year of blogging.
I'm well aware of the slow-growth model for blogging: those first few months are the same for everyone. But that first big change in traffic, in October, was because I attended a conference. I saw a 600% jump in traffic that month that "boosted" me into a new tier of growth and interaction.
I learned many things from the classes and workshops offered at the conference. I met famous bloggers and incredibly talented photographers. However, I didn't make a single deal with a sponsor, and the famous people I met still don't follow me on social media. No one had my dream opportunity, or offered me the chance of a lifetime deal. And that's ok.
Because that conference did make a difference in my business, even though it's taken me six months to really see it.
It's so easy to feel incredibly small with all the name-dropping and famous speakers and self-promotion that goes on a conference. Showing yourself off as a desirable collaborator is part of the point, but we tend to let it go to our heads and feel like we're not good enough or big enough to compete with all the other amazing people. Plus, all the hype about what to wear/business cards/fabulous parties gets overwhelming pretty quickly.
But this is what I found: conferences are important because of the face-to-face interaction.
The people you meet and form connections with are what will ultimately make a difference in your business. Even though most of my business is online, I find that I still make the best connections in person. There is tons to learn from the classes, but the chance to make face-to-face interactions with the other attendees was even more valuable to me.
Yes, I hope to take a picture with certain famous bloggers, and yes, I would love to discuss a deal with a sponsor. I want to absorb everything I can from the talented teachers and panelists and classes. But I am well aware that it doesn't really matter what I wear, or if I have a clever gift with my business card. All that craziness and hype surrounding such a highly-anticipated event certainly makes it fun, but it's not really the point, nor is is going to affect my business in the long run.
The combined effect of the people I meet and connections I make is what will lead to my blog's growth.
Even though our goals and audiences can be vastly different, all attendees have a chance to make connections and support each other. The culmination of those supportive efforts after the conference--following, interacting, pinning, commenting, sharing-- is what made a change on that chart for me.
And thanks to a conference, those simple connections have become personally fulfilling.
Now I feel like I have a network of people I can ask for advice or feedback. I can send an email to a real person and expect a personalized reply! I have contacts with whom I can bounce off ideas or brainstorm. In short, I made friends, and the long-term effects of those connections will never show up on a chart. I'm so grateful for the connections I made at that conference!
Yes, Alt still feels like a big deal, so I'm still feeling overwhelmed and nervous. But I'm trying to remember what I've seen in my own business, and recognize that the long-term impact of a conference will be the chance to be inspired and make connections with people that are influential to me.
And it won't be Martha or Joy or Gabrielle that can make the real difference in my business: it will be the people who are slightly nervous but eager to help others, just like me.