What I learned at Blogger Week 2015

22 I've been blogging for many years, an active member of the blogging community I was not. I've shied away from really putting myself and the blog out there. I carried feelings of inadequacy, I didn't think my little ole’ blog compared to other blogs.

I've passed up on many opportunities to connect with and most importantly learn from other bloggers. Understanding, this was one of the reasons, I wasn't seeing the growth I wanted. I decided to change things. Having the opportunity to hear and learn from people with bigger blogs and stronger brands is not something I will pass on going forward. So when I heard about Blogger Week, it was a no brainer for me to attend.

I stumbled on the info for Blogger Week Unconference while browsing GG Renee Hill's website, All the Many Layers. The lineup of presenters included a host of notable bloggers, Tyece of Twenties Unscripted, Danielle Belton of The Black Snob, Joi-Marie Mckenzie, Creator of the Fab Empire, and Candice Vanwye, founder of Brown Girl Bloggers.

I decided to grab Linda and head to DC for the two-day event. The plan was to head to DC by bus early Friday morning, relax at our hotel, and then head to the networking mixer that same evening. Things didn’t go as planned, to say the least. First, we missed our bus to DC by five minutes, and then we were unable to get on the next bus as standby. We finally boarded a bus and made it safely to DC. Although I’ve stayed at our hotel before, and remembered we needed the blue line to Rosslyn. We decided to call the hotel for directions anyway. The front desk clerk told her to get on the blue line headed in the complete opposite direction. FML. When we finally arrived at the hotel, our room options were limited, but the front desk told us we would have a king size bed. When we got to our room, to our surprise it was a twin bed. I was too exhausted by then to call the front desk. Thankfully, Linda was not and got us an upgrade to a king size suite. Things were looking up. By then we had missed the networking event. We had dinner and went to bed. I arrived at the Unconference the next day bright and early. I wanted to be relaxed and ready to learn. First up was Danielle Belton’s Building a Brand When Everyone Is a Brand: Surviving Journalism 2.0.

Danielle had some really insightful points, but the point that stood out most to me was

Never allow your mood to keep you from an opportunity.

She was transparent about her struggle with depression and how she has to fight against her moods to get out there and sell the product, which just happens to be her. So many times we make decisions based on our moods, but we will never see our long term vision if we don’t do the work.

Next up was Joi Marie McKenzie, creator of the Fab Empire. Her topic was Finding Your Voice in an Overcrowded Niche. I found Joi’s story very compelling. She was a young woman, just out of college who loved to go out on the weekends, drink, and have a good time. She particularly enjoyed open bars, because she couldn’t afford to pay for drinks. Joi found that many club promoters would advertise open bars, only for that not to be the case. She took matters into her own hands and start reviewing clubs online. As word began to spread, she saw that she could get club promoters to right their wrongs. She’d found her niche. Before she knew it, DC Fab was THE online space for anything DC nightlife. Today, she duplicated the same formula in cities across the country.

Your passion can take you places, places you've never dreamed of.

Joi was followed by a panel led by GG Renee Hill, How to Build a Loyal and Connected Following. The panel featured Erica Nicole of Everything ENJ, Tyece Wilkins of Twenties Unscripted, and Shefon Nachelle. The ladies discussed four major points: authenticity, story telling, knowing your audience, and building relationships. The ladies were excellent, it was evident that they pour themselves into their work. It's so personal to all of them. I love what Shefon had to say about storytelling:

Words have shifted my entire being. Writing is a means of resistance, it's my weapon.

The power of storytelling was a theme throughout the day. This wouldn't be the first time I was moved by the ways in which black women use storytelling to get FREE!

I walked away from this panel so inspired, and ready to work. I've since connected with each of the ladies on the panel and they are all so genuine.

Up next was From the Drinking Gourd to #BlackTwitter: Social Communication for Social Change by Teresa Dowell-Vest. To be honest I had no idea what I was walking into for this session. I'm happy I did attend because it helped me trace the history of social communication since slavery.

We inherited social communication from slaves, youth of the Civil Right Movement, and the youth of the Hip Hop generation.

To end the session Teresa posed this question:

What are you using YOUR words for?

That’s really what it all boils down to. Your words have the power to heal, to connect, and to change. That’s what I learned. The authentic WORD is where we all meet. P.S. This was also the weekend of the first Brown Girl Bloggers Meetup. It was great to connect face to face with so many brown girls after months of Twitter chats. Candice gave us some great tips for growing our respective blogs while we stuffed our faces with the food she provided. If haven’t joined BGB, you’re missing out!