I spent last weekend with 700+ bloggers, sponsors, presenters and online creatives at the 2015 ProBlogger conference.
And it was wonderful!
I learnt a lot from the sessions when I attended my first one last year. This year, I found that I learnt as much from the mentoring (chatting), workshopping (partying) and networking (dancing) as I did from the sessions.
The to-do list is out of control. It’s actually quite scary.
So I’m not looking at it. I’m home. I’m away from the #FISTPUMP #HIGHFIVE #CRAZYSUPERACHIEVING atmosphere of ProBlogger, and now I’m going to live life and reassess the list next month with what I hope will be a more realistic mindset.
In the meantime, here are the key lessons from this year’s event, and the one thing on my to-do list that just couldn’t wait.
1. Know your WHY.
This is the first thing we all heard from Darren Rowse (Mr ProBlogger himself). Know WHY you’re blogging. Don’t get distracted by what others are doing, or by what you think your readers want because of that one question they asked that one time. Don’t let your WHY get out of focus.
This was reiterated by most speakers throughout the conference. Jadah Sellner (Simple Green Smoothies) admitted that when she started the blog, she knew her WHY and her WHAT, but wasn’t sure of the HOW.
And Nicole Avery (Planning With Kids) gave me some last-minute wisdom in a casual chat when the whole event was finished.
2. Use your time well.
Sounds like a no-brainer? It is. But putting it into practice is less no-brainerish. (So, apparently, is my ability to use the English language without mangling it.)
So here come the useful tips from Darren: Analyse how you spend your time. If you dare, actually download an app that calculates how much time you spend on social media. Make a schedule. Set timers so that you stick to it. And make appointments with yourself for the things that are important for you.
Batch similar tasks together. If you sit down to write a blog post, write ten. Then source all of the required images. Then schedule all of the social media.
Never sit down at the computer without an idea, watching the cursor blink. The blank screen will mock you. Create routines, and stick to them.
3. Stick to one idea per blog post.
From the routines and logistics to the content and ideas. This tip is important for reader engagement, and once again, it was reiterated by many of the speakers.
Kate Toon (Kate Toon Copywriter) mentioned the importance of this one for your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). If you stick to one focus per post, you can identify the important keyword. Then that keyword needs to appear in the post title, meta description, tag and the first 100 words of the post.
Kelly Exeter (A Life Less Frantic) focused on the benefit for the reader. If you go off on tangents and lose the thread of what you’re saying, you’ll lose the reader as well. Stick to one idea per blog post. And if you do find yourself going off on a tangent, just cut and drop the tangent into a new post draft. You won’t have to think of a new topic next time! SCORE.
4. Look after yourself.
It’s tempting to get caught up in the hype and DO ALL THE THINGS. It’s especially tempting after attending a blogging conference where you’re surrounded by people who seem to be not just DOING ALL THE THINGS, but succeeding at DOING ALL THE THINGS.
But sometimes it’s not possible. You might be comparing yourself with someone who works on their blog full-time while you sit down at the computer for two hours on Sundays. You might be comparing your new blog with an established blog with a very large following. You might be comparing what you can do on your own with what another can do with a staff of four.
As Jadah said, anything that compromises your health and relationships is not a sustainable business model. A sentiment that backed up Darren’s observation that the wellbeing of his blogs is linked to his own wellbeing.
5. Everyone feels like they don’t know what they’re doing at some point. Don’t take negativity to heart.
Viewing ‘failure’ as feedback was a very strong message throughout the weekend.
Ruth Soukup (Living Well Spending Less) admitted to us all that she feels like a fraud. She said not to get too disheartened if you don’t know what you’re doing, because we’re ALL making it up as we go along. Especially the people at the top who don’t have more successful mentors to guide them.
Jadah highlighted the importance of taking imperfect action and failing your way forward. Caz Makepeace (y Travel Blog) recommended starting your business or blog with the intention of failing, so that you are ready to deal with it when (if?!) it happens. Rejection teaches you how to refine. Don’t take it personally; learn from it. Make rejection empowering.
Heather B. Armstrong (Dooce) highlighted the importance of responding with compassion to the most negative (and useless) of comments. She asked that we don’t respond defensively. Commenters sometimes forget that bloggers are human; don’t forget that commenters are human when responding.
And Kelly had an important message to give about not trying to please everyone as well. This one took me by surprise, and has been the biggest lesson I’ve taken from the event.
6. Blogging connections are what make blogging so great.
Kelly nailed it with this observation. Most of the opportunities that come about from blogging come about because of the connections made.
Someone who likes our writing and tells us so lets us know about writing opportunities (or offers them directly). A blogging friend needs a proofreader and your name springs to mind.
Andrea Michelle (Fox in Flats) reiterated this message in terms of working with brands. She compared wooing brands with wooing a potential mate. You need to form the relationship and have mutual trust to achieve great things with brands.
7. Support is great. Groupthink is dangerous.
Find people that get you. Find people that understand why you blog. Support each other. Bounce ideas off of each other. Make like Emma and Carla Papas (The MerryMaker Sisters) and find an accountability partner to keep you on track.
But as Ruth said, don’t get caught up in groupthink. Be authentic to your own blog, your own passions and your own dreams.
There you have it. Seven things that I learnt at the 2015 ProBlogger conference. But I’m not through this post just yet.
On the final day, Darren asked us to do one more thing. Actually, he asked us to identify one thing. Just one thing.
We were to identify the one thing that we would do post-conference. The one thing that would make our blogs and/or our lives better, and get us closer to our dream goal.
I did my one thing on Tuesday. It might not seem blog-related, but it is – it’s the reason my WHY has changed as this blog has developed.
I want to write books for children. I have been working on a number of manuscripts for a long time, and one is as near done as it’s ever going to be. In fact, it had been sitting in my email outbox for
months weeks, waiting for me to develop the courage to send it to a publisher for consideration. On Tuesday, my shaking right hand guided the mouse to the SEND button. And clicked.
Four years ago, I started this blog to find my voice after years of writing for corporates. The blog was my number one writing activity. It is now my third. Sometimes my fourth.
I love this blog. I love this community. I love writing posts and sharing them. It’s important to me, and it ain’t going anywhere. But this blog is the support act. And that’s okay.
Thank you to Darren and the #pbevent team, the sponsors and everyone involved in the creation and delivery of the 2015 ProBlogger conference. I learnt a lot, I enjoyed it, and you kicked my butt into gear. I’m very grateful.
And I hope to see you all again next year.
Did you attend the 2015 ProBlogger conference? What did you learn? What was your one thing?