Tuesday, October 23

Blissdom Canada 2012: An Introvert Goes To A Conference

Many people attend Blissdom for the famous Costumes and Karaoke party.

I attended in spite of it.

When Blissdom was taking place last Fall, I followed the Twitter stream and read the blog posts, feeling like I had really missed out on a great opportunity to make connections and learn more about the art and business of blogging. So as soon as registration opened for Blissdom 2012, I jumped all over it.

But then I started getting nervous. While I'm certainly comfortable socializing with "my people" (family, staff, close friends) I'm not so confident with strangers. I started worrying about the Costume party, the meet-and-greets, the meals and round table sessions where speaking to others is kind of essential. Would everyone else know each other? Was I crazy to sign up?

Then I had an epiphany. I was paying for this conference, so I should get exactly what I wanted out of it. I vowed that I would push my limits enough to feel like I had "grown", but not put myself in any situations which would stress me out. And that's exactly what I did.



I know many gals had a great time at Friday night's Road Rally, but I got a good night's sleep at home, ready to head into the big city the next morning.

My fears began to dissipate during the welcome message, when it was made clear that "Everyone is welcome here. No cliquiness, none of that. Not allowed."

Saturday's microsessions were the part I was looking forward to the most. Picture a ballroom with 500 women (and a few men), 41 round tables, each one with a session leader and a specific topic, and did I mention the sessions were first-come, first served? That part was a little crazy, and I know many ladies strategized where they would eat breakfast in order to be at or close to the first table they wanted!

Here's what I took away from my sessions:

Bookkeeping for Canadian Bloggers (Brian Kent-Baas)
  • Yes, products, gift cards, etc. received through the blog are considered income
  • But:, the expenses a blogger can write off are vast: a percentage of home expenses, such as heat, hydro, property taxes, etc.; a percentage of business travel and meals; products and services that have been purchased and then reviewed on the blog; the list goes on
Creating the Perfect Pitch (Jen Reynolds, Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Family magazine)
  • I was excited just to be sitting at the same table as Jen, and of course I said little and just took it all in
  • She made a great point about how the magazine's website looks for "evergreen" article topics, but the print issue doesn't want "evergreen", they want things that are more timely. I know that with such a long lead time (pitches coming in now should be geared to Spring topics) it's not like you can cover breaking news, but the subjects still need to feel fresh
  • Most articles in her magazine are 650 words, and are seen by many sets of eyes before print
  • She receives 50-60 pitches per day, and can't possibly respond to them all
How To Price and Value Your Services (Rebecca Brown)
  • I'm beyond working for free, so this topic was of particular interest to me
  • Rebecca's handout was full of gems like "Pricing is both an art and a science", and some case study information which showed me what another site with the same traffic as mine should charge for ad space and sponsored posts.
  • She also suggested contacting small, local businesses when selling ad space
Sessions which I didn't get to, but would have loved to check out: "Media Training" (with Alison Burke of Impressions PR), and "How To Establish Yourself as an Expert" (with food maven Theresa Albert. Clearly our areas of expertise are very different.)

The afternoon featured several guest speakers, such as:

Jian Ghomeshi: broadcast host, musician, writer and producer


  • The best tidbit I took away from Jian (who shared hilarious excerpts from his memoir, 1982): He said that when he started doing interviews, he had to decide whether he was going to follow in the style of Larry King (the "everyman" who doesn't prepare in advance for his conversations) or Barbara Walters (who prepares meticulously, reading the books, watching the movies and conducting extensive research on her subjects). I liked hearing about this, as I consider myself an "interviewer" as well (with over a dozen celebrity Momterviews to my credit) and I, like Jian, have chosen the Barbara Walters approach. I agree with him that the other person is going to open up more and take things to another level when they know that you've come prepared.

Susan Cain: author of "Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking"



  • My mom raved about this book when it first came out, and I'm excited to see this focus on introverts (I'm especially interested in how it relates to education - as we continue to force our littlest introverts to do more and more group work and 'collaborative learning')
  • Though she didn't delve too deeply into this point during her presentation, Susan's bio in the conference program also mentioned "the phenomenon of the social media extrovert but real life introvert, and what it means to be both personality types when we engage both online and in real life." I am WAY different online than in person. I can't even imagine how many fewer opportunities I would have had through the blog if they had required cold calls or visits instead of risk-taking emails (which are far easier for me).
The next big highlight was Sunday morning, when Blissdom attendees participated in various excursions, which were selected through another first-come, first-served process, this time online (thanks to my cousin Kerry for handling my registration, since I was on a field trip with my students at the moment of sign-up!)

My destination?

Behind the Scenes Television Excursion on the set of The Marilyn Denis Show

Hosted by Maureen Dennis and Alison Burke, with special guests Michelle Crespi, Executive Producer of the show, and Steve Ladurantaye, Media reporter for The Globe and Mail, this was a jam-packed two hours full of tips for pitching to a wide range of media.

Being on the set wasn't new to me, as in 2011 I went behind-the-scenes at the show and even sat down for an interview with Marilyn, but this was an entirely different experience.
  • Michelle pointed out that for The Marilyn Denis Show, she's looking for "unique things that girlfriends share with each other", and that you don't need the word "Pitch" in your subject. Just go straight to the headline.
  • We even had the opportunity to work in a group to present a pitch and a segment and receive feedback from the panel. Very valuable! Thanks to these four for giving up their Sunday mornings to educate us.
When the session ended, it was back in the car and homeward bound...but my mind was absolutely spinning, and still is. You should see the lists that have come out of this!

I know other Blissdom attendees may say that I missed out by skipping some of the conference events, but if it was all a required package deal, I probably wouldn't have gone at all...and would really have missed out on so much!

The point I want to make is that Blissdom can be great for everyone, if you make it what you want it to be. I'm already looking ahead to Blissdom 2013!

13 comments:

Modified Mama said...

Awesome post! I'm so glad you enjoyed your first year at BlissDom Canada. I too was a newbie this year and would definitely go back.

okanaganmama.com said...

Great post and totally captures the weekend. Glad you had a good time - I did too! I find it so interesting to hear about the other microsession tables - I wish we could have done more :)

Katja said...

I like this, "I was paying for this conference, so I should get exactly what I wanted out of it." That was my feeling as well. Your Sunday excursion sounds interesting. The whole weekend left a good impression.

Kerry said...

Yeah! I'm glad it was such a good experience.

Soozle said...

Bravo to you for making the most of the weekend despite having reservations!

I, like you, am great at talking to 'my' people, but struggle with strangers. Therefore, I give anyone bravos for being able to work through that - as I know it isn't easy.

Glad to hear you had a great experience!

Multi-Testing Mommy said...

What a terrific, well written post! Thanks for sharing this.

I did a very similar thing with She's Connected this year!

Cathy C said...

looks like amazing opportunity and wish had been done for those who clearly were not as outgoing as many. I did not go just listen and think with very little effort the experience could have been improved on. Just my opinion. Love Jian Ghomeshi and love Quiet. I am one of those "looks extraverted, but being that way is stressful and sucks the life juices out of you. Love when I see those stepping out of their comfort zone. I think we need to to grow as a person and to see what we are really capable of. Hope there were many more pros than cons.

Jaclyn said...

That's a great attitude -- I'm an introvert too, and my first response to things like this tends to be "I paid for this so I must do ALL THE THINGS" quickly followed by giving up and going home to my couch and book :)

Shannon Fisher said...

GREAT POST. So succinct and positive. I can't imagine being at something like this as an introvert. It was scary as an extrovert! Go you. Way to dig deep and find big courage.

Inspirational!

http://truthfully.ca

Jen said...

I'm glad you had a great time and that you stepped outside of your comfort zone a bit.

I'm sorry that I didn't get to meet you in person!

~ The Country Mouse ~ said...

Great wrap up of the events. I've never been to Blissdom, and it sounds like a really well run and organized event. Very cool you went behind the scenes of Marilyn Dennis!

crystalc said...

I would have loved to join you. Let me know if you want company next year.
Glad you enjoyed it!

Canadian Dad said...

My mind is still racing with memories from Blissdom! I love the part about making it what you want it to be and couldn't agree more.

I won't say that I wasn't myself because I am fairly outgoing but I definitely pushed my comfort limits and am so glad that I did!