The #BlogHer15 Conference, hosted by BlogHer and She Knows Media, the #1 media sphere for women, was the most impactful three days of my life.
(The conference started Thursday afternoon, but before it started I hung out with my good friend Kari. We went to see The View and got to sit on the front row, and then went to an Ice Bar. It was sooooooo cool, no pun intended. Okay, it was kinda intended.)
Of the 4,000 people in attendance at this conference, I knew no one. When I arrived at the Hilton hotel, I was extremely overwhelmed. There were BlogHer signs everywhere, fifty floors of rooms and tons of meeting areas, and thousands of super successful people walking around. Luckily, Heather (www.leadingfromthedeepend) Facebook messaged me, introduced herself, said she saw I was attending the conference and that our posts are somewhat similar, and suggested we meet up. She was such an inspiring person and gave me the confidence to go and meet other awesome women. So, thanks, Heather, for being my first friend at the conference.
Melinda Gates and the cofounders of the Black Lives Matter Movement (Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi) spoke at the opening keynote. The cofounders were incredible: smart, innovative, passionate, forthright and confident. I recorded the entire talk and PLEASE message me if you’d like to hear it. Unfortunately, it’s 42 minutes, which is too long to post on Facebook, or I would. But it was incredible.The entire Movement really illuminates the power of social media.
In the elevator, I met Ashley Jefferson from The Post UnderGrad Life blog. Her positive and gregarious personality was contagious and we exchanged numbers. Sitting with her at the keynotes throughout the conference put me at ease, and on the last night we talked about the more vulnerable aspects of college. She is such a special person and you all should check out her blog… Especially if you just graduated from college.
The conference had an expo all weekend with tons of sponsors. I absolutely love “statement jewelry” and was SO excited when I heard that the My Intent Project was one of the sponsors for the conference. I met the Founder and we really hit it off. He actually agreed to offer a special for my readers to buy his jewelry at a discounted price, so look out for a discount code, and check out his website at www.myintentproject.com
Thanks to the expo, I am in the process of buying Phonetic Eyewear glasses that cut down on the blue light emitted from computers, so I can stay up even later typing!!!!!! Woooo hahaha
The next morning, the first female and first Latina CEO of Girl Scouts, Ana Maria Chavez, spoke about how the three million Girl Scouts in 97 countries do a lot more than sell cookies. (As a matter of fact, they now sell these cookies online, learning marketing and financial strategies.) Did you know one in two American women is a Girl Scout? I’m rather disappointed I never got the chance, honestly. We heard from two Girl Scouts making a huge impact on ending sex slavery. It was amazing to hear about how the organization unites women through common morals to make change in the world.
We then heard from journalist and Starfish Foundation founder Soledad O’Brien (you may have seen her documentaries Black In America and Latina In America). Three of her scholars spoke about the amazing opportunities they’ve had through the Starfish Foundation, which funds students to attend college and provides mentorship through those critical four years. When asked how to be a good mentor, O’Brien replied, “mentorship is as simple as listening.” I found this convicting; if we would all listen to what those around us need, we could better fulfill their needs! Instead, we often put words in other people’s mouths or interrupt them, never hearing what they personally need!
We learned about the “Next Generation”, the kids who have grown up with every social media platform we now have today. Did you know that access to social media now starts as early as age two? That by age twelve, 55% have phones and 59% have a social media account? The “Next Generation” has more independence than any generation before. This news was followed by watching some incredible HatchSpeak videos. Hatch’s headquarters is in my hometown, so I loved seeing the adorable kids discuss how to break down gender norms.
Afterwards, we “speed dated” to meet other bloggers. I met Lindsie Verma from www.blasFEMMEous.com. She has a disability, but never wiped the smile off her face. She has been through so much, yet she talks about all of it with ease and confidence. I also met Kristen Maxx from athomemoms.com. Kristen has thousands upon thousands of followers. She gave me incredible advice about how to attract more visitors, and she’s just a super cool person: smart, stunning, and sophisticated.
I met staff from marketing companies that specifically help bloggers, so I can’t wait to reach out to them to expand my scope of readers more.
I attended a session on how to write a pitch. I got great, concrete advice that I used to write my own! You can watch the video here: http://video4.frontandcenterproductions.com/video_email/13/02/55AA9247_download.mp4!
But what I enjoyed most about the Writing A Pitch session was meeting an amazing woman who is starting an organization called Widows At Work. Widowed at age 29, this woman realized that little help exists for struggling widows, especially legally. Her website launches next month, and as soon as it does, I’ll share the link with you all. How beautiful that she overcame such hardship and rose above her situation to now help ensure that other widows have the support they need. By the way, if anyone knows this woman’s name, could you please let me know? I never caught it, and her business card got lost in the shuffle.
I attended a session led by social media strategist Peg Fitzpatrick, where she discussed how social media drives 31% of all referral traffic to websites. She offered tons of tips and tricks to maximize all social media platforms. The interesting reality is that bloggers spend about 80% of their time marketing themselves and 20% of their time actually writing. This was tough for me to swallow, as writing is what I love, not the marketing. But understanding this reality has challenged me to gain a better grasp of the social media world so that I can attract more readers. (By the way, I got to talk to Fitzpatrick, take a selfie with her, and get her to sign my book. My life is complete.)
At lunch, Daria Musk performed. Musk is a singer/songwriter who became famous solely from Google Hangouts. She would host these hangouts for her fans to watch her sing live, and soon she created a huge following. It was very inspiring and reinforced the importance of social media.
Then Gwyneth Paltrow spoke all about her life and her blog Goop. I gained so much more respect from her as she spoke deeply about criticism, losing her father, managing her divorce, and prioritizing her blog. She shared a compelling story about how her father took her to Paris for ten days because he believed that a woman should only go to Paris with someone who truly loves her. Later, when asked about criticism towards her life and/or blog, Paltrow commented that, “Criticism helps me learn about myself. If someone writes something that’s completely ridiculous, I shrug it off and never think about it again. But every now and then I read something that I just can’t get off my mind. It bothers me and I wonder why someone would say such a thing. And that’s when I know that that’s a personal problem I must work to solve.” How convicting is that? I thought about my own life and when people say negative things about me. I’ve gotten hate mail that says I’m a terrible writer, and I’m able to throw that aside. But when someone tells me I’m too insecure, need more confidence, or care too much about what other people think, etc etc etc… It hurts. Because it’s true. Such wisdom, Paltrow!
We also heard from the founder of the #365FeministSelfie movement. This movement encouraged women to be more confident in the way they look by posting a unique selfie every day. I love the idea.
Later that day we attended the Voices Of The Year Awards, with seven femvertising awards sprinkled throughout. The Voices Of The Year Awards honored 85 extraordinary submissions (of 2,000-3,000). Some of my favorites included the Twinsters video (you have to check it out!!!!!), “Dating While Deaf” (it was SO adorable. Better than a RomCom), and “I Am Not Your Fat Friend”. And I was so glad to see that the viral post “After Eric Garner, What Am I supposed to tell my son?” won an award, too. I remember reading that in the heart of the moment and being so moved.
The femvertising awards went to companies whose advertisements broke down gender stereotypes and empowered women. I loved the #LikeAGirl by Always commercial and the #ThisGirlCan advertisement from Sport England.
From my Facebook post, you all probably saw that I got to meet Josh Peck!!!!! I got to ask Josh about his biggest takeaway from starring in Drake and Josh, get a picture with him, and hear about his mom, his dreams, and his failures. I even got to watch the first episode of his new TV show Grandfathered. Josh is a role model to me in a lot of ways. I admire his calm demeanor, contagious laugh, and commitment to leading a healthier lifestyle after battling childhood weight issues. It was an honor to talk to him and to tell him about my blog. And, yes, he is even more hilarious in person.
Watching The Pitch Saturday morning was probably my favorite part of the whole conference. Six entrepreneurs pitched their social impact business ideas, and then we, along with a panel of amazing judges (including JJ Ramberg, the founder of Goodshop.com my favorite online shopping website!!!!), voted on the best pitch. The ideas were incredible, like Vendeti, an app to revolutionize the Caribbean vendor market. But the advice from the judges was invaluable. After Meghan Martinez pitched her KEASY idea (safe access management system for real estate companies to ensure that keys aren’t duplicated while vacationers are using services like airbnb), one of the judges asked Martinez a question. She replied by first saying, “I know it’s ridiculous, but…” A discussion ensued about how women use qualifiers far too often. We shouldn’t diminish ourselves or our capabilities. We were then all challenged as bloggers to chastise fellow women who try to diminish themselves. It was so empowering. We learned later that day that the winner of The Pitch was Majora Carter. I knew she’d win because her passion was so evident in everything she said and did. Her fierce but loving personality was so contagious and she definitely joins the list of My Role Models. Carter’s brilliant idea is the StartUp Box. Here’s how The Harlem Times described the idea: “Through Quality Assurance (QA) Game Testing, Startup Box will serve as a subcontractor to New York City game developers. The magnitude of work at the South Bronx facility is attracting weekly clients from different corporations, institutions and other environment. This would have a large influx of high paying employment in the urban community, and shift the problematic nature of offshoring by creating a gateway of opportunity in the South Bronx, and the US. QA also serves as an entry level position for students and entrepreneurs to earn immediate income after training in the tech environment.” A market-based solution to a community problem!
I loved hearing Courtney Macavinta’s pitch on The Respect Institute, a nonprofit working to solve the School to Prison Pipeline crisis through mentorship programs.
Oh, and how could I not mention Tanya Van Cort’s pitch?! How genius that she has created an online platform to help kids learn how to save and invest money. Check out her brilliant SOW idea by following isow on Twitter. It may be for “kids”, but I know I’ll be on that site. There is ALWAYS more to learn financially!
I’ve heard lots about The Red Pump Project, a nonprofit that encourages women to wear red heels and create greater awareness about HIV/AIDS, so it was truly an honor to hear Luvvie Ajay discuss her work. The Red Pump Project’s sixth anniversary is this year, so consider donating $6 to support their hard work!!!
Later that day, I attended a session led by a top agent, where she discussed how to get a memoir published. After the session, Amy Underwood Arndt stopped me and told me how contagious my energy and enthusiasm is. She emphasized over and over how much she’s rooting for me to get my book published. She even tweeted a picture of the notes I was taking during the session, as she “couldn’t get over all the exclamation points” I scribbled after every note. Stepmoms everywhere, get ready for Amy’s memoir about being a stepmom! Thanks, Amy, for all the support.
Christy Turlington Burns, model and founder of Every Mother Counts, spoke to us about her nonprofit and showed us a segment of her new documentary. I learned that the US is the only developing country where maternal mortality is increasing….. Yet we spend $60B in maternal healthcare… It was mind-blowing. And so sad. I really encourage you to research her organization and help raise awareness about how maternal mortality affects the United States, too.
The conference closed with an interview with Selma Director Ava Duvernay. I learned so much about the film industry and its lack of diversity, as well as the importance of “not putting all your eggs in one basket”. Duvernay explained that the most successful people do lots of different things. They are not tied down to any one thing, but they care deeply about all of them. This allows them to pick themselves back up if an egg cracks, instead of losing multiple eggs or, worse, the whole basket. Before Ava Duvernay spoke, Teneshia Jackson from Egami Consulting spoke. I was so moved by her talk that she inspired an additional blog post that I’ll post in a few days. Check back later to read about it J
The Closing Party featured Boyz II Men and Nick Canon.
Oh, and did I mention all the free stuff? I have four tote bags full of every knick knack you could possibly imagine….
Check out my Facebook for lots of pictures from the weekend!
PS: I ran into the founder of The Peaceful Dumpling and didn’t realize it was her. Which was probably a good thing because otherwise I would have peed my pants. But, in any case, I hope one day I can be as successful as her incredible vegan blog.