August 10, 2016

#BlogHer16 and the Evolution of an Influencer (a different kind of conference recap)

If I could sum up my BlogHer16 experience in one word, it would be SURREAL.

I came in with uneasiness and certainly of my presence and purpose but left with a renewed sense of confidence and clarity of what the next leg of my journey will entail.

I decided to do this recap a little differently this time. Instead of the usual scripted observations and lessons learned or summarized play-by-play of conference events (that you can read on the website), I decided to share my experience as it happened to me and exactly as I wrote it in my journal while I was there. A stream of consciousness… real and raw. It has only been edited for grammar. Yes, I give my journal entries titles and yes, this IS how I really write in my journal. I am a storyteller, after all.  Take a dive inside my mind… 

Not in Kansas anymore, Toto…
I’m sort of having an outer body experience. Switching from feeling like a fish-out-of-water to feeling “at home” and back again. The last time I was at BlogHer was my first time and first conference in 2009. The last time I attended or spoke at a conference was 2014. It’s is also the last year that (in my mind) I had any real influence… clout… the last time I was relevant in this world. But BlogHer asked me to speak (remember that, silly girl!) It’s only been 2 years. But 2 years might as well be 10 in blog-years. Mediums, platforms, standards and audiences change in the blink of an eye.

I’m a bit rusty…
At events like this, I am usually an Instagramming and tweeting fool! I’m not taking a lot of pictures. I’m not “sharing” enough. I think back on all of the moments that I didn’t capture and I’m kind of pissed. Clearly, I am way out of practice… especially when it comes to mixing and mingling. I seem to be in “observation” mode and just taking it all in. I didn’t realize how much I’ve let my inner introvert take over until I was forced to once again be “ChatterBox Christie” in public.

What do you blog about?
Even as a blogger who never really had a niche (on purpose), I never found it difficult to answer that question, until today. I’ve been asked at least a half-dozen times so far and the only thing that comes to mind to say is… “I’m retired.” Those few who know me laugh when they hear that. “No, you’re not,” they say… or “Well, you’re making a comeback because you’re here.” Hmmmm… It’s kind of like Michael Jordan hitting the court wearing number 45 when he really should have just gotten a job at ESPN. Not a player, per se…but still a part of the game.

Open Lab… Open to Interpretation…
So my open lab didn’t go as planned… And that’s ok. I attribute low attendance to being in the same time slot as some really powerful panelists (that I wanted to see myself) and because of how it was so vaguely billed in the conference program. How it read made it seem I would be teaching attendees how to write. If you’re at a blogging conference, I’m kinda thinking you know how to do that already. I stand corrected.

I find it funny how new bloggers are looking for some type of instruction manual when all they have to do is write. So, in essence, my lab was reversed. The intent was to help bloggers who have been blogging so long they’ve forgotten how to write. Over time it seems blogging has been less about writing and more about brand horn-blowing. Instead, I ended up helping bloggers write and not lose that storytelling art (or themselves) as they begin to blog, to find inspiration beyond their four walls (and niche), and to use multiple platforms to make their content reach far and wide. So, still… mission accomplished, in my book. I had these great notes and everything for my original plan, but… oh well (<— create post from this)

Not gone… Not forgotten…
“ChatterBox Christie! I remember you from that project that you did about loving yourself,” Amber Wright said as she noticed my name tag. She remembered my Project Flawless from 2012. She went on to tell me how much it meant to her. I hugged her and I thanked her as I fought back tears. I whispered to myself. “I’m still here.”

Memoirs and Mirrors…
Everything happens for a reason. There was a reason why the original moderator for the memoir panel had to cancel. There was a reason why I was asked to take her place. Not because I’ve written and published a memoir (of sorts). That only justified my qualifications for being on the stage. I firmly believe that my steps were ordered. I was supposed to be there. I needed to hear what was said. Three beautiful women with vastly different experiences published their truths. No matter how hard, how sad, how afraid they were of how others would receive it… they told their stories out loud. They did it because they lived it and survived it. Writing it and publishing it set them free of it. Mine are still safely locked away in my laptop cowering in darkness as I pretend to be imprisoned by my job, my kids, and my finances. It’s time to set them (and myself) free.

(Read BlogHer’s recap of Crafting Your Memoir panel HERE)

In Search of a Word…
I’ve been texting my friends and family about what I’m doing in LA and told them about Kim Kardashian, Sheryl Crow, Aisha Tyler, Jurnee Smollet and the other celebs here and their reactions are all the same… “What are they doing at a blogging conference? I mean… do they even BLOG?” I realize it’s the word BLOG that’s tripping people up. More than ever, I see that it’s tripping me up, too. Outsiders can’t get past that word to see there is so much more to what this life is. It’s business. It’s branding, It’s journalism. It’s activism. It’s entertainment. It’s passion. It’s our voices. We need a better word! It’s why I cringe when someone asks me “What do you blog about?” That word… it’s like nails on a chalkboard now. How do we say what we are or what we do without using the word “blogger?” (<—write something about this later)

I do belong here…
I’ve transitioned from peer to mentor. I was… I am an expert among us. Not in the way that I was originally viewing the “experts among us.” A veteran. An OG in this game, yet still relevant. A different kind of influencer. Still putting my gift of gab to good use.

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