Blogging

It's Summer. I'm Lazy. by Leslie

Hi. I've got summer fever. All I want to do is read about Tom and Katie and then take a nap. 

We were invited to two awesome birthdays in the last week for some very sweet four year olds. That's Milo up above, covered in body paint at one of them.

Today the boys are playing so nicely and quietly.

I'm trying to remember why I blog. What is the reason? Who is my audience? I'm kind of burning out on the blog-as-a-job thing. (It doesn't pay very well and it takes so much time!) Or at least the blog-that-needs-new-content-every-other-day thing. I want to focus on a few longer term projects that need to happen behind the scenes, like writing a book or making art, and sometimes it feels like blogging takes time away from those things since it is always a top priority, it needs to be maintained and new posts need to go up two or three times a week. It's this constant distraction from my bigger, more long term goals.

If I had more alone time, like 8 solid hours 5 times a week, I know I could do most of what I want, but I don't have that kind of time with two little kiddos running around. I want to spend time with them and be lazy and enjoy summer too. 

I don't know what the answer is and this is a stream of consciousness post so I'm sure tomorrow I will be feeling better and making a list of possible post topics, but for now I have the greatest urge to shut down the blog and focus instead on just enjoying life. Or perhaps redesign the blog to better reflect my goals.

At any rate, it's summer, and I'm going to go relax. Hope you are enjoying it too.

The Five Stages of Attending a Conference by Leslie

Attending a conference is a big deal for me. Leaving my family, engaging with smart people and travelling on an airplane all add up to a perfect storm of mental states. They are: Excitement & Anticipation, Anxiety & Nervousness, Inspiration & Motivation, Exhaustion & Depression and Determination & Focus. I go through each one every time I go away and I tend to forget that they are coming. I am currently stuck in Exhaustion after an amazing weekend at the Mom 2.0 Summit in Key Biscayne, wondering if it was all a dream. It seems that I will need a little more sleep and processing to get to Determination, but for now, let's look a little closer at each one.

In this picture I am fully and completely in Stage Three. Inspiration is awesome.

Stage One: Excitement & Anticipation

This is the fantastic feeling you get when you decide to attend a conference and particularly after you have booked your travel and hotel. It is exhilarating and filled with all the positive anticipation of wonderful things to come. If you have never attended a conference, this stage is fairly short, as you don't know what to expect and you will quickly get to stage two, but if you have been to a conference before and you know what is to come, you can linger here for while. Use the energy of this stage to read everything on the conference web site, print out your schedule and read up on the speakers. The more homework you do before the conference actually starts, the better prepared you will be for all the people you will be meeting. I love to feel like I can hit the ground running once I get there and not have to spend too much time getting oriented.

Stage Two: Anxiety & Nervousness

This stage is wicked for anyone who has not been to a conference before, but it can be hard even for those who have been a few times. Plane travel can make people anxious, or leaving your family. Those attendees who are speaking or volunteering may be anxious about what it is they need to contribute. Whatever your experience, most everyone will feel this to some degree over some part of attending a conference. Your coping skills (and medications!) will determine how you fair here, but generally it dissipates once you get into the swing of the conference or deliver your talk. Keep in mind that it may manifest in different ways. Irrationally obsessing over what you will wear? You are anxious and should do a shot a tequila. Telling yourself no one is going to like you? You are anxious and need a pep talk from the person you love the most. Freaking out that you are too fat/shy/socially-inept? You are anxious and need a shot of tequila AND a pep talk from the person you love the most. Seriously though? You need to know that this is the single most welcoming and supportive community out there.

Stage Three: Inspiration & Motivation

This is THE MOST thrilling part of the process and if it is a good conference you will feel this from the first speaker all the way to the last. Mom 2.0 Summit had this in ABUNDANCE. Literally everyone I spoke to was feeling inspired by this conference. It should just be called the Inspiring Women Conference. The panels were filled with women who had excellent stories to tell about building businesses, or following their passions, or fighting against the flow to achieve success. Even if you only saw one panel and then went to the pool, you would have, at the very least, felt inspired to do more/better by the breath-taking location (Key Biscayne/Miami) and the attentive and gracious staff (the Ritz-Carlton rocks!) The inspiration and motivation stage usually lasts a few days after you return home, which is enough time to follow up with the amazing people you met and write down all your fabulous plans for how you will change the world. Important note: you really should get those things done BEFORE stage four hits, so don't delay! You can recover some of the inspiration in stage five, but it's much better to write it all down when you are in the midst of it.

Stage Four: Exhaustion & Depression

This is the inevitable crash that comes along with the high of a conference. You may find yourself wondering who these screaming children are and how you could have fallen asleep with your face on the hardwood floor. (That happened to me yesterday, for real.) This is a scary stage because you will find yourself wondering if it was all just a dream (it wasn't), if you really did talk to all those amazing women you have admired forever (you did), if somehow life was special for just those few days and now that you are back in your normal life nothing has changed (things have changed, trust me). You may feel like an imposter (you aren't), or guilty for indulging in yourself (don't give in to the guilt). You may be overwhelmed with so much good stuff that you will not be able to write about it. (This is ME! Hello!) DO NOT linger here. Do whatever you can to get out of this stage. Sleep. Take a break from the computer. Hug your kids. Get dirty in the garden. Write about the five stages of attending a conference! Accept that life cannot possibly be a conference all the time. Give yourself the time and space to recover from all that awesomeness. Remember that this will pass and soon you will be in a better place. Stage five!

Stage Five: Determination & Focus

This is where we are all striving to be, the end place for all these ups and downs. We work hard and risk ourselves to get to a place where we know EXACTLY what it is that we have to do. We have a plan, those people that we made connections with begin to return the energy, and the seeds that were planted when were at the conference in those moments of inspiration will start to grow and blossom. This stage may not arrive for a few weeks post-conference, but with luck, this is the stage in which we spend the most time. It is the place with the hardest work, but this is what we are all looking for when we go to these events. Nothing gets done without determination and focus, so you must BE SURE to get yourself to this stage. All that inspiration you felt? It pushes you to dream great things, but those women who are actually doing something about it, whatever *IT* is, have gotten to this fantastic place of determination and focus and are acting on their dreams. You can get here too and I'll tell you a little secret, the more people that are here, working together, the better *IT* is. So come with us to the land of determination and focus and put something good into the world! (BTW - It is when this stage begins to wear off, that we need to start the process all over again. I'll be at BlogHer in August and Camp Mighty in November, you?)

After I get myself out of exhaustion and depression (I think I need the weekend) I will be able to write about the entire experience in a much clearer way. I did cover two of the break out sessions during the conference. I was so thrilled to be a live blogger (you can see all the live blogging posts here) and I was proud of myself for being able to write about those specific sessions in the midst of everything going on. It was a different rhythm for me, compared to when I attended ALT Summit, but I LOVED it. Being a part of the team was awesome and I met many wonderful people because I was involved with everything going on. I really enjoyed community building and supporting the amazing women who put this conference on. I have a bunch of pictures too, although I am a little disappointed with how some of them turned out. My priority certainly wasn't taking pictures on this trip and it shows, but that's ok. I'm going to post the blurry picture that I took of Karen and Laura anyway, because they are amazing and beautiful (even when blurry) and I love them, dammit! (But ladies? Can I have a do over please?)

Stayed tuned for at least one more post about the conference from me, probably next week. If you have any tips for getting out of the post conference crash, I'd love to hear it!

ALT Talks: Collaborations by Leslie

Today I am featuring my illustration of the Collaborations session from ALT Summit, I also illustrated the Growing Your Readership session. I find these drawings to be such a great way for me to process all the information, really aborb it and understand it and also a great way to share it. You can click on the image above to link to a larger version that you can print out if you like!

Collaborations was hosted by:

Each of them covered an aspect of Collaborating:

1. GETTING STARTED - Danielle Krysa

  • Just ASK: Reach out to those people that you admire and just ask them for what you would like to do. If you outline how it is beneficial to both of you, very often they will say YES!
  • Create Guidelines and Rules: The less work that you make people do, and the less that you make them think, the easier it will be for people to say YES. Constraints can yield good material.
  • Keep Trying: There will be mistakes made, and you have to learn from them, revise and try again. When mistakes are made, not all is lost, much of the work can still be used, you might just need to apply it differently.
  • Bonus: "Drive It Like You Stole It"

2. FINDING THE RIGHT PEOPLE - Bri Emory

  • Similar Aesthetic: There is an easy back and forth when styles align and compliment each other. Complimentary styles can bring a fresh look to what you are doing.
  • Trade Skills: Designers and photographers work great together because they have skills that work well together. Find people who have skills that you don't, but make sure to establish the boundaries up front.
  • Have a Connection: It is more efficient and fun to work with people that you vibe with.
  • Bonus: "Don't be an internet DJ"

3. RULES OF ENGAGEMENT - Joslyn Taylor

  • Agree on Goals: Decide at the beginning what the plan is. What are the goals of the partnership? Is it fun? Is it business? How committed is everyone? Are you making money? Driving Traffic? Building communities? The answers to these questions will  inform all your decisions.
  • Always Meet as a Group: If there are more than 2 people, never pair off. Do not gossip. Keep it professional, even if you are friends. 
  • Weighted Voting: If one person feels strongly about an issue one way or another, they should have the right to veto or push through something. If it's that important to them, let them have it.
  • Sometimes you have to Walk Away: If it stops being healthy, if it veers to far from the original goals when you started or if you are no longer pulling your own weight, it's time to step away.

 4. TAKING IT OFFLINE - Victoria Smith

  • Face to Face: Your local area and blogging conferences can be the best places to meet people and build communities
  • Independent Print Magazines: There are many opportunities with small non-traditional media. Look for places with smaller budgets and freelancers. Uppercase, Rue, Kinfolk and Matchbook magazines.
  • Conversations can lead to other opportunities. Be open to talking with people, sharing what you are good at, and listening to what they need.
  • Bonus: "Enhance Creative Lives"

Hope that helps you with your plans for collaborating! It seems that collaborating is a great way to grow. It lightens the load, and makes our creative endeavors more fun and rewarding.

If you are looking for more ALT inspiration, be sure to check out the ALT channel for ongoing online classes that cover many of the topics presented at ALT Summit, including "Creative Collaborations" by Laura Mayes that offers more tips and tools for collaborating.

Check out my other Alt Summit posts:

ALT Talks: Growing Your Readership by Leslie

1000w.jpeg

Today I am featuring and illustrating the Growing Your Readership session from ALT Summit, in the same way that I did the talks from Camp Mighty. I found it to be such a great way for me to process all the information and also a great way to share it. You can click on the image above to link to a larger version that you can print out. (Edit: I also illustrated the Collaborations session!)

Growing Your Readership was hosted by:

They had three main points about how to grow your readership:

1. ORIGINAL CONTENT

  • Create a personal narrative from your own experiences. Examples included Jordan's move to Paris and Nicole's home renovation. Use these narratives to share tips and resources.
  • Use your expertise for DIYs and tutorials. Showing people how you do what you do is a great way to gain readers. It's the old give a man a fish/ teach a man to fish parable.
  • Do your own research and make something new. Don't just link to what other people have said or made, have a look at everything being done in a certain category or on a certain trend and do a comprehensive post that shows a complete picture and showcases your own insights.
  • Make custom layouts, curate and remix. Creating your own content is key, but if you are using other people's content, be sure to ask first, credit sources and then present it in a way that is new. Add graphics, pair things up, put your own personal stamp on it.  

2. CONSISTENT SCHEDULE

  • Have an editorial calendar. Plan ahead and try to post on the same days every week. If people know what to expect, they will look forward to your posts.
  • High quality posts are better than high frequency posts. Rather than post one item every day for a week in a series, consider posting all five at once on one day. Make it easy for your readers, don't space out content to have a post up every single day. Quality over quantity.
  • Find the right amount of content for your audience. Kelly found that when she was posting three times a day, less people were reading, it was too much. When she scaled back she found more people engaged.
  • Best times to post are 7am (EST), noon, 4pm and midnight. Know who your audience is and when they are more likely to be reading. Sometimes off times can benefit as well. Midnight is a good time for overseas audiences. Or you can just post it when it's done!

3. PROFESSIONAL LOOK

  • Invest $ in your blog. Spend money on design if you are not a designer, quality giveaways for things people want, hire assistants and pay contributors, and make sure you have childcare so you can dedicate time to your blog.
  • Masthead and URL should match. This means investing in a dedicated domain name and designing your header to be the same. Make sure you have a domain name secured before naming your blog.
  • Good design is a prerequisite. Good design used to set blogs apart, but now it is common place. You must have a good design that is easy to read and navigate to be successful.

Additional tips:

  • Put stuff out when you are excited about it and tweek it later. Execute the bare minimum of what you need to do to get it out into the world and then update it later.
  • Join Communities, build communities, comment on other blogs (but make sure they are quality comments, not just "cool post"), post on Facebook (have a page for your site) and contribute to other sites that have a similar aesthetic, style and audience with your writing or artwork.
  • Capture search traffic with unique seasonal and event based content. Check out what the trending topics are for the day. You can post about current events and holidays, but make sure it is not something that other people are doing. Make it special.
  • Learn how to do SEO and tags. Check out Google tutorials.

If you are interested in learning more about Alt Summit's Growing Your Readership session, check out Nicole's twitter recap on Storify.

You can also check out the Alt Summit channel for fantastic online classes that cover many of the topics that were discussed at the conference, including Growing Your Readership.

Check out my other Alt Summit posts: