Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Lens Into The First Ever MN Blogger Conference

Today I was fortunate enough to be a part of the first ever MN Blogger Conference. A truly diverse group of individuals were in attendance.  See for yourself as they took this fun group photo us.  Not surprisingly, open spots filled up within a couple of hours. If this event didn't get the creative juices flowing ~ motivating you to step up your game & improve your blog writing, nothing will.
I had the opportunity to meet IRL so many people I've been conversing for on twitter for months. When will we have an opportunity such as this to have so many of us in the same room? Probably not till next year at this same event.

A special thank you goes out to the event planners/promoters: 
Katie ~  aka @kshoop on twitter
Suzi ~ aka @suzi_MN on twitter
Missy ~ aka @MarketingMamaMN on twitter
Arik ~ aka @arikhanson on twitter

Where to start.  The day began with a retrospective flavor thanks to a panel including some of Minnesota's blogging pioneers & moderated by one of my virtual mentors: David Erickson.
  • James Lileks who described blogging as "Unbridled narcissism",
  • Patrick Rhone, who confessed he has "more blogs than sense" and encourages us to coin ourselves "online writers and artists",
  • Teresa Boardman, who essentially created a new business model for realtors as a result of her blog,
  • and Nancy Lyons a "passionate geek and technology evangelist."
I absolutely loved the first break-out session I chose:  "Growing as Writers: Taking Your Blog Posts to the Next Level", lead by Kate Hopper - one of the few people I met today that does not tweet! I had a nice conversation with her before the final session of the day as well.  Kate teaches classes on Creative non-fiction & laid out four essential things that make up a successful blog post:
  1. Reflection: Looking back & processing in order to make sense of life's events.
  2. Apparent & Deeper Subject ~ What's on the surface vs. the real story.
  3. Attention to Craft ~ Language choice, using concrete details, sense of place.
  4. The Universal/Timelessness of meaning ~ the connections in the things we share & having some distance to reflect & a sense of digging or grappling to make sense of it all.
She stressed the importance of creating a story for your readers to latch on to.  What are a few of the most important tools to use to achieve that? Sensory details, Scene, Rituals & Photos.

Session #2 for me was a panel discussion on "Blogging for Business: Making Connections & Building Buzz" including  Kevin Hunt, Adam Singer, & Jamie Guse.  They work for & with a variety of sizes of organizations, so they brought a good mix of ideas to the table.

Some key tips: 
  • Build a roadmap & decide up front where you want to focus your attention.
  • Allocate resources across the organization.
  • The highest value is in discovering where your targets are already congregating.
  • If you are not "giving stuff away" or "offering discounts", you can still engage your audience by sharing your organization's stories & by encouraging your customers to tell the community about their own experiences.
  • Moderate comments, but don't eliminate all the negatives - Outline commenting guidelines for the community & then leverage your internal consumer relations tools to promptly & appropriately respond to issues & concerns.

During the lunch break  I had the honor of sitting down & doing a video interview with Dave Erickson.  I'm looking forward to sharing the link to it out here as soon as it's available. Check back often & watch for it!

After the afternoon keynote, Session 3 was "Analytics for Bloggers" with Aaron Landry.  I sat next to Jen of Growing with Graces and I bet from the notes she was furiously taking during this session that she just might post on this subject in the near future, so hop over & watch for it.  The key takeaways for me were to make better use of the Intelligence feature within Google Analytics as well as utilizing's URL shorteners in order to track additional post links that have been shared.

Ms. Erica Mauter did a laid back session #4 about "Generating Blog Content" & shared quite a few writing exercises to do in order to free up the creative lava when you get stuck, are new to blogging, or are feeling like you could use a new reason to continue blogging. She offered some great resources for daily inspiration, beyond simply getting "out of your pajamas"  like Twin Cities Daily Planet, &

I also participated earlier in the day (having photos taken for a new headshot) in the fundraising efforts @fortheloveofliz (liz logelin foundation) They were able to raise $550.00 in just a few hours.

The Closing Keynote "How my blog helped save my ass" was by Matt Logelin & I can't think of a better way to have ended the session. Matt's raw & vulnerable recount of the horrific experience of losing his wife, a day after the premature birth of his baby girl made us all laugh & cry at various intervals.  It was like coming full circle from the 1st session in that this was a story like none other & the scene was set for us as if we were living it ourselves.  It was heartwarming & heart-wrenching all at the same time.  Since I had only heard bits & pieces of his story from other bloggers in the past, I truly appreciated hearing it in Matt's own words. If you'd like to hear Matt recount his very personal story, just follow this link to the Up Take.

If you were unable to attend today's event hopefully this will give you a taste of why this was such a successful conference.  We all came away feeling energized & satisfied, like a seven course meal.  Here's to doing it all again same time next year.

UPDATE:  Jen's post Google Analytics 101 is now up on the MN Blogger Conference website, so check it out!

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Jen said...

Excellent recap. I wish I had gone to at least one content-focused session like Kate's or Erica's.

The notes I was taking on analytics were for the conference site. It was supposed to post real time but we had a glitch so it should be up by tomorrow at

jlbraaten said...

Thanks for the great recap, Monika! I didn't get to go to the session on blogging for business, so I especially appreciate your notes from that one.

kate hopper said...


Thank you so much for your kind words (and for showing me how twitter works!)

It was so wonderful to meet you. I look forward to following your blog (and maybe following you on twitter if I can get it together!)

Erica M said...

Thanks for sitting in, Monika. I wish I'd said hello.

I enjoyed this event much more than I expected to. Really great vibe.