How I Was Dragged to My First BlogPaws Conference (and Fell in Love)
I can’t believe it’s just 40 more sleeps until the BlogPaws 2018 Conference! This will be my fourth conference in four years, and the BlogPaws Conference has become the highlight of my year. I generally don’t feel comfortable in large groups and try to avoid them but the BlogPaws Conference is different. So why am I excited about hanging out with several hundred people and why am I counting down the days?
Seeing old friends and meeting a few new ones? Yeah, that’s pretty cool.
Meeting pet brands and discovering a new product that Edison must have? Yup, love that too.
Hanging out with lots and lots of dogs, seeing cats dressed up in evening gowns and top hats, taking photos with therapy rats and petting a stroller full of ferrets? Oh yeah!
But my absolute favorite thing about the conference are the educational sessions and workshops. With sessions on a variety of topics- from SEO to photography to affiliate marketing and beyond- there are sessions for literally everyone. These sessions are led by experts in their field and I always leave with actionable tips that will help me blow past my goals and catch me some stars!
So how did I end up at my first BlogPaws Conference? Well, there’s a funny story behind that…
Photo Credit: Abby Chesnut of Healing Whiskers
How I Was Dragged to My First BlogPaws Conference (and Fell in Love)
Flashback. Nashville. June, 2015.
I arrived in Nashville- kicking and screaming.
I was dragging two suitcases and a leather satchel through the airport terminal, muttering to anyone who would listen, “Why am I here?”
I’d flown to Nashville to attend my very first BlogPaws Conference, an annual gathering of pet-loving bloggers and social media influencers, but I didn’t know why.
At best, I was a beginner blogger who sporadically shared stories and photos as a hobby. I had no goals or strategies and I had no intention of turning my blog into a business. It was just something I did to entertain myself at night- so why did I have to be here?
All I knew was that my mentor, friend and long-time BlogPaws Community member and conference attendee, Christina Lee of Deaf Dogs Rock, insisted that I attend.
I resisted her for weeks.”I’m not a real blogger”, I’d say, but she insisted that I was a good writer and needed to blog more, that I belonged at the conference and that I would make new friends and learn so much.
Every few days, there was a new text message or another phone call, “You have to go”, she’d implore. She was relentless- she insisted and she persisted until, finally, she wore me down.
Though I had my doubts, I bought a ticket, cashed in some of my husband’s frequent flyer miles and used a bunch of his Starwood points to book my hotel room.
After checking into the hotel and settling into my room, I called Christina, who had arrived a day earlier. “I’m here”, I grunted.
“I’m sick and can’t leave my room”, she grunted back- and my heart sunk.
Now I was on my own- alone among several hundred strangers, real bloggers with real blogs, and the only person that I knew was sick and tethered to her room.
That first night, there was an opening reception so Christina suggested I borrow her deaf dog, Nitro, as my date. And that’s when things began to turn around for me.
A deaf dog just makes everything better! How bad could it be with Nitro by my side?
Masking my fear, I held my head high and then Nitro and I, both dressed in something flashy, marched into the room like we owned it. We walked the perimeter and sized up the situation. Classic wallflower behavior.
We smiled and slowly began to work the room. We mingled and struck up conversations with people who, to my surprise, were sincerely interested in getting to know me and my blog. Everyone was so friendly, so nice and welcoming. By the end of the evening, I felt the first pangs of excitement.
Back in my room, sipping coffee and eating some crow, I found myself thinking, “Maybe Christina is right. Maybe I do belong here!”
Since then, I haven’t missed a conference. Okay, I DO work for BlogPaws but, even if I didn’t, the BlogPaws Conference would be on my annual “must-do” list. That, and Paris in autumn.
A Few of My Favorite Things (About the BlogPaws Conference)
I’ve been to many conferences in my life but the BlogPaws Conference is, hands down, the best of the best! Here are 4 things that make the BlogPaws Conference so special and unique to me
- Pet Welcoming: The BlogPaws Conference isn’t just pet friendly, it’s pet welcoming! The human-animal bond extends beyond just cats and dogs, so all types of pets are welcome. BlogPaws doesn’t discriminate based on breed or species and won’t even hold their conference in a state, county or city that does. So, ferrets, pit bulls, pot-bellied pigs- yup, you’ll see them at the Conference!
- Community: The BlogPaws Conference feels like a huge family celebration! Everyone smiles, everyone says hi and everyone hugs. At most conferences I’ve attended, the attendees barely speak to one another, let alone build relationships, but that’s not the BlogPaws way. BlogPaws is a community first and foremost, and the annual conference is a time for that community to come together, reconnect, meet new friends, network with brands and, yes, learn a lot of valuable information during educational sessions.
- Newbies: Speaking of community, one way that BlogPaws helps new attendees feel welcome and just as important as everyone else are the Newbie tables at meal times. The BlogPaws Newbie Ambassador joins the Newbies and helps ease any fears or anxiety, make introductions, provide information and answer any questions. Members of the BlogPaws Team even stop by to say hi and welcome the first-timers to the tribe!
- Education: The educational sessions at the BlogPaws Conference are a great way to learn lots of important information and discover tips from experts in their field. The sessions and workshops cover a wide range of topics- it doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced influencer, there is a something for you! You can even plan your session schedule using Sched.org and then stay on track during the day right from your mobile phone!
Looking back and thinking about what I’ve learned at the BlogPaws Conferences and what the conference and the BlogPaws Community has helped me achieve, I’m so glad that Christina pushed and prodded me to Nashville.
Within a few months I was writing for Victoria Stilwell and other publications, I was working directly with two brands as Brand Ambassadors, I was applying for and being to chosen to participate in BlogPaws sponsored campaigns and I made my first television appearance promoting Deaf Dog Awareness Week. I also began to do contract work for BlogPaws- I’m still not sure how that happened, but that soon led to a full-time job as the BlogPaws Campaign Manager,
I’ve accomplished things I never would have without the BlogPaws Conference and I’ve been given professional opportunities because of the BlogPaws Community.
Once I got to Nashville, I drank the Kool-Aid and my life changed forever. But don’t tell Christina- she loves to say, “I told you so!”
The BlogPaws 2018 Conference will be held in Kansas City from April 18-20, 2018.
Come join me and we’ll share a beer!
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