Lucky for me, and a couple hundred other Pacific Northwest bloggers, WordPress offered their first conference, Press Publish, in Portland on Saturday. As a new blogger who just started in January, the conference was perfect timing. I still have a lot to learn and the organizers offered a nice mix of motivational, writing and technical workshops during the day-long event.
The only drawback? It was only one day. I wanted to go deeper in almost every session. Fifteen to 30 minutes per session was not nearly enough to wrap my tech-challenged brain around the benefits of WP Premium, menus, widgets or CSS, although I did pick up some tidbits and it was a great launching point for further study. And, I was grateful to bring some of my site-specific questions to the table of Happiness Engineers who were on hand all day to help us bloggers. Yes, our own personal “Happiness Engineers!” What could be better than that?
How about the whole WordPress team? They rock. They’re energetic, knowledgeable, put out a fantastic product and are friendly, every last one of them that I encountered this weekend. They’ve earned me as a customer. I was surprised to read that the company is only 250 persons large and has no home office, other than their “own” homes. Count me even more impressed.
In no particular order, below is a mashup of some of the inspiration and tips I took away from this weekend. I attended close to a dozen sessions —and sadly missed a dozen more because I couldn’t be in two places at one time. Most of my tips involve writing and the benefits of blogging. I am a writer, after all, who is late to the blogging game.
1. Write (surprise!). Use your blog to practice writing, find your voice and exercise your writing muscle. Speaker and blogger Ananda Leake started her blog at the advice of her book editor, as a means for overcoming writer’s block. Freelance writer Mary Philpot started blogging in between projects and used it as a testing ground to find her own voice after spending years ghostwriting for others.
2. Don’t sacrifice writing quality for quantity, but don’t go so far that you sacrifice posting in search of perfection. It will never be perfect.
3. Use your blog to find, explore and exercise your passions. This was a universal theme among the speakers I heard. I was amazed and inspired by the opportunities blogging has opened for them.
• Philpott blogged about her love of books, fashion and humor. She now has a dream job as an editor of an online journal for Parnassuss Books, a fashion “photo caption” column in US Weekly, and a regular blogging gig on the New York Times blog, the Motherlode. And, a new book coming out in June, Penguins with People Problems.
•Leake blogged about her love for Obama, campaigned for him, and has been asked to the White House for blogging events. She was also invited to live-blog the State of the Union in January.
•Newspaper reporter Kathy Cano-Murillo started blogging about her passion for crafting and turned it into a full-time career. She now has product lines at Michael’s and Lowe’s, among others.
•Dad Jerry Mahoney parlayed his blog into a bestselling book on Amazon, Mommy Man: Adventures of a Gay SuperDad.
4. It’s easier than ever to break the traditional career mold. All of the above bloggers are proof of that. Plus, after nearly a decade in the military, Erick Prince-Heaggans turned his blog and love for international travel into a career as a travel writer and photographer.
5. Blogging can make a difference. Prince-Heaggans started a nonprofit, A Word Beyond, to train inner city kids in photography, provide mentorship and international travel opportunities.
6. Content matters, but so do visuals. Include quality pictures and images in your blog posts. Sounds obvious I know, but I get so caught up in content sometimes, that I scramble for photos at the last minute.
7. I learned the basics of CSS to spruce up my blog — Press Publish, Design 201: Introduction to CSS. And to take advantage of it, WordPress offered all conference ticketholders a year of WP Premium so we can customize our blogs. Thank you WordPress!
8. Spend extra time writing compelling headlines. Some folks will share an article based on headline alone.
9. Great idea! Revive old articles into new blog content.
10. Bloggers are cool, creative and overwhelmingly kind people. One of the unexpected joys of blogging has been the pleasure of connecting with them online. It was a real treat to meet some in person this weekend.
11. It’s easier than ever to get published. Just press “publish!”