My first #Blogher Conference!
My first post on my new personal blog…completely inspired after attending Blogher13!
WOW!!! That word sums up a whirlwind weekend conference! A couple of months ago the Illinois Farm Families group asked myself and Emily Webel if we would like to attend Blogher13 in Chicago. I didn’t know what to expect, but thought it could be a good experience, so why not? And then I kinda forgot about it. Not that I wasn’t concerned, but this was all before we had a late crazy spring planting and my trip to Europe. The week before Blogher I was even debating if it would be a good use of my time. It was!
The few days before I did some quick research on what would be going on and what I needed to bring. Luckily there were a few other ag bloggers attending and they were extremely helpful with tips and information. So Thursday I loaded up the car and drove a beautiful 4 hour drive to Chicago. Emily had taken the train and was awaiting my arrival so we could start our Blogher adventure as roommates. A little shopping and then we met some fantastic ag bloggers/great ag spokeswomen for a delicious Japanese lunch! The learning had just begun. These ladies are phenomenal and extremely open to sharing their knowledge and tips for speaking up for agriculture.
WIth our long lunch concluded, we headed to the opening of the Expo. The Expo opened my eyes to power bloggers have when it comes to advertising. Companies were more than willing to give out tons of “swag” in the hopes that we bloggers would write, tweet or Facebook about their products. Good old digital word of mouth!
Unlimited Folgers coffee, Funfetti donuts, and charging stations made the Folgers booth a huge hit with all of the “ag girls”! Along with being a great place to recharge, we were able to have good dialogue with Jake Calhoun, the Folgers rep, in between breakout sessions.
The opening keynote speaker on Friday Morning was a woman who I was familiar with, but had not followed very closely…I didn’t know what I was missing out on. Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, is woman who married a cattle rancher, moved to Oklahoma, and decided to write about her life. In doing so, she has become quite famous in some circles. She has written cookbooks, children’s books about her dog, and now has a cooking show on the Food Network. She spoke on her personal story of how writing about daily life grew into something more. I left that session wanting to find my voice, to write about what I love, and to not be afraid to embarrass myself.
The entire conference for me was about meeting new people and stepping out of my comfort zone. During the “Birds of a Feather” lunch, we met other bloggers that wrote about family, being a mom, food, and even some that wrote about sex. One of the sex bloggers had grown up on a farm and her dad had the last sugar beet farm in California…small world.
The evening program was called “Voices of the Year”. Women submit blogs year round to the Blogher network and twelve are chosen to be read at the conference. There were funny stories, sad stories, and some that went against every fiber of my moral being, Those were the stories that angered me, but helped me realize that if I want my voice heard, I have to speak up. You can’t sit back and complain about the people who are voicing their opinion, you have to step up and voice your own!
Of course, you need to have fun when you are in Chicago as well…dinner at Harvest was a blast! Nine fun women eating, drinking and laughing our butts off. Our waiter was obviously of hispanic decent, because his accent was pretty thick. Nancy asked the waiter where the duck on the menu was sourced from…which came out “Where is your duck from?”. With a regretful look on his face, he answered by shaking his hips a bit and saying, “Mexico”. Needless to say, we all nearly lost it and laughed hysterically about the mix-up between duck and male parts for the rest of the conference!
The final day started with breakfast and a keynote with Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. She has recently written a book entitled “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”. A point she made that struck me was that we shouldn’t call our daughters bossy. In the work force men are not called bossy, just good leaders. So my daughters are now labeled as having executive leadership qualities!
Emily and I stayed for the Lean In Circles breakout session. We broke off into groups of six, interviewed each other, introduced the person we interviewed, and answered questions about ourselves that seemed as if they would be easy, but that wasn’t always the case. I think everyone at our table was able to really look at themselves and realize that we aren’t the only ones with insecurities, obstacles, and blessings in our lives. It doesn’t matter where you are in life, you need people to Lean into to help you to succeed.
I had prior obligations that caused me to leave the conference in the mid afternoon, so I missed a few things in the evening. But I came away from this conference, that I wasn’t even sure I wanted to attend, with a “circle” of fantastic ag girls that will help keep me and each other accountable, involved and engaged!
So with my mind processing all the new information, I drove home to the people who make my life interesting and amazing! An amazing husband and two fun little ladies who keep me on my toes!