BlogWorld Expo LA 2011 – Woah!

Okay, so I can’t even begin to describe how long it’s taken me to “come down” from my BWELA high. This was certainly not my first time at BWE, as I’ve been attending since 2008, back when I had just started blogging over at b5media and working for Darren Rowse. Back when it had been my first ever real conference I’d ever gone to. Considering I’d been blogging since before they called it that (circa 1996), it only made sense that if I could afford just one to attend, BlogWorld be it.

While not my first BWE event, it was the first time I was attending as one part of the “behind the scenes” team that put the event on. Yep, back in August, I started working as Community Manager for BlogWorld, and for the first time ever, I would be going to an event with specific duties and a schedule to follow!

Usually when I come home from BWE, I’m motivated and inspired, and this time is no different, but it’s only because of all the great new faces we saw this year. So many of our attendees in Los Angeles were doing so much, and had only been at this blogging thing for a short time, and that’s ridiculously inspiring. The passion I saw when I spoke with first time BWE attendees, the awe in their faces, wow… just wow.

You guys made me love my job even more, and I didn’t know that was possible.

But First, The BWELA 2011 Team…

I’ve known Deb Ng, our conference director, and Nikki Katz and Julie Hunter-Bonner since my days at b5. Allison Boyer started at b5 right around the time I was leaving, and I met J-Wo a few years ago at BWE. But the people I hadn’t worked with at all before, like Rick Calvert, Dave Cynkin, Patti Hosking, and the rest of the team – I knew they were passionate people, but I have to say that putting all of us in the same room? It’s a wonderful, glorious overload I’ll be honored to share for years to come, if I’m lucky.

A little background – Rick used to have a blog, and went looking for an event geared toward content creators (bloggers, podcasters, vloggers, authors, etc) and couldn’t find one, so he grabbed Dave and Patti and pulled it together back in 2007. I’ve never met people with more heart in my life. They’ve succeeded in finding others like them, and have built a team of the coolest people I know.

This Year…

It was the biggest, best BWE yet. No joke. It was the first year in Los Angeles, which was pretty cool. The event space was large – but with 307 speakers alone, the team had decided they needed that space. We covered much of two floors and three wings of the Los Angeles Convention Center, but it really wasn’t too terrible in terms of walking or getting from place to place.

Our speakers rocked the socks off everyone, both the staff and attendees alike. To quote Rick, because I can echo these sentiments exactly:

There were so many other fantastic speakers but a few come to mind that I was able to see this year, Gary Arndt, David Armano, Jason Falls, Amber Naslund, Peter Shankman delivered a block buster opening keynote, Jay Baer and Joe Pulizzi knocked their crowd dead and were wearing authentic kimonos (that’s going the extra mile), Amy Lupold Bair, BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone was amazing, Lisa Barone, Erin Kotecki Vest, Annissa Mayhew and Cecily Kellogg gave inspiring talks, Mikal Belicove did an brilliant job with his post “state of the blogosphere” interview with Shani Higgins, If you have never seen Mitch Canter speak do it the next opportunity you get. He is Brilliant. Kelby Carr and CC Chapman, Steve Garfield the godfather of Vlogging gave a great talk, Marty Coleman (The Napkin Dad) is a rising star, Mack Collier and so many others.

Seriously, all of these names were ones I heard from the mouths of attendees, with words like “inspiring” and “hilarious” and “brilliant” in close proximity. There were lots of wide-eyed reactions to our keynoters and high-profile speakers as well, and short of listing all 307 of our lineup,  I’m sad to not be able to give proper props to each and every one.

Our Attendees

I have to say that going into the event, I had some definitive tasks I was given. My main job, aside from continuing my tasks of updating the facebook and twitter accounts, was literally to hang out with attendees on the floor and at the parties, making sure everyone was having a good time, networking with each other, and especially for first-timers, ensuring no one was missing out on the greatness of BWE – the “family reunion” feeling I’d always get each year that kept me coming back. I want to thank Chris Brogan for recognizing my efforts in that respect, because it was super important to me to do my job well. He’s been around BWE a few times (hehe – understatement) and he knew exactly the feeling we want each and every one of our attendees to have.

During the first night, at the Networking Mixer, I had several people approach me, telling me how they didn’t know anyone there. One in particular had seen me having my first chat with a first-time attendee, and swore that he and I had known each other for years. She told me that she only started blogging and working social media for her company, and they sent her to BWE to “learn how to do it right”, but that she felt like everyone there had a crowd of their own friends. I asked her what her niche was, and brought her over to a few people I knew she could glean something from, namely Chris and Jacqueline Carly. You know, I’ve heard time and again that at other events (in other industries), and the high-profile people literally either lock themselves together in one section of the room, or worse, don’t even come at all. But not Chris or Jac. They opened up their table to make room for this “newbie” I brought over, and I watched all night – she never left. Always talking with someone new there, and it gave me the biggest warm fuzzies ever.

See, I’ve known these high-profile people for a long time. Really, many of them are people I call friends, like Darren Rowse, whom I worked for almost exclusively for nearly six years. What I truly love about BWE is that these guys are so open and friendly, so welcoming, so engaging, and so damn humble! Every time I turned around, there were people talking to me about how they couldn’t believe they got to spend time with them. I love that. It’s the same stuff I felt at my first BWE, and to be able to call them my friends, and watch them continue to give that experience freely to others is just awesome.

Big thanks to the few of you who agreed to be on tape with me, sharing your thoughts about BWELA 2011. I’ll have those videos smashed up and online soon.

My Takeaways

Since it was my first time working the event as part of the BWE team, and since I wasn’t doing the whole “family reunion” feel with my longtime pals, but instead working to spend time with people who were new to BWE, I have to say that it was almost like attending for the first time myself. I really loved seeing all the new ideas and hearing about people’s projects. I can totally see some of these first-timers coming back year after year, and within a very short period of time, turning into speakers and then high-profile people. I kid you not, some of these people are really on top of their games, and you’re going to see much more in line with fitness, health, cause, and military blogging and podcasting lines very soon.

What I learned was that people have moved beyond the notion of just making as much money online as possible, and there’s a shift – people want to change people’s lives, even if in a very small way. It’s not about YOU anymore – we’re beyond that, and it’s awesome. People want to share so they can help someone or some cause or something. Yes, it’s still very personal and many people do it for the personal expression value, but their goals are moving in the direction of wanting to help, and that. is. awesome.

Copyright 2011 Natasha Wescoat - Click for larger image

Before I end this tremendously long post, I have to give a shoutout to one of my favorite people, an amazing artist named Natasha Wescoat. She came to BlogWorld to do a livepainting session wherein the finished piece would be auctioned off to benefit the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. You missed the auction, but you can grab a print of the piece here. Natasha’s been using social media as an artist for years, and has been one of my biggest inspirations as a fellow artist. Watch for she and I to be collaborating on some really nifty stuff in the near future!

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