Why I Love Jody — and the I_Blog Conference

***Update: Jody created my own coupon code (I’ve never had my own coupon code!) if you register for the I_Blog Conference! Get $20 off with the code FOP (friend of Paula)! Thanks, Jody!!***

If it weren’t for Jody Halsted, I wouldn’t still be blogging.

I know myself too well. Without the support, guidance, and education I’ve received from Jody over the past 2 1/2 years, I know I would’ve gotten too busy or too frustrated, too discouraged or too overwhelmed. My blog would’ve followed along the path of so many other things in my life: started with a bang and then fizzled out.

She’s my biggest cheerleader, and she’s also a good-enough friend to tell me when I’m not doing something I should be, or when I’m doing something I shouldn’t. She’s the Felix to my Oscar.

That’s why when she decided last year that she was just going to put together a little blogging conference, I knew it was going to be great. That’s just how she does everything. And I was even more impressed than I had prepared to be.

I_Blog Conference 2009, at the Historic Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa

Here’s the deal—she knows what she’s doing. She knows social media, and she knows people. She knows what people want to hear, and she knows what’s a waste of time. She knows how to put together a lineup that includes something for everyone—or everything for everyone, as most of last year’s attendees would agree.

Attendees of I_Blog 2009 get connected online and offline.

I_Blog 2010 is looking to be even better than last year. She has booked some national experts in social media who will not only help you where you’re at, whether you’re a beginner or growing a business, but they’ll also chat with you over cocktails or breakfast. They’re great people.

Deb Brown of debworks.com at I_Blog 2009

So you’ll definitely be getting your money’s worth by attending the sessions. But Jody also knows how to create a destination event for people, being the travel writer she is, and the Hotel Pattee does not disappoint. The themed rooms are gorgeous and eclectic. The bowling lanes in the basement of the hotel make for a fun happy hour, and the food is amazing.

We stayed in the Scandinavian Room at the Hotel Pattee. The decor was so beautiful! I didn't feel worthy!
This was the door to our BATHROOM. Incredible!
Jennic Law, owner of kangarooboo.com, tries out the lanes at the Hotel Pattee.
Relaxin' and socializin' at I_Blog 2009 (and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes play).

I highly recommend attending I_Blog Conference this November. Register now to make sure you get in. Part of the appeal is the intimate size of the conference!

Me and my friend and roomie Kara at I_Blog 2009.

If you’ve ever considered blogging or just want to learn more about social media, I’m telling you — you won’t want to miss this event.

Jody Halsted (right) with Jenny Dammann, social media queen at Creative Memories.
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7 Takeaways from the Type-A Mom Conference

Last Thursday I got up at 2:45 AM so I could catch a plane to Asheville, North Carolina, for the first-annual Type A Mom Conference. Now, I wouldn’t get up at that ungodly hour for just any conference, mind you, so I was just hoping Type A Mom would deliver on my high expectations. The verdict? It was all I expected and more. I got so much out of it on so many different levels, and although it would be impossible for me to adequately express the overall awesomeness of it all, I’ll do my best to sum up my experience in the form of 7 takeaways.

Takeaway #1: Bloggers—even bloggers who are also moms—can’t be forced into a predetermined mold. Women who start blogs start them for many different reasons . . . to keep a journal of their children’s growth, to keep relatives up-to-date on family happenings, to express themselves creatively, to vent frustrations and shout joys, to make money, to connect with others, to practice the art of writing, and the list could go on. And just because a woman starts a blog for one reason doesn’t mean she doesn’t develop new aspirations as the blog evolves. We are mommy bloggers, bloggers who are also moms, bloggers who aren’t moms and don’t plan to be, writers, journalists, essayists, social media consultants, photo bloggers, travel bloggers, family historians, editors, and product reviewers. This leads me into Takeaway #2 . . .

Takeaway #2: We live in the greatest country in the world. Okay, I have to admit that I already knew this, but being in North Carolina this weekend only reinforced that for me because we live in a country that allows us to be whatever kind of blogger we want to be. No one can tell us what to call ourselves or what we can or cannot do with our blog. Now, this doesn’t mean that our choices won’t have repercussions or limit our future options, but ultimately we get to make that choice. How cool is that?

Takeaway #3: Content is king queen. Of course, design, platform, and the like are all important in attracting readers and securing advertisers or sponsors (if you so choose), but at the end of the day, it’s all about the quality of content. And not just if you can use big words and explain the entire conflict in the Middle East in one paragraph or less. But it’s ultimately about your voice and your ability to consistently maintain that voice. It’s about making your readers feel like they know you just by reading your blog. Whether you’re talking about politics or your son’s potty training, do your readers feel like they really know you?

Takeaway #4: In this age of social media and connectivity, it’s becoming easier than ever to know which companies truly value their customers or their mission. And, along with that increasing revelation comes the responsibility to support those businesses. We had some awesome sponsors at Type-A Mom, and it was evident that they were passionate about enhancing our lives and the world we live in. In a struggling economy, it’s important to help build up those who are trying to make a difference. So when I have the choice between Little Debbie snack cakes and other brand, I will grab the Little Debbies without a second thought. I’ll be using the Cozi Family organizer and telling others if it works for me. I’ve already looked up Sprig Toys on Amazon.com and will continue to buy Creative Memories products for myself and as gifts. I’ll also be giving our local dressbarn a try because they cared enough to help support what we love doing (Not to mention that their clothes at the fashion show were SO CUTE!) I can’t wait to get my first pair of Earth footwear and see if the Boiron products I got for my kids really help alleviate aches and pains more naturally. Weight Watchers frozen novelty bars? Yeah, you bet your diet I’ll be including those on my grocery list. There were more great sponsors, and I’m grateful for and impressed with all of them for making women in social media a priority.

Takeaway #5: Just because we are all different, that doesn’t mean we can’t show one another respect. I think that’s one reason I love blogging—I have bloggy friends who are all very different, but we can look past our differences to see what connects us. And if we do disagree about something, it can (and should) be handled with respect and courtesy. There was a bit of uncomfortable “calling out” of certain people at the Town Hall meeting we had on Saturday. Yes, I was just about to crawl under the table at one point because I cannot stand watching confrontation. But the part that bothered me wasn’t that people were disagreeing. This is going to happen and is even good for all of us in determining where we stand on certain issues. However, what bothered me is that the disagreement wasn’t handled respectfully. I know, sometimes we get caught up in our emotions, but it’s important to still remember that people have feelings and the majority of the time, you’re not going to change someone’s mind by being rude. In fact, you’re just going to get them to dig their heels deeper in the sand.

Takeaway #6: There may be more than one way to pack a suitcase, but someone else’s way might yield you twice as much space. I have to credit my dear friend Jody for rooming with me for the second time at Type A Mom. I am the Oscar to her Felix. Take for example our shoes. Here were hers, all lined up neatly in a row.

And here were mine, thrown haphazardly in my suitcase.

This is definitely a microcosm of our personalities. She’s very linear and organized, and I’m, well, not. As I was trying to pack my suitcase Saturday night for my early-morning flight, I could see Jody out of the corner of my eye, fidgeting a bit, obviously trying to hold it in. Finally, as I shoved sloppily folded clothes one on top of the other, she could hold it in no longer: “Okay, take it all out. Let me help you,” she said in her firm-but-caring tone. “Everything?” I asked. “Everything,” she emphasized. So I did. And I watched in awe as she rolled sweaters and jeans, tucked trinkets into shoes, and created twice as much space as I had before. I could’ve been defensive, I could’ve seen her offer to help an attack on my lackadaisical personality. But I didn’t. I recognized her strength in this area, stuck my pride in my back pocket, and deferred to her. And Sunday morning when I wasn’t struggling to shove my pajamas and toiletries into a bulging suitcase and strong-arm an uncooperative zipper, I was so glad I had. As I told her that night: “This is why God wants us to be friends.”

Takeaway #7: Meaningful conversation is my drug of choice. Okay, let me clarify: It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the glasses of wine from the Biltmore Estates or the grapefruity goodness of the drinks I had at The Market Place on Wall Street in Asheville. Mmmm, very yummy. But the biggest high of the weekend was engaging in real, meaningful conversations with other women (and some men). When I was growing up, we used to call it “visiting.” (I’m pretty sure that’s what my mom and dad still call it.) We are so hyper-involved in so many different activities today that we rarely have the opportunity to slow down and just visit. It’s not only good for bloggers to do, but for all of us as social creatures. When was the last time you invited someone over just to talk? I strongly believe that we all need to make meaningful connections with others; it’s how we were designed, and without it we won’t feel complete. I got my fill of conversation this weekend, but it’s only made me eager for more.

I’d like to thank Dr. Heather Manley, N.D., for helping me get to the conference. I’m so excited to make some great connections for her with her series The Human Body Detectives. And on that note, I’d like to finally announce the winner of last week’s contest for a copy of The Lucky Escape, the first audibook and workbook in the series. (The second, The Battle with the Bugs, is coming out this month. I had the chance to preview it last night and I was SOOO impressed! Great timing, too, with all the viruses going around!)

The winner is (through random number generator) . . . LISA! Who said:

Hey Paula! I think my kids would love that in a couple years … I’ll keep an eye on what she’s doing, even if I don’t win :). But I hope I win.

Congratulations, Lisa! Email me your new address and I’ll get you the copy of The Lucky Escape!

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