Since returning home from Problogger just over a week ago, I’ve been mulling over what this event means to me, and I’ve realised that it’s not the awesome presentations, the beautiful food, the special touches laid out by the tireless Problogger staff or the super fun party atmosphere… no, it’s way more subtle than that. What I’ve realised is that it’s the community that means the most to me. And I’m not talking about our collective power– apparently our reach is over 30 million… and that’s just those of us who attended the event. No, I’m talking about the ordinary connections made at this event… that just happen to have an extraordinary impact.
I don’t know everyone who attended the event… how could I? There were 550 bloggers in one room, and I often felt overwhelmed by the number of people, but the few amazing people I did connect with have made an impression.
Last year, there was one person in particular who not only made my Problogger experience, but who changed my life. Confession time: I had had a few too many drinks that night and spilled my guts about some personal stuff going on in my life. Merril could have dismissed me as a drunken, crazy person, but instead she put her arm around me and made me feel safe and cared for. It was a really difficult time for me. There was a lot going on in my life that was hard and confronting, and being able to finally open up about it was a turning point for me. After that, everything changed.
This year I connected with Merril again and we laughed, cried and hugged over the year that was, and all the changes that had taken place in my life as a result of her compassion that night. I am so so grateful. It’s something I will never forget.
Shift forward to 2014. This year I met Jules from the blog Zippy Zappy Life, an amazing mum of nine children (some of them hers, some of them foster kids and a couple with special needs). Jules is quite the introvert, so much so she almost didn’t come to Problogger this year despite having bought the ticket and booked the flights from Perth. Luckily for her, my friend Amanda Hoffman from My Office Books put a call out for any introverts to meet up for dinner on the Thursday night prior to the event. I’m not an introvert but I do find crowds intimidating, so I happily went along to support her.
Talking to Jules was like sharing with a sister. We both have kids on the Autism spectrum, both have our personal struggles and we were able to encourage each other a lot that night. I barely saw Jules the rest of the conference but right at the end, to my great delight, Darren Rowse invited her onto the stage to share a little of her story, and then bestowed her with some amazing gifts including a night away with her hubby, and a ticket to the Problogger WA event next year.
What other conference in the world would do that for a random conference attendee? It was overwhelmingly touching.
Another person I met for the first time in real life was Sam Leader from Flying Solo. Sam and I have been Facebook and email friends for a few years, and it was wonderful to finally meet face-to-face. I didn’t even know she was British until I met her in the flesh. Amazing what we don’t know about people online.
At the Friday night party I had a fun time connecting with some friends I had made the previous year and some new friends including, noteably, one of my heroes Danielle Crismani from Baked Relief and Adam Franklin from Bluewire Media. Adam is an incredibly accomplished entrepreneur (I’m embarrassed to say I only found this out after Problogger) who travels the world while running his marketing business. Something for me to aspire to. Hmmm, travel with kids in tow… I can make it work!
Above all, it’s the people I met and connected with at Problogger that lifted my spirits and inspired me to be more. The speakers were fantastic, but being able to relate to others who are also in the blogging trenches, and being able to encourage newbies to the blogging world was what made the event awesome for me.
Community is a powerful thing. If you can foster this in your business, you’ll have clients for life! Darren Rowse from Problogger certainly does. I’ll be back again next year.