Sometimes I give myself a hard time for not being more of a business woman. It could have something to do with the fact that I never wear power suits and I don’t belong to a single club with the word “leadership” in it’s name. The truth is I don’t belong to a single club at all. Or maybe it’s because I can’t help but make jokes suited for a 14-year-old boy … in client meetings. And it could have to do with the fact that when I’m not dressing for the movie version of myself fighting some zombies in the post-apocalypse I’m wearing cut-offs and a hot pink bra.
So last Friday I decided to dress the part of business-Kathleen on casual Friday. It meant painting my nails the perfect shade of red (with just a hint of orange) and wearing a shirt with a collar. Even if said shirt is Jeremy’s. And I have to tell you – I got a lot of business-y things accomplished. Scripts approved, collaterals designed, happy hour with clients, and a little bit of big picture thinking. But I had a change of clothes and a pair of boots nearby – just in case.
Sweater Vest – Target
Jeremy’s Top – Blue 7
Jeans – 1921 (also from Blue 7)
Shoes – Aerosoles
Nails – Essie Lollipop
P.S. If you need a solid pair of jeans and live anywhere near Blue 7 go there. Now.
I went into Alt with very little networking strategy – so when I got there I was a little overwhelmed with the quick exchange of cards and the hustle that comes with making a good first impression.
What I did know is that I wanted to give my full attention to whoever I was talking to. I wanted to establish intimacy through warm smiles and solid eye contact. I wanted anyone and everyone who attended my round table session to feel included and welcome. Even so, I still felt a little scattered and spread thin.
I was happiest when I was exchanging stories and hearty laughs.
• Like making a stylish new friend on the cab ride from the airport to the hotel.
• Like when I talked to Elisabeth and Miya about being creative entrepreneurs with kids.
• And when Meg and I bonded over wine and embarrassing pasts.
• Or when Melissa and I spent all day in the lobby drinking coffee and eating french fries.
• Or when I would find Danielle in a sea of people and sneak off to dinner just the two of us.
• And when Brandi slipped homemade Nutella in my pocket between sessions.
• And by chance sitting in an open seat next to the very fantastic Bradford at lunch.
• Finally getting to hug Jason‘s neck immediately followed by poop jokes with Cole.
• Meeting the hilarious (and fabulous)Elizabeth Aubrey (and her mom – I love that she brought her mom) who reminded me not to take myself too seriously.
• Important conversations about self love with Marisa and EZ.
• Finally getting to meet my long time friend (and one of the first J&K commenters), Jennifer – she’s just the best.
• And Erin Loechner – who has the ability to make anyone feel special. She’s kind of my hero.
Oh gosh – now I’m getting in too deep. I could name drop forever because I met so many fantastic people. In fact, check out the whole list at Mimi + Meg (also a very talented friend who shines her light on anyone she’s talking to).
I came away from Alt with genuine friendships, new and old, and lots of beautiful business cards. So maybe I had a strategy after all.
There were about a dozen and a half banquet tables scattered throughout a very large, empty room. I found my seat at a table labeled “Your Blog As A Marketing Tool”. I sat down with my coffee and started doodling in my note pad. At :10 ‘til I was a little worried I might be like that kid sitting at the cafeteria table by myself.
I approached Alt Summit to facilitate a round table discussion on “Leveraging Your Blog As An Authentic Marketing Tool.” After last year’s conference I came away feeling a little funny about the fact that I don’t have sponsors or the metrics to justify ads. I felt like a failure of a blogger because I didn’t have deals with HGTV or HP. But since then I’ve made a living off my blog – and not because big corporations or indie designers are giving me money – but because my readers, you guys, support me both financially and emotionally. You support me when I’m feeling down and you lift me even higher when I’m feeling up. But you also hire me to develop a brand identity for you and to coach you into making the leap when it comes to your own creative career. (THANK YOU.)
So I made it my goal this year to make other bloggers who might not feel like a big deal to know that they can ask their readers (even if they only have 12 of them) to support them – that they can thrive without huge amounts of traffic, metrics, sponsors or banner ads on their site.
Photo by Just A Girl
So back to my round table. At about :05 ‘til my table started to fill up – so we started introducing ourselves to each other. And before I knew it we were squeezing more people in and at one point I looked up and had rows of people around my table. We chatted about mixing the personal with the professional and finding the balance. We talked about sharing your work in an authentic way. We talked about not using words like “lovelies” and “I adore” on your blog if you don’t use them in real life. And at the end of it I had met some long-time readers, made some new friends and got some really great compliments. A SLC architect told me I had really great energy and he had learned a lot. My friend Emily told me it was her favorite session of the whole conference. I felt like I had really made a meaningful difference, just by sharing my own experience and a few tips, for a few people.
I have a recap on my round table tips over at Braid – along with a fun video my sister put together for tips on how to pepper business into your personal blog. Read that and let’s continue the discussion on how to find the balance when mixing personal with professional.
Drinks & Self-Deprecation
I was at Altitude Summit last week with 400+ amazing bloggers. We all looked really super cute and had really smart things to say. The days were filled with panel talks where I quickly shifted from feeling inspired to feeling overwhelmed and back again. And in the evenings we would hang out in the lobby with drinks and self-deprecating humor.
Are You A … Blogger?
The Outdoor Retailers convention was going on at the same time as Alt Summit. So the lobby bar was also filled with adventurers – naturally beautiful women with no makeup & cute wool hats and guys with beards & boots. I admired them and their puffy vests. One evening a group of tipsy outdoor retailers came up to a group of us Alt Summit gals with our top-knots and stripes and said “Are you … bloggers?” – as if we were this rare species of over indulgent narcissists. So we reply “Yeah!” and they sarcastically ask “Do you blog about … fashion?“
I’m done with their rude sarcasm and pipe in with a friendly “Yes. But I’ve also blogged about hiking to Mount Everest.” (Somewhat of a “Let’s be friends – we have more in common than you think!” plead mixed with a little “Oh hell, no.”)
One of the cute Outdoor girls with blond braids and a wool hat rolls her eyes at me and says “Noted.” and walks off. She thought I was making fun of HER.
We Are Hardwired To Share
So at that point I got self-conscious about being a blogger. A concoction of neurosis with self-analysis and a little bit of ego threw me into a tailspin of “What’s the point?”
But here’s the deal – I love my blog. It’s this sacred place where I can shape who I want to be and share it with the world. Victoria said it best during her panel: “We are hardwired to want to share.” So on the plane ride home I got to thinking about what it is, exactly, that I want to share. I want my life to be an adventure – from opening a small business to trekking the foothills of Everest (and soon the Carpathian Mountains in Poland) – and everything in between.
The week leading up to vacation is always insane. There is so much work to pack in – along with actual packing to pack in – prior to a early (like get-to-the-airport-in-the-middle-of-the-night-early) departure. But I’m not quite going on vacation, per se. I’m in the Denver airport getting some work done while on a long layover to Alt Summit. And I feel like I’m in the eye of the storm. A peaceful sort of limbo between bookends of a full schedule. I ate a generic breakfast in a generic airport pub and bought Tina Fey’s Bossypants and a thin magazine about backpacking to thumb through while on the plane. I’m having a pretty good time being all alone in such a crowded place.
I wore this outfit to a couple of really great meetings yesterday. I feel like all that grey hardly did my colorful day justice.
Cardigan & Scarf – Urban Outfitters
Skirt – Shop Good
Leggings & Belt – Target
Boots – c/o Langston’s Western Wear