After over 60 hours of flying to and from Las Vegas, I'm back home here in Adelaide. Although the flights were long - and the schedules hectic - I can definitely say the trip was well worth taking. I'd do it again, given the opportunity. Yes, even though I was a total physical wreck by the time I got on the plane ride home.
Anyway, it's difficult to quantify all the good things that come from attending a massive event like BWE. I guess that's why it has taken me a week to put this post together (that + the difficulty of getting over jet lag - heh). But, let me attempt to share some of the things that I've loved from BWE '08:
1} Meeting online friends and contacts face-to-face. We all know that the online relationships we make are just as real, good, and lasting as the ones we have in 'real life'. But, there's something to be said about seeing someone in the flesh - being able to laugh out loud together without using LOL, smile without the :-), and talk without Skype delays. It's wonderful to know people past the avatars and to offer a hug or two.
There are many people that I've cared about online - and now have fallen in love with after meeting them in person. It's so great to witness how amazing they are past my computer screen.
Some of the fabulous folks I've met at BWE include: Deb Ng, David Peralty, Patrick O'Keefe, Des Walsh, Lorelle VanFossen, Suzie Cheel, Tris Hussey, Rob Lloyd (bloggeries), Kim Dushinski, Jim Kukral, David Ning, Ianiv Schweber (husband of b5er Arieanna), Jim Turner, Reem Abeidoh, Muhammad Saleem, and Wendy Piersall, among a few others.
It was great to see Aaron Brazell again as well, and to be able to chat and to spend a bit more time together. I met Aaron briefly last year in New York City, but we didn't get the chance to speak much. This time, I've even managed to watch/hear him sing karaoke. And, even do a quick dance together. Heh.
2} Meeting fellow b5media folks. b5ers, to me, are like family. With over 200 people associated with b5 at any given time, it's true that I know some b5ers more than others. But, the mere fact that we're related in some way, I love each and everyone of 'em by default. And, it's always exciting to meet one in person. For me, the best part of this trip is being able to spend time with them and getting to know them better.
I can't even begin to describe how valuable it is to finally meet folks I work with from staff/team for the first time: Rachel Segal, Jeanne Dupuis, Arieanna Schweber, Darcie Vany, Franca Schulte, Gabrielle Green, Darren O'Donoghue, Mary Jo Manzanares, Joe Taiabjee, and our newest staff member, Ellen.
Also, what a blast to meet b5 bloggers: Jyle Dupuis, Maricar Macalincag, Jason Bean, Kevin Palmer, Miranda Marquit, Julie Bonner, Colleen Koplick and Jon Rochetti. And, it's so great to see Lara Kulpa and Liz Strauss again. (ALSO: new b5er, Bill Belew!)
And, yes, it was a momentous event for Jeremy Wright, Darren Rowse, and myself to be together in one place at long last. I've met Jeremy once in person last year when I visited b5 HQ in Toronto. And, I met Darren during that trip to NYC in 2007 - and again, when his family went for a trip here in my hometown early this year. I know Jeremy and Darren have met each other a few times before in various events. But, even though we were co-founders of the company, we were never in the same place together. Until this trip.
And, the fact that we managed to celebrate b5media's 3rd year anniversary together is just fabulous. Yes, b5 officially launched on the 19th of September 2005. I was running AboutWeblogs on my own at the time that b5 launched, so AW didn't officially become part of b5 until a month later. But, in any case, the company has evolved so much since its beginnings. We had great dreams from the start, and it's good to see some of those dreams becoming reality bit by bit.
3} The learning exchange. Other than the people aspect of Blog World Expo, I loved getting the chance to listen to other people's experiences and expertise in the industry too. Due to some work commitments and such during the Expo, I was unable to attend as many sessions as I would like. But, it was good to be able to sit in some. One of my favourite sessions was the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Business Blogs. The panel were from Facebook, Kodak, Dell, and Yahoo. I didn't expect the actual topic to include Corporate Communications in general, so it was a good surprise for me, as part of my duty as Community Strategist at b5 touches on corp comm. Plus, it's really great to hear how big corporations are using blogs and social media.
I was also given the opportunity to share through the b5media blogger summit. I conducted a short talk on "How to be a Focused and Healthy Blogger" with the lovely Jeanne Dupuis. I'll share my notes and such on this at a later blog post, for those interested.
4} The Parties. Oh, the parties. OK, admittedly, I didn't party all that much. The most partying I did was on the last night when I went out with a bunch of b5 folks and a few online buddies. The night involved a limo ride, a fun time at a karaoke place, and dancing at the Fine Irishmen (in New York, New York). It was a crazy night, but probably one of the more special nights for me. I also heard that parties held by a few other folks in the industry were rockin'. I definitely would've attended more, if I had the time/energy/opportunity. They're great for networking and such. But, my biggest goal for the event was to spend as much time as I can with people I work with at b5. Seeing as I don't get a lot of opportunities to do so. Hence, that's exactly what I did. And, I'm pleased with it.
5} Gaining new contacts. I guess, it's part of it all. But, there were definitely a few businesses and people that I got to know through BWE, which I may have never had the chance to do so had I not gone to the event.
6} The perks of being in Vegas. Well, I'm not big on drinking or gambling. But, I still enjoyed my second trip to Vegas not just because of the BWE and work stuff. I also enjoyed the perks of discovering cool places to eat in - and the shopping. Oh yes, the shopping. I did not know that outlet malls and such existed in Vegas. But, my! What a huge dent to my wallet/credit card. So. much. fun, though. That's why I ain't complaining. My hubby was a tad bit horrified at my excess baggage though. 😮 Heh.
7} It's not just about the A-Listers and such! I know some folks think that they'd feel completely out of place or whatever if they attend events such as BlogWorld. Some expressed concerns that it's just for 'the popular bloggers' or 'the really serious bloggers'. Well, it's really not. Yes, of course the 'popular folks' from the blogging world will always be around in such events. But, BWE is not just about the bloggerati. And, to me, that's a good thing. Apparently, the attendance at BWE incresed from 1,200 last year (its first year) to 2,000 this year. So, there are more and more folks getting attracted to the event. I think that's just wonderful.
8} Signs of a growing industry. When I first started blogging, the space was primarily filled with hobbyists and passionate enthusiasts. Of course, the spirit of that is still around. But, looking around BlogWorldExpo made me realise just how much the industry has grown over the last few years. Who would've known that weblogs would create such an impact? It's really exciting to be a part of it all. And, it makes me look forward to bigger and better things ahead.
Anyway, I know I probably can go on and on about the BWE Vegas trip. And, I most likely will share a couple of other things about BWE. But for now, this is it. Perhaps, I've managed to convince you enough that BWE is a good thing. 🙂