Do you want to reinvent yourself? Attend an inspirational conference for midlife bloggers. Not since Scarlett O’Hara transformed velvet drapes into an elegant gown to hide her poverty in the movie Gone With the Wind has there been such an effective way to announce, “I adapted, I survived, I am relevant!” And, there was no need for Rhett Butler.
Women came through snowstorms, insecurities, and other obstacles to register for the premier BAM Bloggers at Midlife Conference last week in Nashville, Tennessee. Reinvention became our rejuvenating booster shot that opened our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and our mouths to holler, “I’m still here!”
The BAM Conference was the creation of Sharon Greenthal and Anne Parris, founders of www.midlifeboulevard.com, and Teresa Kindred, owner of www.NanaHood.com, and Beth Rosen, owner 4 Keys Media. Midlife Boulevard is an online magazine for and about women over age 40. More than 300 writers contribute to the site, and the Facebook page has more than 1,100 followers.
More than 100 of us found our way through the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort. The first cocktail party was engaging as we recognized our best friends we’d never before met. We knew each other from our blogs and online photographs. We laughed as old friends as we noshed on comfort food and macaroni and cheese, generously supplied by the party’s sponsor Stouffer’s. For me, it paired nicely with a delicate Pinot Noir.
The next day, we enjoyed an informal chat with Elisa Camahort Page, the co-founder of BlogHer. She was interviewed by star blogger Danyelle Little and explained how she reinvented herself with every job and situation. Prior to co-founding BlogHer, Elisa ran a marketing consultancy, Worker Bees, which was among the first companies to integrate corporate marketing strategies into the social media environment. Page and the other two founders were named among the seven most powerful people in new media by Forbes Magazine. She encouraged us to keep going, make dreams concrete, and not to rely on others for personal validation.
“If your risk fails, try again,” was her challenge.
Tracy Beckerman, columnist, author and humorist, encouraged bloggers to find their unique voices. She advocated learning how to do videos and insert them into their blogs and websites. She also said to be conscious of how their websites appear in mobile applications and to develop products and services that match their themes. Beckerman recommended getting a federal trademark for each blog and know the legal rules for social media and Internet practices. She also said to add a hashtag on every blog and email.
In between speakers and workshops, the participants snacked on more delicious macaroni and cheese from Stouffer’s and tangy choices of cheese from Cabot Cheese. Other goodies included tools from Collective Bias and Vibrant Nation. A gleaming car from Nissan waited in the lobby, and many participants were tempted to get in to drive their way around the sprawling resort.
Other tidbits of advice from the speakers and workshops:
Lori Moreno, a social media expert, said to stop counting the number of likes on Facebook and focus on how many sales result from your blog. Build a community behind your brand, and highlight midlife issues, quotes, and products.
Jodi Okun, the twitter expert with more than 100,000 followers and ranked in the Top 30 Social Influencers in Personal Finance & Wealth, recommended that bloggers follow journalists to find story ideas. She also said to follow all the BAM participants and sponsors on Twitter. By the end of her presentation, the BAM Conference was trending on Twitter.
Wendy Walker Cushing introduced the wide world of Pinterest. Her account has more than 38,500 followers, and she advised bloggers not to make all their posts about themselves but to publish interesting articles about others and do seasonal boards on Pinterest.
Martie Duncan, the Food Network Star Finalist and Party Planner, reaffirmed the importance of reinvention. She noted that at any party, the people are more important than the food. She told the engaging story of how she volunteered to cook lunch in a fire station so she would have a dish to take to a televised competition. She won. She said to ignore the media judgments that say midlife women are too old, not sexy, and washed up. Find your purpose, she said, and go on your mission to shine.
Pamela Lutrell, author of the blog Over 50 Feeling 40, is the weekly fashion and style columnist for Midlife Boulevard. She encouraged bloggers to walk with strength, confidence, and joy with a charming personal style. She explained how she makes money and receives products and services through her blog.
Danyelle Little, author of the wildly popular and financially successful blog The CubicleChick, shared her newsworthy items relating to workplace issues and lifestyle. Her audience includes working parents, entrepreneurs, and readers of all ages. She coaches other bloggers how to make money from their blogs, embrace referrals, bring others with you, know your worth, and believe in the “old girl network.”
Kymberly Williams-Evans and Alexandra Willliams are witty twin sisters with a blog called funandfit.org: Active Aging for Boom Chicka Boomers. They showed us how to create an impressive media kit and included links for additional information. The links will be available on the Midlife Boulevard website. The sisters reminded the bloggers not to give away their talents, products, and services.
Rebecca Parsons, CEO of REP MEdia, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of Cre8tive Compass Magazine, explained her experiences on Blogtalk Radio, and encouraged bloggers to talk and write about how life impacts others, not just themselves. She represented Collective Bias, the company that provided a delicious lunch.
I joined the publishing panel with Susan Lee Maccarelli of Beyond Your Bloggers, Mary Dell Harrington, Lisa Heffernam, and Melissa T. Shultz. We encouraged bloggers to get published and to consider the traditional route as well as self-publishing opportunities. Macarelli is the blogging guru who offers valuable advice, links, and support for bloggers of all ages.
The conclusion panel included speakers Nordette Adams, a contributing editor at BlogHer, Sharon Greenthal, Dr. Margaret Rutherford, and Beth Rosen. The best news was the introduction of BAM 2016 in April. The bloggers ended the conference weary but energized and some had plans for another reinvention. And, then we left to return home and write more blogs.
I found some free time in the giant atrium to write two blogs. (Ignore empty wine glass.) One blog described the problem with finding fashionable and comfortable shoes, especially when navigating the mazes of the resort. The second blog celebrated my 400th post and was dedicated to my daughter who taught me how to blog in 2008. Both blogs were published on The Huffington Post.
The first time I reinvented myself was during elementary school. I was a tall, uncoordinated, goofball with glasses and frizzy hair, and I desperately wanted to be one of the cool kids, so I started telling jokes and writing funny stories. I remained a clumsy clown, but I had lots of friends.
After decades of reinventing myself, it’s nice to know there are other women who have followed the same sporadic path. As in an extended version of the hopscotch game, we’ve landed on one square with two solid feet, pranced and pivoted around a few single squares, and occasionally tumbled off the intended route. But, we always got back up and adjusted our crown, attitude, and/or destination. The BAM Conference 2015 was a booster shot for those of us who have more life to live. And more than one of us will fall on the grand staircase, raise our fist in salute to Miss Scarlett, and declare, “I will never go hungry again!”