Gardening Magazine

Garden Bloggers Conference 2013

By John Markowski @jmarkowski0

It has been over a week since I last posted (heresy, I know) but there was a good reason for the lack of activity. I just returned from the Garden Bloggers Conference in Atlanta, GA and I am still riding the high from the event. It can be difficult to describe the energy and excitement of a conference to others who were not in attendance (no, I ain't going all Tony Robbins on you) but I am going to do my best to share what I took away from the conference from a personal level and how this blog may benefit as a result (suspense officially created).
The speakers at the GBC were all engaging and informative in their own ways and I wanted to highlight a few and share the links to their blogs/websites with you in case you weren't already following them. The common theme delivered from all of them was keep doing what you love and keep your eyes open to opportunities that come your way, even if they don't smack you right in the face. You never know where it all will take you, but enjoy the hell out of the ride. That shit resonated with me ... big time.       
The conference was presented by Digital Sherpa (will talk about them a bit later) and their President, Adam Japko kicked off the event with the opening address. I immediately was engaged after learning that Adam was the creator of the wine blog - Wine Zag. He dove into how he built his blog into the powerhouse that it is today. Real specific and usable info right off the bat and I has hooked. And just for a quick visual, the dude looks like a combo of latter day Ray Liotta and John Stamos.
Dan Hinkley, renowned plantsman and creator of the now shut down Heronswood Nursery gave an account of his life and the role gardening played in it. The photos of his collections from over the years and the way the latin plant names rolled off his tongue were music to my eyes and ears. Check out some of his current plantings on Martha Stewart's website.
Speaking of Martha Stewart, her heir apparent, Matt Mattus shared photography tips based on his own photos of plants from around the globe and how he uses photography as a true art form. You have to check out his blog here to really appreciate just how damn talented this guy is. Plus he was the creator of My Little Pony at Hasbro so at a minimum, he is a fascinating individual.             
Amy Stewart, who I'm sure most of you know from the Garden Rant blog gave a rousing speech performance that I could never give its proper due without providing actual footage. But I will tell you this, after seeing her speak, I will now dive headfirst into reading her book that is dedicated solely to earthworms. She is that friggin good.
I could go on about so many other individuals who spoke - Felicia Feaster from HGTV Gardens, Rochelle Greayer from the blog Studio G, Robin Horton from Urban Gardens and Teresa O'Connor from Seasonal Wisdom, all of whom shared their personal and professional journeys in such a compelling manner, but now let's talk about me. What did John get out of all this? Cause that is info you need to know.
First off, John learned a ton on better ways to manage this blog going forward. I would be more than thrilled to share this info with you all as we were given access to all of the presentations through the GBC website. Real solid and specific and unique and cutting edge stuff all wrapped up in a way that was easy to digest. It was not your cookie cutter SEO/social media stuff. I can't wait to give it a test run and see the results. While I'm not selling a product or service, I would love the opportunity to expand my "voice".     
The personal connections and yes, friends, that were gained in such a short period of time was fantastic. Personally, I've never met more kind, approachable and downright interesting people in my life. Being from "Jersey", I have a bit of that "don't trust people" mentality and that wall was shattered within minutes of meeting people the first night. Now I'm kibitzing with random strangers at the airport which totally destroys my Jersey street cred.
But selfishly, the most the most important thing I learned ... don't change a damn thing.
Yep, it was that simple ... and let me provide a little background.
The Digital Sherpa team provided a blog clinic throughout the duration of the conference. A chance to do a one on one analysis of your blog/website with members of their team. I know I can modernize the look and feel of this blog so I expected that feedback. I'll get to that one of these days.
What I was most interested to hear was their thoughts on "my voice", aka the content and "feel" for this blog. I couldn't imagine changing what I write about and how I go about doing it, but at the same time I was curious to get an outsiders view. I'm not looking to take the gardening world by storm (lord knows I lack the plant growing chops) but I do want to continue to grow and expand. 
So I expected a plan of action that included tightening up my focus and direction. Instead, it was music to my antlers when they suggested "keep being you". I know it sounds like a weak and poor analysis, but we chatted about it for a long time and they really reaffirmed that "I gotta be me". Shit, that's easy. If I know one thing, I know how to be me.  
So ... 
I'll continue to hone my photography skills:
Garden Bloggers Conference 2013
I'll continue to chase butterflies:
Garden Bloggers Conference 2013
I'll continue to rip on my kids:
Garden Bloggers Conference 2013
I'll continue to show you where I failed:
Garden Bloggers Conference 2013
And I'll continue to tell you when I've kicked some serious ass:
Garden Bloggers Conference 2013
I can even continue to wax poetic on my deer friends:
Garden Bloggers Conference 2013
But in all seriousness, we did discuss ways to "expand" that could include speaking engagements, e-books, book collaborations, videos and other means outside of writing blog posts. I felt a jolt of energy when speaking with the clinic "kids" who couldn't have been any older than 23. I like to get the perspective from the young since they have yet to become all jaded like me.
As I flew home last night, I had an idea that was sparked by the creativity osmosis at the conference. I want your honest feedback and if you would be willing to participate. Here goes:
A radio show/podcast where I interview you, the readers on a predetermined set of questions. You all know more about gardening than I will ever know so why not hear what you have to say? Of course I would mix in non gardening questions as well (gotta be me). I've used Blog Talk Radio in the past and it is very easy to set up. I'm thinking maybe one to two shows each month for a half hour each. Who is in? C'mon, lets do this!  
OK, back to the GBC ...
In summary, the Garden Bloggers Conference was worth every penny and I will make every one of them in the future. It was that inspiring, educational and just damn fun. At one point we were talking about long tail searches via Google and the next throwing that whole concept out the window in favor of simple storytelling. And it all worked.
Not to mention, where the hell else could I live tweet and see my dumb tweets on a giant projected screen in real time for all attendees to witness:      
Fine Gardening educating on pot growth, Grateful Dead as marketers. When will Cheech show up? #BestConfEver #gardenblogconf
— john markowski (@jmarkowski0) September 24, 2013

Message from @SeasonalWisdom similar to Vanilla Ice message. Stop, collaborate and listen. #gardenblogconf
— john markowski (@jmarkowski0) September 24, 2013

Good times were had by all.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog