Community-building in the blogging world is largely virtual, naturally. We build connections across the lines of data moving about the web, and leave the face-to-face for the dog park. At least that’s the clichéd version. In truth, the intersections of blogging and social media have opened up a myriad of methods for meeting, from tweetups like EastVanLove to conferences like Northern Voice.
Earlier this month, #nv13 took over the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and Museum of Vancouver for two days of presentations and in person connections. I attended with my friend Tricia and was pleased to find that Vivienne McMaster was there to lead a photo walk, but that was the extent of my real world connections. I knew from past experience, though, that the crowd at Northern Voice would be largely unpretentious, accepting, and friendly.
What separates Northern Voice from a lot of blogging and social media conferences is its grassroots nature. It’s an environment where the organizers and presenters are volunteering their time and there’s a horizontal structure that doesn’t divide presenters from attendees – everyone’s there to learn and connect.
The opening speakers, Mark Blevis and Bob Goyetche, set the stage by talking about how their conference, Podcasters Across Borders evolved from its initial focus on knowledge to become a gathering that engendered creativity. What followed at Northern Voice was a hybrid of the two, with presentations on improving comments, working with brands, and getting your links clicked, alongside others that focused on storytelling, ulterior design, and manufactured authenticity.
I have to say, I felt like a little bit of an outlier with my notebook, pen, and iPhone 3G (Yes, I’m hanging onto it until it completely dies! Electronic pollution – it’s a thing. Carry on.). But iPad with keyboard envy aside (I’m looking at you, Tricia), I managed to take a lot of notes, and tweet a little bit, too. I got a lot of practical information from some great knowledge-oriented presenters, but it was really the creativity-driven presentations that I’ve been chewing on since.
Here are some of the weekend’s highlights for me:
Brian Thompson‘s observations that you can’t force inspiration, but you can make an appointment with creativity and that it’s up to us to earn the privilege of our audience’s attention.
John Biehler‘s path from quietly blogging about his hobbies, to having incredible adventures, all because he was approachable and open to experiences.
Dave Olson’s untold stories and his observation that your audience breathes life into your writing, even if it’s three people.
Chatting with photographers in the Cosmic Courtyard during Friday night’s party, surrounded by space age memorabilia.
Anthony Marco’s take on authenticity, which you can listen to here.
I’ll leave you with a few links to others’ post-conference…posts:
Brad Ovenell-Carter’s sketch notes from the conference.
Photos from Tricia McDonald Ward.
Vivienne McMaster’s post.
Russel Lolacher‘s post-conference thoughts on meaningful networking.
Stephen Rees’ Storify of the conference.
There’s many more posts, Flickr sets, and commentaries, of course. You can find a lot of them by searching with the #nv13 hashtag on Twitter.
As for me, I’m contemplating going to a bigger conference this fall to meet up with my French Fridays compatriots, but I’ll definitely be back to Northern Voice again, perhaps for next year’s 10th anniversary edition. Its focus suits me perfectly.