Northern Voice 2013


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.



Social Media from the Roots – Northern Voice 2011

I’m good at figuring things out and learning things on my own, but I like taking classes and learning in a group environment. It not only exposes you to the knowledge of instructors and other students, but I also find my own thoughts and ideas quickening when I’m sharing them with others. So, when I started this blog, I knew at some point I’d want to do some learning away from my computer screen.

This weekend, I did just that. Northern Voice is a social media conference based in Vancouver and is in its seventh year. The conference is organized by volunteers and has a grassroots ethos to it. You won’t find corporate swag bags, but you will find media professionals, artists, amateurs and enthusiasts gathering to learn from each other. The participants are drawn mostly from around BC, as well as the Pacific Northwest in the US.

I knew that I was going to like this conference as soon as Day One’s keynote speaker began her presentation. April Smith of AHA Media spoke about using social media to democratize media and to provide coverage of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside as a member of the community. Beginning a conference with such a dynamic, grassroots perspective is so different from what professional/corporate events provide. It’s a much needed perspective.

Day Two’s keynote speaker was Chris Wilson of Google. His presentation was well-tailored to the audience, too, bringing a technological perspective to the idea that the social media and blogging worlds cater to the long tail of interests – there’s room for a lot of diversity in these spheres.

Highlights from Day One:

The Courting Controversy session:
Don’t be controversial for its own sake, because you’ll be called on to back up your claims.

Leah Gregg’s photos
Roland Tanglao’s exhortation to shoot daily
Jeremy Lim’s advice to shoot less so you can notice more

Communities that Rock:
There was more information in this session than a newish blogger like me could even get down on paper, but what stuck with me most was that you need to work at making your blog visually appealing, giving your readers opportunities to interact beyond comments and keeping your blog posts fresh by varying form and content.

Highlights from Day Two:

Grassroots Campaigns
It was fascinating to hear the evolution of the presenters’ various social media and offline campaigns.
– Keeping your message simple, then translating the interest and support into offline actions is key
– Complexity can come later
– Simplicity doesn’t have to cancel out diversity

Looking Through the Lens
Alan Levine led us through a presentation of gorgeous photos and discussed the impact of aperture, shutter speed and ISO on photo quality. He also encouraged us to shoot daily, through communities like The Daily Shoot, which provide feedback as well as incentive.

The DS106 Radio crew took a university course and turned it into a Wild West of internet radio experimentation. Great storytelling.

Awesome-izing Your Podcast
v, an experienced broadcaster, gave us a wealth of information on best podcasting practices. What it boiled down to, though, was creating a sense of intimacy in your recordings.

I encourage you to click through to the Northern Voice conference schedule link at the top of the post – there were many more sessions and the schedule has lots of links to the fantastic presenters’ sites.

And lest you think it was all session and no play, I’ll leave you with a photo from the wine tasting room.