Back in the early days of my life as an online writer/journal-keeper/blogger (circa. 1998-2003), the very concept of an event such as the ShesConnected Conference – linking corporate brands to bloggers – didn’t even exist. Having clearly identified the need, ShesConnected founders and social media experts Donna Marie Antoniadis and Mark Grindeland created and launched the first ShesConnected Conference in 2010. I was lucky to have been chosen as one of 200 “digital women” (which is, as I jokingly described it to a Facebook friend last week, a nice way of saying “women who are on the Internet, a lot“) to attend this year’s event. All I had to do was find my way there and back, and arrange my own accommodation.
I say that I was “lucky” because I really have no idea what algorithms, etc. were applied in the selection of the attendees. I heard through the grapevine (okay, it was Twitter) that the brands themselves vetted the attendees’ applications. Given the wide array of brands who were represented at SCCTO this year, I couldn’t tell you if it was Molson Coors Canada who saw something in me (since I mention a love of beer on my About Me page), or Booty Camp Fitness (and lord knows I could use a booty-kicking; I’m in deep trouble in two weeks when DS13 and I go to Tommy Europe’s Ottawa Shred Bootcamp); or even Ford Canada, who might have wanted to take this General Motors fan-girl and turn her view of North American car manufacturers around.
Here’s what I do know: I was chosen (under my “professional” Twitter handle @kruising4keely). I accepted the invitation. I bought a plane ticket from Porter Airlines because I crunched the numbers and the train and the car were both too expensive both in time and dollars, and let’s face it, you be da fool who turns down a “Firm” Seat sale of $61 each way for a 55-minute flight between Ottawa and Toronto. (Maybe it was even as high as $69; I don’t have the receipt in front of me. But you get my point.) I stayed at the Sheraton Centre Toronto because it was the location of the conference. Why make things more difficult for yourself than they need to be, blogger?
I went with the following expectations:
- I would conquer a fear of air travel, since I had not been on a plane since I was an infant in diapers, oblivious to such things as “turbulence” and CATSA scanners (which, to be fair, aren’t scary, and they are now unfortunately necessary – just baffling in that my *hairbrush* caught the scanner’s attention on the trip down, and my swag bottle of Christine Cushing‘s organic olive oil forced them to ask me to check my second carry-on bag as luggage on the trip back);
- I would put IRL names and faces to Twitter handles, because I like to meet people;
- I would potentially click with a brand or two that could help me and Kruising for Keely raise our profile by sponsoring our fundraising efforts on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. (My DD – Keely – was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes nearly seven years ago at the age of 2. For anyone who may have wondered how in heck a relative n00b like me could have been chosen to attend ShesConnected over someone ostensibly more “connected,” let me also say there was no algorithm that could have predicted Keely would ever develop T1D, either. Just pure bad luck in her case, with an extra shot of damage done from a strep infection 9 months prior. When attempting to troubleshoot Life’s Bigger Dilemmas, including life with diabetes and conference attendance selection criteria, I defer to the late Mary Kay Ash: “Your attitude determines your altitude.” I believe that says it all.)
I think I did well on all counts. I am still reeling from the magnitude of it all. I have made some connections that should serve me and my charitable work well; I made face-to-face connections with like-minded Tweeps; and despite some lingering inner-ear reactivity from the plane (my own stupid fault for not stopping to buy a pack of gum before I left the hotel last Friday evening), I would choose Porter Airlines again for short domestic flights (though I think Porter could do a better job of identifying its exit doors for passengers arriving at Billy Bishop Airport; my brain’s internal GPS was thrown for a bit of a loop after getting off the plane on Thursday morning). The City of Toronto, for its part, needs to do a better job of de-stinking itself on the day before garbage pickup, the weather heavy with rain and humidity. The stench is the first thing that hits you when you get off the shuttle bus at the Fairmont Royal York. Not a good impression to leave of the city, especially for first-time visitors and tourists.
I have 10 pages of typed notes from the panel discussions to sort through, from which will come a future blog post; and you can go back to my Twitter profile and check out anything with the hashtag #SCCTO to see what I found worth re-tweeting, or my observations on the trip in general.
In the meantime, as we take what we learned at ShesConnected and begin to grow and develop our own personal brands, to borrow the words of The Most Interesting Man In The World: “Stay thirsty, my friends.”
Let’s not limit ourselves, or each other.