Soon about 150 of the nation’s most influential parenting and personal bloggers will meet in Sydney for the first annual Aussie Bloggers Conference. It’s true to say a majority of the attendees are women. They are multi-taskers. Many are balancing children, careers, housework, technology and regularly blogging. They are largely vivacious, strong-willed and intelligent. They are forging ahead in this expanding sector, creating networks throughout the world and filling a gap in a rapidly expanding, “information-fuelled” marketplace. They are fluent in readership numbers, pr speak, blog promotion and networking. Yet, the biggest question on everyone’s lips is what are you going to wear? Posts are furiously being written by women all over the country about their insecurities. Everything from wobbly thighs, chewed nails, frizzy hair and shyness all feature highly. There’s an underlying fear of meeting people for the first time in real life and not living up to expectations, of somehow tainting their “cyber-brand”. People are worried they will stand out for all the wrong reasons. Worried about being the fashion faux pas in the crowd. Worried about lifting the veil on their physical self.
If this was a group of men meeting for the inaugural Aussie Bloggers Conference they would not be discussing outfits. Maybe there would be a bit of bravado about beer and extracurricular social activities, but mostly discussions would centre on the agenda. There’d be discussions about ways to further legitimise the blogging sector. Talk of advertising revenue, key traffic targets, tips on how to transform blogs into successful money-making or opportunity-creating vehicles. There wouldn’t be anxiety over beer bellies or premature balding. They wouldn’t give a shit if someone liked what they were wearing, only if the person they were meeting was a good bloke. They would be going to the conference with a goal in mind; to improve their blog, strengthen networks, grow reader numbers and attract more advertising. Getting pissed, making friends and having a laugh would be a given, not the focus.
I don’t want to say that all men are only worried about the bottom-line and all women are only worried about the size of their bottoms. This is a generalisation, but it’s not too far off the mark. I also don’t want to say that worries about how you look or what you wear aren’t legitimate. I’m just as nervous as the other attendees. I am as nervous as hell people will scoff at my mangy fingernails and my inability to lose my baby weight. I have put ridiculous pressure on myself to lose 10 kilos, only to jump on the scales a couple of weeks out, to see I might need to increase my carry-on luggage limit to cover my weight gain. I am yet to go on a frenzied shopping trip to try and pick out an outfit for the night, but I soon will, anxiousness stamped all over my face as I rush from shop-to-shop. I know too well the crippling fear of walking into a room full of people, scared those you consider your friends may look you up-and-down and turn the other way. But, here’s the deal – if they did that to me, or anyone else, I would not want to get to know them. It would be hypocritical of us, who write so honestly about our failings, to judge others on their dresses or shoes. This is not to say I don’t have a “verging on unhealthy” love of handbags and sunglasses. I just hope we start to focus on why we are meeting in the first place.
So promise me this, fellow bloggers out there shaking in your ankle boots, that you will stop worrying about clothes. Take a few minutes to think about the conference agenda and what you want to get out of this experience. We need to get serious about what this conference is meant to achieve and what we can all do to make it better for next year. Those people who are blogging with a view to making money out of it, need to put some time and energy into outlining what targets they have for their blog. Those blogging for a creative outlet, a book deal, a psychological outlet, whatever the reason, need to work out what it is they want to get out of the weekend. There’s a group of hard working women who have put this conference together and I’m sure they’re already thinking about next year’s event and would welcome our input.
We can all play a role in strengthening blogging in the Australian marketplace. We can all play a role in putting safeguards in place to protect those fellow bloggers who are entering the corporate world. It’s time to get serious. Advertising rates reflective of audience numbers and targeted marketing objectives need to be set and standardised. For the writers out there, established and those trying to break into the arena, it’s time we set writing rates for outsourced blog posts. It’s time we pay writers for their craft in this burgeoning arena. It’s an industry in the making and we have a chance to set some frameworks in place for the future. By supporting, educating, inspiring and protecting bloggers we will help grow the blogging community. This is what this conference could help facilitate for future years. This is how we could ensure the event continues to be a success for years to come.
Amongst the excitement of silk and fishnets, it’s time to get serious. We want a conference which is both looks and substance. Now excuse me, I’m off to buy a dress. I have a conference to go to.