Best Blogging Conference of the Year - Activate EBA review
Have you ever attended an event that left you feeling brain filled and soul filled? A few weeks ago, I attended Activate – EBA Live, a conference for bloggers to grow their blogs into businesses. I loved every moment of it so much that I decided to come home and share my thoughts and impressions of the conference with you.
Some of you might be interested in starting blogs on your own. It’s a great hobby or side-hustle and even a full-time job for some people. Since From Pennies to Plenty focuses on smart money management, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share more about Activate and how it helps people like me turn blogging into a profitable business.
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What are Elite Blog Academy & Activate?
First things first, Elite Blog Academy (EBA) is an online course created by Ruth Soukup that teaches people how to turn their blogs into businesses. I enrolled in the course in 2017 and have slowly worked my way through it. Think of it as a semester or year-long college course. I’ll share more of my experience in EBA sometime in the future.
Activate is a live conference that takes EBA one step further. It’s several days of presentations and discussions around topics that are important to business-minded bloggers: connecting with your readers, improving your affiliate marketing, creating sales funnels, designing Facebook ads, and more.
In 2017, Ruth hosted the first Activate conference in Portland, OR. Let me tell you, I had an amazing time and learned so much last year that I bought my early bird ticket for this year’s conference the day it went on sale! Due to some other things going on in my life, I wasn’t sure I was going to attend this year as September came around. I’m thankful I did though because I gained so much knowledge and friendship from attending.
2018 Workshop & Main Event
What was presented at the workshop?
I attended both the workshop and the main event at both last year’s and this year’s Activate. The workshop is a 1.5-day event before the main event. One aspect of blogging is covered more in depth. This year’s focus was on taking your business to the next level. The presentations covered topics such as
How to think like an entrepreneur
Long-term goal setting and how to get there
Scaling your blog earnings
How to hire a team to support you
Creating product ladders
I’m happy that I attended the workshop because it had so many unexpected benefits. Each presentation ended with a Q&A so that we could have our individual questions answered. We discussed the topics at our tables, each with at least one leader (someone who’s more advanced at blogging). My table had two and I had a few others right next to me. I sat with Lena of WhatMommyDoes, Carly of MommyonPurpose, Caroline of CarolineVencil, and a few others all during that first morning. It’s such a great experience to hear what other top bloggers are doing with their blogs and getting feedback on mine.
What was presented at the main event?
The main event covered a wider range of topics. The presentations were packed full of information. I was exhausted each night due to the amount of information that was covered and figuring out how to apply it to FP2P. Some of the many topics included
Using your story and personal experiences to connect with your readers
How to be vulnerable and authentic for your audience
Simple steps to grow your traffic
SEO tactics to improve your traffic
How to generate income working with brands
Legal information to protect your blog and brand
Much of the information was tailored to the beginning/intermediate blogger. There was a lot of information that an advanced blogger could take away too though, including Facebook ad strategy and how to better market products to your audience.
Some of my favorite takeaways from the conference:
1) It’s okay to take risks and make mistakes. Everyone who runs a business has made mistakes, whether big or small or unknown or consequential.
2) “What’s obvious to you is magic to others.” You may be out there thinking that you don’t have anything new or special to offer with your blog or business. You’d be surprised at how many people would benefit from what is common knowledge to you. When I first thought about putting together a 5-day email course to selling on Poshmark, I thought it was a ridiculous idea. Who would be interested in an email course to teach them how to sell on an app? I brushed off the idea for a few months until I finally decided to put it together one day. It’s been a hit since then.
3) “Start simple, get fancy later.” Many times I get caught up in wanting to do things right, so much that I delay putting the item out there. This reminded me to go ahead and do the best I can, even if it’s simple, and then improve it as time goes on. No one is expecting perfection from you from the moment you publish your first blog post. Blogging is a journey and you’ll get better with time, but you have to start somewhere.
There was an awesome moment when Ruth encouraged people who hadn’t activated their blogs yet to launch them right there on the spot in exchange for an Activate t-shirt. One woman had been planning her blog for at least two years without publishing it. I heard several people say they didn’t feel ready or didn’t have enough posts. But with her encouragement, lots of people went for it and hit publish! You don’t have to have the perfect blog to start. Just get started and improve things as you go.
4) Make a roadmap for your business. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks required to run a business. With blogging, it might be writing posts, making new pins for Pinterest, and answering emails. You can end up feeling like you’re a hamster on a wheel just trying to keep going rather than growing. That’s why it’s important to make long-term and short-term goals for yourself. Where do you see your business in 5-10 years? What are the steps that you have to take this month and this year to get there? Every action you take should move you forward towards your goals.
5) Connect with other bloggers. You’re often told that successful blogging requires you to connect with and serve your readers. That’s absolutely true! But another thing to do is get to know other bloggers. When I attended Activate in 2017, I didn’t know a single person before the conference. It was so comforting and exciting to return to see familiar faces this year. Boy does a year make a difference!
By attending Activate, I feel that I’m part of a community of like-minded bloggers. I got to spend time with fellow bloggers who are just as excited about blogging as I am. We spent hours upon hours getting to know each other, sharing our stories on and off our blogs, and getting feedback and inspiration for what to do next. Everyone I met was supportive and open to meeting me, which is a relief for someone who’s on the shy side. I knew that everyone there was looking to meet other bloggers, so everyone hearts and minds were open and receptive, which was wonderful.
Related post: 5 Essential Tips for the New Blogger
Since FP2P is a blog about saving money and making money, you might be here wondering about the financial logistics of attending a blogging conference like Activate. It only makes sense to do a cost-benefit analysis before deciding to attend this conference or any other event.
I purchased the early bird ticket for this year’s main event and pre-event workshop. That was about $800. There was a lower tier option for just the main event. There was also a higher tier option for VIP status, which came with several benefits such as priority seating at presentations and a cocktail hour with Ruth and other VIPs. I chose the middle tier option because I got a lot of value out of last year’s workshop and main event.
The conference took place at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista. It was just a short walk away from Disney Springs, an outdoor shopping and dining area. Given that were in the Walt Disney World Resort, there wasn’t a wide range of option for dining and accommodation. I did a few things to make the trip more economical:
Roomed with two other bloggers to split the cost of the hotel room.
One of my roommates is a Hilton Honors member, which got us perks such as free breakfast each morning and late checkout on our last day.
Shared transportation to and from the airport with other attendees
Bought my airfare early after doing some price comparison
Opted for quick lunches at a nearby sandwich shop rather than a full-service sit-down restaurant. I love sandwiches so this would’ve been my first choice anyway.
As much as I love attending conferences for inspiration, education, and networking, attending a conference across the country is no small investment. I weigh the costs and benefits of a conference before I decide to go. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been to conferences or events that weren’t worth their time or money.
So what did I think about Activate?
Attending Activate was absolutely worth it! I got so much out of it in terms of blogging knowledge and connecting with other bloggers. I felt like I was on a girls getaway where everyone just understood and supported me. How often do you get that in life?
I left with a list of 15 things to do next on FP2P. Yes, fifteen! And if I do them, I know my blog will grow. It’s a lot of work to do on my part, but I’m excited to take those next steps.
I was ready to buy my ticket for next year’s Activate. Then someone told me that this will be the last Activate ever. I was so sad to hear that this that I actually had to give myself a talk to pull myself out of my disappointment. But of course, Ruth has other things up her sleeve. She’ll be doing a 10-city book tour next year. A few of us bloggers are hoping to meet up at one of the stops and keep our connection going.
If you’re a blogger looking to ramp up your blog into a business, you have alternatives:
1) Join Elite Blog Academy when it’s available. It’s open once a year around late February/early March. I plan to write more about it in the future.
2) Join quality Facebook and mastermind groups. You may have to pay for these but they’re worth it if you use them. I’ve been a member of some free blogging groups online. They were easy to join, but there was a lot of information on them that wasn’t constructive. Paid or selective FB groups and masterminds are usually better at filtering that out and giving you the information you need.
I returned from Activate with my head full of ideas and my notebook full of notes. I got a new wind of inspiration to keep working. I can’t wait to see where the next year takes me.
Did you attend Activate this year? Tell me more about your experience. What was your biggest takeaway?