Friday, April 5, 2013

A Look Back: Testimonials From Last Year's Conference.

Thanks to a few 2012 conference attendees, you can catch a glimpse of what to expect at Influence 2013. Enjoy their memories... We can't wait to make many more with you in September!
I didn't have a blog, didn't follow many blogs, or know anyone coming to Influence 2012.  I had connected with many women online before the conference, which really helped since I was new to this blogging world.  Ladies were easily welcoming and helpful. My biggest surprise was seeing my friend at the conference, after she paid my way to come. Someone had paid her way to come. I'm thankful for last year's Influence Conference. It brought me many new connections!

Last year’s conference was an amazing opportunity to connect in person with so many women who I have connected with online. I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to bond with these women on an even deeper level. This online community is just as important as real life community to me, because it is real life! This community has given me opportunities to learn from women who have walked through the same things and chances to get excited over shared visions. The Influence Conference is like coming home.
The Influence Conference came into my life by chance, but melted into  my heart by choice. I went alone, excited. Passionate. Ready to take on my blog with force.  Only, a few moments into the game and I melted. Paralyzed by what I wasn't. Confused by who I was. Afraid to speak because I couldn't grasp the words to define my identity. I spent the weekend wandering in sea of networking savvy, on mute. I met the loveliest women, learned the most brilliant ideas, and left depleted; knowing that finding my purpose and my passion for writing, for creating, for using my Influence would be a journey rather than a sprint. I embraced the tension. And I'm moving forward. Throw me into a sea of gray, because I need to learn to swim there, or I'll sink.  Year one taught me that authenticity is saying that I don't have a tagline or elevator speech on the ready. Prepare your heart to embrace the tension and GO. Be ready. Be still. Be you. Be loved.

I had never been to a Christian women's conference and honestly, I was a little scared and intimidated. I was still pretty new to blogging and my faith. I was nervous about not fitting in with all the "mommy bloggers" and uber Christians. But what happened was that God showed up. Women I had never met welcomed me into their lives over ridiculous amounts of coffee and on morning runs. He showed up and challenged me to examine my heart and mend some failing relationships back home. I was amazed by the sheer generosity and love of so many women online and in real life. To say that I was changed is an understatement.

It took all of five minutes into the first speaker's session for tears to start rolling down my face, and that's pretty much how the rest of the 2012 Influence Conference went for me. I showed up feeling dry and questioning if God could even use me anymore; I left refreshed and full of hope that just maybe God could do something with what He's put inside of me. My fellow attendees and I went from being "online friends" to friends who were crying on each other's shoulders, dreaming together, and spurring one another on towards Jesus.

I didn't know what to expect from Influence. I just knew I wanted to meet other women who loved and valued social media and blogging as much as I did. I knew I would learn about branding, monetizing, and using your platform to further the Kingdom. I did learn about those things. But what I brought home was a circle of friends who I connect with at least on a weekly basis. They know my goals for blogging, writing, and speaking, and we meet monthly to discuss all things blog and store-related in our Mastermind Group that was created on the Influence Network. But they also know what's heavy on my heart, what I need prayer for, and what truth I need to hear that day.
Looking back, I can't believe I ended up going to last year's conference.  I didn't know anyone else attending, and I agreed to room with women that I met briefly on Twitter only a few months before the conference.  I am normally a reserved and shy person, so this was completely out of my comfort zone.  I only blogged once in awhile for a hobby at the time, so I thought I had no business thinking I could fit in.  I am beyond grateful that I made the crazy and brave choice to attend. What surprised me most was how I felt a great sense of belonging with everyone, even though I didn't know a soul there.  We were a large group of women with so many different backgrounds, coming together with one similar passion - the passion for wanting to acknowledge, use, and live out the influence that we have - whether it was at home, at work, or online.  It was a refreshing and encouraging time with no competition or "team A" and "team B."

I had a unique experience at last year's Influence Conference because I brought my husband and 4 month old baby with me.  I was nervous that it would be really hard for me to make friends since I wasn't rooming with anyone, and it was a little harder for sure.  But it was also the best part.  I met girls from all over, some who I recognized, most that I did not, and we became friends.  We had a common thread and a common goal, and it was so lovely!  I was completely surprised by the love and acceptance I received entering a room where I knew not one soul. It warmed my soul then and again now.  That is what is so special about this online community... the real life friendships and prayers and encouragement I find there.

I was completely surprised with how much I fell in love with the ladies and enjoyed the conference last year. Not only were the hosts devoted to bringing us the best speakers on strategy, but they also brought amazing speakers on life and faith. I made lasting friendships, was able to sit and love on my sisters in Christ, as well as learn how to grow my online presence and use my influence. If anyone is questioning whether or not to attend this year's conference, I say GO! You really have no idea how life-changing it will be!


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