Northern Voice 2011 cartoon moose logo

Northern Voice 2011

Northern Voice 2011 cartoon moose logo Last Friday, I made it out to Northern Voice 2011, which is a two-day, personal blogging and social media conference. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the Saturday portion of the conference because I was at Gio Levy’s EP release party.

This was my first time going to Northern Voice and I wasn’t sure what to expect. As a writer, I’m always interested in learning more ways that I can improve on my blogging skills, both for myself and my clients. I’ll admit that my main reason for attending the conference was to meet other bloggers and local writers. And this turned out to be a good thing since I didn’t learn a whole lot of new things from the different seminars I attended.

First up was the keynote by April Smith of AHA Media. She is a citizen journalist who chronicles the people, events and news in the Downtown East Side. Her story was powerful, touching and honest. I was deeply moved by a documentary she showed where she talked about suddenly finding herself homeless and yet, her biggest concern was how this was going to affect her work and the people she was trying to help.

  • My key takeaway from April’s talk was that blogging should always be about what means most to you and the more honest you are, the more impact your story will have.

At Twitter & News: What is Next, Yuliya Talmazan from News1130 moderated a panel featuring Erin Loxam (News1130), Bob Mackin (freelancer), Theresa Lalonde (CBC) and Andrea Woo (Vancouver Sun).

  • Bob pointed out that Twitter and social media allow more people to become citizen journalists. While news stations pay big bucks to head to the heart of the action, the people in that country are often able to tell the same story quicker and better (case in point: the Japan Earthquake).
  • Towards the end of the panel, Theresa said Twitter is good for consumer research. Media can see what the people are talking about and frustrated with, which leads to better and more timely newss
Syx Langemann and Morten Rand-Hendriksen standing to the side as their presentation "Your Blog is Boring and Your Photos Suck" is being introduced at Norther Voice 2011 on May 13, 2011

Syx Langemann and Morten Rand-Hendriksen off to the side

Next, was Your Blog is Boring and Your Photos Suck with Photographer Syx Langemann and Web Designer Morten Rand-Hendriksen. This was easily my favorite session of the day and not just because the presenters both have cool names. I learned a lot of helpful SEO tips from Morten, who also threw out a couple of his favorite WordPress plug-ins. I’m definitely going to use Fancy Box for WordPress on mine.

Syx had a great energy, but since I’m not headed down the photojournalist road, I found his part of the presentation hard to follow with all the photospeak. I feel that this session would’ve been better if it had been split in two.

I went to How to Blog Funny next with Mike Vardy. I thought the biggest piece of advice from him was “if you don’t know enough about something, you sure as hell shouldn’t satirize it.”

I skipped the next round of sessions in favor of hanging out in the main atrium and meeting new people. Next time you’re at a conference, do yourself a favor: step out of one of the millions of sessions and spend one hour talking to people. I know you spend good money to learn all sorts of awesome things, but trust me when I say you can also learn a hell of a lot of things just by having a conversation with a few other session skippers. Besides, there’ll always be people like Rick Chung who’ll post an event recap with all the vital information you need.

Mikala Taylor presenting at Northern Voice 2011

Mikala Taylor

My last session of the day was Be Rocktacular: Stories from a Music Blogger and Indie Rock Nerd with the amazing Mikala Taylor. I really enjoyed this talk because Mikala was just so darn honest and entertaining about her experiences as a music writer. She told awesome stories about the different musicians she’s met over the years and the even more incredible tales of how she met them.

  • When explaining that writing a review is about capturing the lives of the musicians, Mikala said that “we have an opportunity as writers and bloggers to capture these experiences.” This was a great reminder that using words is a powerful way to paint the picture of your experience for someone else.
  • Easily the best quote of the conference: “It’s either gone tomorrow or there forever” (in reference to going out there and just asking for the opportunity)

While I think I could’ve learned most of these things just by doing some research on the Internet, I really did enjoy hearing the speaker’s experiences and meeting new people. Perhaps next year’s conference can be split by topic- one day dedicated to blogging and online writing and the next day more social media focused. I feel like I would’ve learned more and met more writers if this year’s conference had been more targeted in that way. Nonetheless, congratulations to the organizers of the 2011 conference- it was definitely a hit!

Were you at Northern Voice 2011? What did you learn, love or dislike? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Moose image via Northern Voice 2011


  1. This is a great recap, Karra! I think you’re on to something there when you suggested that organizers have one full day for blogging and one day for social media.

    Mikala’s session surprisingly resonated with me a lot. My musical taste is remarkably different from Mikala’s, but the little nuggets she offered were insightful. I also appreciated that she shared some personal stories to back up her points.

    I was in two of the sessions you’ve attended, so it’s quite a shame that I didn’t run into you. Hope to meet soon!

    • Karra (Author)

      Thanks KC! Wish we could’ve met too. I can see why you liked Mikala’s sessions- I’m digging your music blog :)

  2. Karra,

    Thanks for your words, including the ones said regarding my session.

  3. a great and useful review. Love the fact you included your key takeaways.

    I agree with your suggestion that the conference could have been more targeted, either by day, or by session tracks.

    • Karra (Author)

      I have a passionate relationship with bullet points.

      Targeted days seem to be what a lot of people like.. I’m going to fill out the post-event survey and let the NV team know

  4. Thanks Karra! Considering mine was the last sesh of the day on a sunny Friday, I am grateful you attended. Glad you enjoyed the stories. It’s always about stories, innit? 😉

    • Karra (Author)

      I think you can’t be a writer if you can’t tell a good story. Those quotes of yours I mentioned are definitely sticking with me!

  5. I agree that Syx has a pretty damn cool name, but personally I find mine to be quite mundane. Maybe that’s because where I come from everyone and their brother is called Morten ;o)

    Glad you liked our session. There are a lot of easy things you can do to make WordPress sites work better, and I hope I was able to convey some of that in the short time I had.


    • Karra (Author)

      Haha! I stand by what I say- you both have awesome names.

      I wish you had your own session. I feel there’s so much more I could’ve learned. Hopefully your blog has some juicy tips I can cop :)