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For the 250+ rabid pet bloggers who attended the first annual BlogPaws conference in Columbus, Ohio, the event was close to being a religious experience, and far exceeded everyone’s expectations. If you wish you’d gone but didn’t, here are 13 reasons to attend BlogPaws 2011:

  1. The organizers are really focused on keeping everything affordable. And it was. The same will be true of next year’s conference. It was the best-organized conference I’d ever attended, and everything was first class.

  2. You’ll get the chance to meet longtime friends you’ve never met — in person. I was thrilled to meet one of my very first cat blogger friends, Mom Robyn (aka George the Duck), who I’ve known for 5+ years. I also met a bunch of other cat blogging friends, and even a few of their CATS!

  3. Speakers who are experts in their fields give you up-close-and-personal tips to improve your blogs, and look at blogging in a new way.
  4. No detail was overlooked. From the treats and waterbowl at the front of the hotel to the signage, you knew you were with a bunch of pet lovers.

  5. Some of the breakout sessions included: 1) SEO Best Practices and Tips; 2) Product Reviews: a right way and a wrong way; 3) Contests, Sweepstakes and Promotions and the new FTC guidelines; 4) Leveraging Social Media; 5) Blog to Book; 6) Better Business Blogging; 7) Developing Your Blog Strategy; 8) Be the Change; 9) How to Measure Blog ROI … and more!

  6. Art Auction – a silent auction held during the conference raised money for three local animal charities, and the work was phenomenal, all donated by attendees.

  7. Exhibition Hall: Gave you the opportunity to get a first look at brand new products and services, including Kodak’s new kiosk-based pet red-eye removal tool — it’s magic!

  8. We got to meet Andrea Arden, the star of Animal Planet’s Underdog to Wonderdog. She was a keynote speaker who described her accidental plunge into television.

  9. The final keynote speaker, Elisa Camahort Page (co-founder of BlogHer), spoke about “How Online Community is Transforming Our Lives.” Elisa discussed blogging-as-storytelling, and how personal stories (like that of Anne Frank) can write our history. For those of us who get burned out periodically, her speech was a well-needed shot in the arm.

  10. “Be the Change” video. This was on everyone’s lips. Be the Change’s mantra is “Never doubt that a small group of committed souls can change the world — in fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

    And nothing gets done if you don’t pawticipate.

  11. I got to meet the “Life with Dogs” guy, who is constantly talking trash like “Dogs Rule, Cats Drool.” I think Skeezix and I set him straight. This photo was shot during a brief peace accord between us:

  12. The opportunity to meet a few hundred people who are as nuts about their pets as you are. What could be better than that?
  13. The swag pays for itself.