Last year I attended THREE blogging conferences. I was just getting involved in the whole blogging world and felt like I needed to immerse myself into the entire community as fast as possible. I had been personally blogging for much longer but until I dipped my toes into Twitter and Facebook, I had no idea the blogosphere was so vast.
I am not the most outgoing person. Honestly, attending these conferences was full of anxiety for me. I didn’t really know anybody in person and I was deathly afraid that the people I knew via social media wouldn’t give me the time of day in real life. Panic set in… and I don’t do well with panic.
Nevertheless, I closed my eyes and jumped. Wow… what a ride. The things I learned were incredible. It completely changed my life. Now, I know blogging conferences involve money and travel and meeting new people and promoting yourself… but if you’ve never done it, you really should make a point to try it at least once. Keep in mind, too, that each conference is completely different from the others and it might take going to a few to decide which is a good fit. Regardless of which ones you choose to attend, there are some factors that you should consider that apply to all of them. There are also tons of blog posts swirling around about the do’s and don’t of conferences. This is a Blog Conference Post I wrote last year after BlogHer’11. It might give you an idea of what to expect, although this was MY experience and everyone will have a different one.
So, quick and easy… these are things you are probably obsessing about.
1. Your Blog. The entire reason for attending a blog conference is to promote your blog. Whether you want to grow your readers, improve your content or just socialize, you will be talking about your blog… a lot! Make sure your blog is cleaned up, meaning that the links work and you have an “About” page. When you pass out your business cards, people will make a beeline for your blog to check out if it is something they would want to follow or not. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but make sure it’s pretty and functional. This leads me to my net point…
2. Business Cards. I can’t tell you how many people I asked for a business card and got the response that they didn’t bring any or had just run out. Oh for heaven’s sake… BRING BUSINESS CARDS and DON’T RUN OUT! You can print up cards on your home computer for next to nothing. Yes… people really DO hand out business cards to everybody. If you don’t have one, you will be forgotten. Or not taken seriously. Or both.
3. Clothes. The weeks before a conference are full of panicked women trying to get their wardrobes together. Everyone wants to look cute and everyone will tell you just to be comfortable. I say… DO BOTH. Of course you want to looks fabulous (you never get a second chance to make a first impression) but keep in mind that unless you are comfortable wearing high heels every single day, you probably will want to ditch the heels. There is a lot of walking… and a lot of sitting. Wear shoes that you can really walk a football field in. Also… wear layers. You never know if you are going to be freezing or sweating in a conference room so be prepared for everything. Also… DON’T wear clothes that don’t reflect who you really are. I’m a Mom, a Blogger, and I like to be comfortable. I’m not going to wear a ball gown to a party when that just isn’t my personality. On the other hand, if you have a sparkly personality… go right ahead and wear a dress worthy of a go-go dancer.
4. Share a Room. If you don’t know anybody, sharing a hotel room is the perfect way to immediately fit in… and have a buddy. Find someone who also doesn’t know anybody and the two of you can stick together. Many conference websites have roommate forums where you can find someone to share with. My roommates from BlogHer 2012 were fabulous and I didn’t even know them prior to sharing a tiny hotel room for 3 nights. We had a blast and I got a best friend out of it.
5. Laptop/iPad/Smart Phone. Do you bring them? Do you leave them at home? It depends. I ALWAYS have my iPhone with me (and a charger). Last year at BlogHer I brought my laptop to keep in the hotel room so I could blog (I never blogged once) and my iPad to the seminars. Some speakers will pass out notes, some won’t. If you can’t lug a heavy computer around (or don’t type fast enough to make it worth it) then a pad of paper and a pen is perfectly acceptable. I would recommend having something to write with… just in case. You will be bombarded with information and if you’re like me you will forget everything you were told 5 minutes ago.
6. Eat. Please, please, please make sure you eat and drink enough. Things get so busy and you’ll find yourself sitting and chatting with the many fabulous bloggers you will meet that you’ll forget all about eating. Then… you will starve and get dizzy and nobody wants that. There are always plenty of snack breaks… grab something and EAT. Also… have a bottle of water with you. Dehydration is a bitch.
7. Have Fun! Seriously… you might be stressed… and crazed… and busy… but keep in mind this is supposed to be FUN! Enjoy the friends you are making and information you are learning. Don’t overschedule your seminars to the point that you have no time to socialize. Part of the beauty of blogging conferences is that you get to meet your twitter/facebook friends IRL (in real life). Relax, miss a seminar or two, have a drink at the bar. You will regret it if you go home and realize you never had any fun and didn’t get to meet anyone.
8. Meet People. I keep a running list of people I want to make sure I meet. It is so hard to just run-in to people at some of the larger conferences. During my first Bloggy Boot Camp I attended in San Diego in 2011, I was sitting at a table right next to women I wanted to meet but until we introduced ourselves, I had no idea the people I talk to everyday were sitting right next to me. Come on… nobody really looks like they do in a postage stamp size photo.
9. Don’t Be Shy. Honestly, some of the biggest, most well-known bloggers are painfully shy. (The Bloggess comes to mind.) You aren’t the only one. Would you rather get up your nerve to say hello to someone or regret later that you didn’t say anything? At BlogHer I made a point of going up to some of my blogging idols to introduce myself. I am SO glad I did. They were so gracious and nice and down-to-earth that I just wanted to hug them. Actually, I think I did. Scary Mommy and Britt Reints… I just adore you and the fact that you were so nice to me even though you probably don’t have any idea who the hell I am.
10. Parties. There will be parties. And more parties. And still more parties. And some you might get invited to… and some you won’t. Don’t stress. At BlogHer 2011 I went to a ton of parties and honestly, the parties that were the most fun were the free parties the conference sponsored themselves and everyone was invited to. The off-site parties aren’t all that special anyway. Most don’t have a lot of food and the alcohol is just so/so. Also, don’t let a celebrity guest get you all hot and bothered. Last year there was a big celebrity at one of the parties and he was an ass, kept himself in a private little area surrounded by bodyguards. So not worth it.
Keep in mind that those of us who HAVE been there before are more than thrilled to talk, talk and do some more talking about it. Ask questions. Be prepared. Have fun!