It was a Friday night in September- the day before the Central Florida Blog Conference (now FLBlogCon) and I was staring at my closet. I had nothing to wear. I was scolding myself for choosing too bold a polish color on my toes. I was still contemplating going with the clear polish on my hands or maybe braving a light pink. I wished I had decided on that other business card design. What pair of shoes was I going to wear? Should I wear a dress or a long skirt? My hair didn’t turn out right. Remind me to never go back to that salon. I wish I had gotten that new laptop last week.
You know what? Forget it. I’m not going. I won’t know anyone and I have no business going to a bloggers conference. My blog is so small. If it weren’t for my Mom I would have no readers anyway. Blogging is dumb. I can’t even cook and I think I can actually write a cooking blog? I hate that little curl in my hair- please- mental note- must find new stylist. And buy new shoes. For next year’s conference because this year I’m not going.
Well….lucky me. My significant other wouldn’t let me stay home. He bought my ticket to the conference as a gift and he had planned a nice quiet day at home with……the cats. Well, I could pretend to go. I mean I could drive there, sit in the parking lot and watch other people walk in and see if any of them look friendly enough.
Thank Goodness I found an outfit, fixed my hair and did not sit in the parking lot. Thank Goodness I walked into that conference hall and found a place to sit. Within minutes I was meeting other bloggers who had also come here without knowing anybody. Within minutes I had a stack of other blogger’s business cards and a group of people to sit with at lunch. I ended up having a wonderful time. Now, I am a self-proclaimed blogger conference junkie having travelled near and far to events of all sizes.
First of all, some of the places you get to attend conferences are amazing. From Full Sail University in Orlando to Miami to Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH- amazing locations. Take advantage of the city while you are there. I once got to roam the Cedar Point Amusement Park before sunrise along Lake Erie. Amazing.
As you prepare for your first blogging conference, here are a few tips I have picked up along the way to make your first conference an amazing experience.
- ORDER BUSINESS CARDS. Make sure to order your business cards early. Early enough so that if there is a problem or a mistake with them, you have enough time to re-order. I can’t tell you how many bloggers I have met who are hanging out in the hotel lobby the night before the big event waiting for the UPS man to deliver their business cards. It happens way more than you think. And bring more than you think you will need. I bring 100 if it is a big conference.
- SIGN UP FOR THE CONFERENCE NEWSLETTER. This is the best way to learn about sponsor parties, after-hours events and other important happenings you won’t want to miss. Many of the bigger conferences have sponsors that throw parties to showcase their brand and try new products before they hit the market. Attending sponsor parties is also an excellent way to meet other bloggers within your niche. By recieving the newsletter, you will also learn about contests sponsored by brands where you can win free conference passes and sponsor products.
- PERFECT YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH. What is your blog about? You will be asked this over and over. This is especially important when talking to brands but other bloggers will ask as well as you get to know more people.
- FIGURE OUT WHAT SESSION YOU HAVE NO INTEREST IN, THEN GO TO IT. When planning what sessions to attend, pick one session that you think you have absolutely no interest in and go to it. Other than networking, learning everything you can about blogging is the main reason for going to a conference in the first place, right? I got this advice from another blogger and I am grateful to the ideas and knowledge it opened for me. I once sat in on a book publishing session, with no interest in writing my own book. Not only am I tinkering with the idea now, I learned so much about traditional publishing and self-publishing, Amazon versus the big publishing houses.
- GET SOCIAL ONLINE FIRST. Search the hashtag of people talking about the conference and add those bloggers onto your list of attendees. Interacting with other attendees first is a great way to break the ice with someone in person- “oh you are the one who writes such and such? I follow you!” Bam! Instant friend, follower and colleague.
- LEAVE SPACE FOR SWAG. If you are traveling by bus, plane or train to a conference, leave plenty of room in your luggage for swag. Some conferences you get small things like portable chargers or clothing, other ones you end of up frying pans and ceramic platters. Seriously, I drove to a conference in Miami a few years ago and I ended up driving back to Orlando with 15 glass jars of cookie mix because they were too heavy and bulky for everyone else’s airline luggage.
DURING THE CONFERENCE:
- WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES AND BRING A SWEATER. There is usually a lot of walking involved from your hotel room to the conference center, from session to session. I am in awe of those bloggers who can wear 6 inch heels and still have a smile on their face at the end of the day.
- BRING YOUR PHONE CHARGER. Nowadays, most conferences offer charging stations and you need them when you are spending the entire day taking pictures and tweeting at the event.
- TWEET, INSTAGRAM AND POST TO SOCIAL MEDIA OFTEN. Be sure to use the designated conference hashtag so that organizers, brands and fellow conference attendees will see your posts and be able to connect with you. Also take the time to retweet, repost and like posts from others regarding the conference. This is a great way to interact with brands and meet new connections.
- LEAVE THE LAPTOP IN YOUR HOTEL ROOM. You don’t have to lug around your laptop during the conference. Most of the people in sessions I have attended are divided into three groups. People who just listen, those that type away on their laptops and those of us that take notes the old fashioned way using an old fashioned pen and paper. I find it difficult to lug around my laptop when I am trying to grab food and extra swag.
- BE PREPARED TO EAT. Brands love bloggers. Especially food brands. Whether they are catering breakfast, lunch or snack time you will be fed well. And when you aren’t sitting down to a meal you will be grabbing samples and treats from sponsor tables. Arrive hungry.
- BE PREPARED FOR CRAZY. You may dress up in boas and take pictures. Be ready for crazy just don’t go too crazy. That crazy picture will go viral. Your Mom will see it. Your friends on Facebook will see it.
AFTER THE CONFERENCE:
- RE-ORGANIZE. After the conference is over and you have successfully made it through the withdrawal period (conference withdrawal is a real thing- you’ll see), take some time to get re-organized. Go through your notes and begin to make a list of actions you need to take on the blog.
- SORT. Sort through all the business cards you received and make sure you are following everyone on social media, tweet how nice it was to meet them, make sure you comment on their postings as well. Keep the communication going.
- KEEP IN TOUCH. Stay in touch with the bloggers and brands you meet at conferences. This keeps you fresh in people’s minds and you never where that connection or friendship will lead.
- THANK YOU. Remember to tweet thank yous to conference sponsors, brand representatives you met and conference organizers. This will get you noticed and keep you in their radar for sponsorships and events.
Lastly, pick out your outfit at least three weeks in advance. If you are anything like me you will change your mind 15 times, go shopping, decide the new stuff isn’t suitable, go shopping again, change your mind again and then the morning of the event decide the original outfit you picked out a month ago was perfect all along.
Most importantly, make sure you have fun! Blogging Conferences to me are like a Star Trek Convention to a Trekkie- we are all like-minded blogging Geeks who gather together to share our passion and knowledge! Enjoy the experience!