I’ve said it a million times. Attending a blog conference is the absolute BEST THING you can do for your blog. It is an excellent source of learning, networking, connecting, and just plain FUN that exists in the blog world. And I’m going to show you exactly WHAT to do BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER a attending a blog conference.
If you’ve signed up for attending a blog conference, congratulations! If you haven’t, I have a great list of blog conferences that might be in your area. I know you have all the usual excuses for why you can’t attend:
- I can’t afford it – actually, you should try your best to find a way to afford it because if done properly, it will produce a greater return than you spend for it. And usually if you can grab Early Bird pricing, you can get a pretty good deal. Here’s a tip – wait until the last 2 weeks or so. A bunch of people will be bailing out at that time and you can usually snag a pre-owned ticket at the Early Bird price.
- My family can’t manage without me – I hear this one a lot. Surprisingly, they usually can, unless you have a nursing baby, and a lot of women bring their tiny babies along with. There are hundreds of women at a conference, most of them are moms and their families are living without them just fine. It might even make them appreciate you a bit more! I’m just sayin’…. Families are super important, but it’s important to invest time in your business as well.
- I’m too busy – yes, I am too, but I still manage to find time to attend at least one and preferably TWO blog conferences per year. It’s not a waste of time if you prepare for it properly and make sure to get a LOT of value out of it. That’s what I’m gonna show you. Once you decide to go, things usually fall into place.
Anyway, the bottom line is make attending a blog conference every year a priority for your business. I’ve been to over a dozen of them over the years and I promise you that every_single_one of them was totally WORTH IT!
So, let’s talk about how to get the MOST VALUE out of attending a blog conference:
BEFORE THE BLOG CONFERENCE
The pre-work and prep for a conference is probably the most neglected thing that bloggers do, but it’s also probably the MOST important. The good news is that you can probably do most of this work in your pajamas!
Start Networking Right Away
The pre-networking is super important. You want to get to know the conference organizers, find the sponsors and connected with them, and there’s usually a private Facebook group.
This is a great way to make friends with other bloggers before the conference, ask questions, share information. You can start Following people on your preferred social media platforms and they’ll Follow you.
It’s a good thing to check out the sponsors to see which ones are going to be the best fit for your brand, and start talking to them NOW to open the door for future sponsorships or other money-making opportunities.
Figure out Accommodations
Usually the organizers book out a block of hotel rooms at a discount as part of the conference. But rooms are limited, so you need to grab a spot early. Also, if you are on a budget, you may want to consider checking out other hotels nearby for a lower cost, or rooming with other conference-goers.
That’s what I usually do – I usually book a big room and then start putting the word out in the group that I’m looking for roommates. Yes, it’s a little weird because I end up rooming with 2 or 3 complete strangers, but it’s a great way to make new friends. I’m still friends with all of my roomies from previous years!
On the other hand, if you are a shy introvert, you might be smart to just get a small room by yourself so you can decompress and have a little down time away from the mob. I am a rampant extrovert, so I am energized by being around “my people”. That said, I book my own room so I can have a little say-so about lights-out time. I’m OLD – I need a bit of sleep to keep up the pace!
Order Business Cards!
Very important and something else that gets left to the last minute. This is so important for proper networking that I have a whole post on Business Cards and Headshots for your social media. I often see a lot of anxiety about blogger media kits. Honestly, I’m not a fan of media kits. I have very rarely had a prospective sponsor ask for one and when I’ve given one to them, I usually get the feeling it’s going to end up in a trash can somewhere. But if you want one, do it. Just don’t stress yourself to death about it.
Investigate Sponsorships to Pay for the Conference
Some people are able to obtain sponsorships from brands that will pay their costs for a conference. Personally, I’ve never done it, so I don’t know a lot about it. I just do mine as a tax write-off for my business. But I know some people are able to do it. A good question for the Facebook group.
One caution – if a brand is sponsoring you, they are going to want some kind of publicity for it. But it is tricky, because the official sponsors from the conference have already paid for that right. So trying to push other non-official sponsors is seriously frowned upon. So you’ll need to get some clarity around what is expected by the sponsor vs. what is allowed by the organizers.
Plan Your Conference Experience
Usually there are multiple tracks or courses offered at a conference. Take a good hour or so to really explore all the options available for each session to make the best choices for your business needs. And if you aren’t loving a course, no worries. Just slip out and slip into another one. No one will care, although it’s awkward if you know the presenter.
Do you need to learn about podcasting, photography, social media, or publishing a book? Nearly all of these are standard conference fare. If there are two courses offered at the same time, see if there is going to be a video available. Or see if one of your new blogger friends might be attending that session and can share their notes with you.
Finally – Start Your Packing
After attending so many conferences, I have a terrific packing list that shows you exactly what to bring, what to wear, and more importantly what NOT to bring when attending a blog conference. Surprisingly, I do suggest that you NOT BRING YOUR LAPTOP. Yes, that is in capital letters. You’ll see why in the next section. Dress classy and a bit upscale, but comfortable. And comfortable shoes. This is not a great time for stiletto heels.
DURING THE CONFERENCE
Networking for Real
OK, now that you’re here, the real networking begins. Yes, there are always silly games and fun activities at conferences and you definitely want to have a good time, but your main focus should be on
a) Learning all you can
b) Networking with sponsors and other bloggers
You can learn a surprising amount from other bloggers, so try to get past the awkward “what do you blog about” conversations and get into the meat. Find out what programs they use, what they are having success with, what they are struggling with. Mainly, find out what they are doing DIFFERENTLY from you and see if you might want to try something new.
To get the MOST value from a conference have some intense conversations with other bloggers. Find out what they are doing DIFFERENTLY from you and what you might want to try doing. That can be the BEST learning of all.
I went on a bloggers cruise with The Six Sisters and their family. It was an entire week-long cruise, which was packed with all kinds of daily sessions. But the BEST learning came from a group of us sitting in the passageway with their dad for an hour to just talking shop. Those conversations can be the most enlightening, I promise.
Even if you are an introvert, do NOT just hide in your room and don’t just cling to your friends. It’s time to put on your big-girl panties and network even if it’s HARD. There are definitely other shy folks at the conference, there are other new bloggers, there are PLENTY of people in your spot. And they will be extremely grateful to you if you can reach out to them.
Some of the folks at the conference will be the complete money-making superstars, but they are usually extremely pleasant and approachable. Some are in the middle – having a big of success, but needing a boost. And at least 10% are complete beginners or the “just dabbling” folks. Be nice, but you’re not going to learn a lot from this 10%.
Make it a point to sit with different people at each meal and try to connect with the relevant sponsors.
DO NOT WORK – DO NOT WORK – DO NOT WORK
Yes, I did repeat that three different times. Trying to do ANY work during a conference is a complete waste of time and money. You are there to learn, not to do your daily blog work. Pre-schedule some posts if you must, put your out of office on or have a trusted friend or spouse cover your Emails and just be present. That’s why I said don’t even bring a laptop. I’ve seen people try to hole up in their rooms and crank out posts, but it’s just frustrating for them.
Yes, you can definitely throw out some nibbles for your social media Followers. Post a few photos and quotes from the speakers, do a couple of quick Instastories or Live posts, but don’t try to do anything that takes more than 5 minutes. You have better ways to spend your preciously brief time at a conference.
Take Good Notes
You think you’ll remember everything you are learning at a conference, but I promise you, your brain will be SPINNING by the end of the first day. You can bring a tablet or something to take notes, but my best advice is to just bring a good notebook and just hand write notes. (Plus if I have an electronic gadget – I will be too tempted to go off to websites and not pay attention!) #ADHDisarealthing
Take notes, take photos of the slides on your phone, keep handouts and downloads. You never know when some little tidbit of info will come in handy when you get back home.
Exchange Business Cards with Everybody
I generally hand out 30-40 business cards and come home with about an equal number. I have a special metal case that I always keep right in my pocket for business cards – mine are in front and I store other people’s cards behind them. Sometimes I will write a brief note to remind me who someone was or that I want to follow up with them on something. In the next section, we’ll deal with the business cards, so for now, just collect them.
Here’s a link to Vistaprint for cheap business cards. They’ve got a million designs – go for something fun!
Conferences are usually a ton of fun and it’s important to jump right in and go with the flow. If they are dancing, I dance. When they are doing crafts, I craft (though I suck at it). If they are playing games, I play (usually there are GOOD prizes).
I schmooze with the vendors and collect lots of free swag (hey, I LIKE free stuff, don’t you?). And I EAT. They usually feed you really well at a conference, so it’s not a great time to be dieting. If anyone is going out to eat somewhere, I tag along too. You’ve gotta go with the flow sometimes.
I hang out in the lobby for those little pick-up conversations that are so valuable. And to just make new friends. These are my people and these conferences are the only time I can feel like 100% myself. I guess that’s one reason why I like them so much.
AFTER THE CONFERENCE
After the conference is a weird time for me. It’s like I’ve been in my own little world and now I have to come back to earth. I’m exhausted, (really exhausted). No matter how hard I try to get a little rest, it’s never enough because the schedules are usually jam-packed from early in the morning until late at night, so I am completely wiped out. But I’m also super excited. I get on a high after a conference and I want to just rush home and do ALL THE THINGS. Resist this urge. Really, resist this urge.
Come home, deal with your messy house. Mine usually looks like a BOMB went off when the guys have it to themselves for a weekend. Tidy up, unpack. Drink your water, eat a sensible meal, get a good night’s sleep. Answer your Emails, but don’t go back to regular posting yet. You’ve still got a lot of work to do and this conference “honeymoon” period only lasts a week or so before people go back to their normal routines.
Do Your Follow-Ups
Take that stack of business cards and start doing your Follow ups. First of all, be SURE to thank your organizers and sponsors. They work really, really HARD during a conference and they usually spend a ton of money. So, even if you weren’t 100% delighted with every single thing that happened during the conference, don’t you dare complain.
Be grateful and thank them for their hard work, because they did it for YOU. Even though conferences seem expensive, they rarely create any kind of profit and sometimes don’t break even. If you have little gripes or suggestions, there will be a survey and that’s the best and kindest way to express any grievances.
Follow up on any collaborations and sponsorships first. Other bloggers and sponsors will be wildly impressed if you follow up with them within 48 hours of a conference. Usually, they have to chase people down for that. So be the shining star here.
Then start going through that stack of cards you’ve gathered. Like and comment on people’s blogs if you haven’t already, Follow them on social media. Look for people you might want to collaborate with. Stay active in the Facebook group and you might snag some partnerships that way or get in on a collaboration post.
Write about the Conference
I usually do a recap posts of the conference. Each one is so different. And it helps me to connect with the other conference-goers and also to remember some of the things I’ve learned. And also use up some of the zillion pictures I’ve taken.
Organizing Your Notes and Plan Your Strategy
Easily the most important and most overlooked step in the process of attending a blog conference. Take your notes from the various classes and do something with them. I spend probably 3 months after a conference just trying new things. In fact, this blog site you are reading from now, came about after last year’s Snap! Conference here in Utah. Ha! – I’d almost forgotten that! It was one of my best blogging conferences.
As I was going through the conference, I kept thinking about how much my super-exciting tech stuff was overshadowing my lifestyle blog and drowning out all my organizing and money saving posts. So I sat there one night in my hotel room with my conference notebook and planned out this whole new site from scratch. And I had it up and running within two weeks of the conference. Yes, I am THAT Type-A get it done type of person!
That’s my big downfall from attending a blog conference. I get so fired up, I spend every waking moment going after all the shiny new things I’ve learned. But in this case, it’s taken me a HUGE LEAP forward, so even though it was a crazy-busy year, I think it was definitely worth it. But you can understand why I’m a little hesitant to commit to attending the next one and start up the cycle all over again!
So, to add a little bit of accountability – leave a comment. Have you been to a conference before? Are you going to one this year? Here’s the list – pick one near you, write down the dates, start saving your money. And then print out this post and share it with your blogger friends. I promise these tips WILL come in handy for your next blogging conference.
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