Especially if you are a newer blogger, here is my best advice. Get yourself to the closest blog conference! Seriously. If you are at all serious about blogging, I would put a blog conference at the top of your MUST DO list. I’ve been blogging for more than a decade and I’ve been to LOTS of blog conferences. I try to attend at least one blogging conference each year.
If you’re just blogging for the fun of it, or to keep up with your family or enjoy a hobby, no worries. You’ll have a lot of fun, but it’s not all about the fun and socializing. If you are monetizing or in any way serious about your blog, a blog conference is going to be your best source of training, knowledge, networking, support, and confidence building. And they’re FUN besides!
I know you have ALL the excuses – it’s too much money, I’m too shy, my family can’t survive without me for a few days (actually, they probably could – mine did, many times). How ’bout you just try ONE and then decide? Of course, then you’ll probably be hooked like me!
Anyway, assuming you’ve decided to attend a blog conference and found one that’s a good fit for you, but big question is what do I pack??? There are always a ton of questions from people on what to pack, what to bring, what to do, etc. So I always try to pull together a quick list of items and quick tips to help people out.
A blog conference can be absolutely AMAZING, but at the same time, they are very hectic, overwhelming, and pretty exhausting. You are meeting dozens of new and old friends (and trying to keep everyone’s name straight!). You are learning tons of new stuff, and making critical business connections, all while you are trying to meet a crazy schedule and still try to get in a little food and sleep. It’s definitely an intense experience, but it can absolutely take your blog to the next level.
The MOST Important Thing – What to Wear!
At least 95% of the attendees at a blog conference are women, so what to wear is definitely a CRITICAL question. You want to pack light and efficient, but still remain stylish. You also need to keep your options open because you never know if you’re going to end up taking a half-mile walk to dinner, or sitting in a freezing conference room.
So, let’s start from the ground up – your shoes are literally your foundation. I know you are going to want to wear those beautiful peep-toe pumps with the tiny heels and yes, you will look terrific, but you’ll be soooo much happier if you choose comfortable flats. Trust me on this one! Most of the BEST learning takes place while standing around chatting with all your new blogging friends.
My go-to shoes for cruises are these Bob’s flats. They are cheap and come in a ton of colors and styles. These black lace jobbies (Bobbies?) are awesome and come in several cute colors.
For clothes, just go with slightly dressy tops with an option to add a light cardigan if it gets chilly. I usually wear jeans on one day and a skirt the next depending on the weather. If you pick a color “theme” like black, white, and grey, then you can match your shoes, accessories, and sweaters and mix it up a bit without packing a ton of clothes. Trust me, you will need that extra suitcase room for swag!
I generally go with eye-catching and bold accessories just to give an outfit that extra “pop” of color and style. You are making a first impression on a lot of people, so stay away from anything that makes you feel “frumpy”.
What Tech to Bring (or not)
As far as tech goes, I’ve learned to just keep it simple. I always bring my business cards (I even have a special case like this one that I keep in my pocket at all times).
See my previous post on Headshots and Business Cards and why they are so important to bloggers. Tip – as I hand out cards, I take the received card and stash them in the back of my holder. Sometimes I’ll write notes on them to remind me of the person or of something we plan to work on. Then when I get home, I’ll Follow people from most of the cards I’ve received to keep in touch. Believe it or not, I am STILL in touch with people I met at my very first conference back in 2009 – true story!
Then I have my iPhone handy at all times for quick tweets, Instagram posts, and pictures. I like my iWalk portable charger for my own phone, but you would be a very popular person in the room if you had one of these 4-port wall chargers handy. Everyone is always looking to charge their laptops, tablets, and phones and wall plugs are always in short supply.
Me, I like paper for a blog conference, so I just grab paper and a good pen so I can furiously scribble notes all day long. I take LOTS of notes at these dos. I’m a lefty, so I grab one of these cool portfolios in pink, green, or some other splashy color. That way I have a good surface to write on and somewhere to store all the handouts and things. I can even pop an iPad in there.
I know if I bring a laptop or a tablet, I’ll just end up playing with it, so I just leave them at home. Some people try to post during a conference day, but it rarely works unless it’s super quick. The organizers will usually provide a snazzy blog conference bag, but I prefer a handy rolling backpack like this one in zebra print. (I did say I was flashy!) This is exactly the one I take to work every day – minus the adorable companion.
It’s handy to have a place to keep all your notes, handouts, swag, breath mints, wallet, hotel key, etc. and still have your hands mostly free. Oh, and did I say swag? Yes, you will definitely get a lot of swag at most blog conferences – I definitely like that part. I toss in a thin drawstring bag just to carry my swag on the way home.
Time to Mingle and Meet at a Blog Conference
A word about how to meet people. Meeting new people is the best part of a conference, but I think it’s pretty hard if you are shy or an introvert. I’m a pretty strong extrovert, so I meet tons of people (and forget all their names usually!). But the best way to make lasting friends at conferences is to jump into the roommate situation.
I generally book a large room and then put the word out in the online group for roommates. Many times, I end up with several roommates that I’ve never even met before. But I always end up being great friends with them by the end of the conference. I still keep in touch with all my roommates from previous conferences – they are cherished friends.
Mealtimes too, are a great time to meet new people. Blog conferences create a sense of camaraderie, so no one is going to mind if you ask nicely to sit with them at a meal and hop into the conversation. I’ve met a ton of interesting people that way. Spread your business cards around, and get to know a variety of people for the best experience. Be excited, but don’t be stressed and anxious about meeting so many new people. I guarantee you’ll have a better time that way.
Bring a GREAT Attitude
I think a great attitude is a terribly important thing to bring along. One of my early blog conferences, I stepped in an ankle-deep mud puddle on the way into the hotel. Nasty, thick, sticky mud.
For many women, that would have been cause for tears and maybe even leaving the conference. Not me, I just wrestled the shoe out of the mud (not an easy task balanced on one foot). Then I limped into the restroom, grabbed handfuls of paper towels and cleaned it up as best I could. AND I walked right into the conference anyway.
Stuff is going to go wrong. Laugh it off and be a good sport, and people will think you are a real trouper. You are there to have a good time and learn good stuff. So don’t let a snooty person, or a lost bag, or a broken heel ruin your day. Work around it and move on.
Above all, be kind to the organizers. It’s a stressful job and a TON of work to put together a blog conference. They usually don’t make much money out of it, and most of the stuff they hear is gripes of all kinds. Smile, and hug them. Be grateful that they cared enough to put this whole blog conference together because they care about you and want you to be successful. Be the “No-drama mama!” and they will LOVE you for it.
One conference, we had a complete blackout. The entire city went dark for about two hours. No lights, our hotel doors didn’t work, and it could’ve been a real disaster. But we just scrounged around, found some candles and touch lights and went right on with the party! That’s how awesome people do a conference.
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