Next week I will be traveling to a magical land where people understand phrases like: “I’m really struggling with SEO” or “That’s my favorite plugin!” or ” Is there a hashtag for that?” It will be a gathering of people who stop to take pictures of food before eating and may post to social media while carrying on conversations. If you haven’t already guessed it, I’m going to a blog conference. Last year I attended Blog Elevated here in Houston and this year I’m going again, this time to Moody Gardens in Galveston where I’ll be rooming with my derby and blog friend, Roxy (aka GrrFeisty). I CAN’T WAIT!
I was a little intimidated last year at the conference because I really hardly knew anyone. I’m not shy, but I AM an introvert and it takes me a bit of time to warm up. I met some AMAZING people and have grown so much as a blogger from the things I learned. This year I expect things to be very different since I’ll be staying on site (last year the location was five minutes from my house so I slept at home) and also have actual blogger friends to hang out with. Now that I know a little more about what to expect, I thought I’d write a little bit about preparing for a blog conference as well as some tips as you gear up for your conference.
Follow the Conference Speakers.
Chances are you won’t have heard of EVERY single speaker. Go online and get to know them. Follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook. Spend some time on their blog. Look at their face so if you happen to be snagging coffee and they are next to you pouring in their creamer, you’ll know who they are! Subscribe to their email list. Give them a shout out on social media to say that you’re looking forward to hearing them speak. Think of questions you might ask them.
Another benefit to this is the fact that you are likely to have to make a choice about some breakout sessions. While the title or subject could draw you in, as you get to “know” the speakers, you might change your mind. Maybe you like photography but you NEED to hear the blogger who dealt with similar issues even if their subject didn’t immediately attract your attention. A conference is a great way to connect and get to know some important people in the blog and social media world.
Interact with the Conference Attendees.
Blog Elevated has a Facebook group just for attendees. This is where bloggers can ask questions, try to find roommates, and share information. Check out the other attendees’ blog and social media. See what they are talking about. Find people you want to meet IRL at the conferences. You are a lot more likely to make connections if you start making them ahead of time! See if your conference has a group where you can get to know other people before the conference even begins.
Show Some Social Media Love.
Whether it’s sending out a Tweet about the conference itself, pinning something from a fellow attendee, or sharing a speaker’s post on Facebook, be social media friendly. People love a good share-er. Sometimes? They share back. Sometimes not. If you share without expectation of it happening in return, you’ll be a lot happier. But sharing sometimes makes for a good connection and puts you on people’s radar. Then if you meet a person IRL, you may make a real connection and get past the awkwardness faster because you “know” each other on social media and have shown yourself to be generous when it comes to social media love. ***Just don’t forget to tag them!!***
Plan Your Agenda.
Get an idea of what sessions you want or NEED to attend. Then try to connect with people who are attending other sessions (if there are concurrent breakout sessions) so you can share notes. This is where all those pre-conference connections come in handy. If you don’t have a friend going (or if you and your friend are hitting up the same sessions), you can find someone willing to trade information and notes. This also makes for a more lasting connection after the conference!
Make a List of Questions to Ask.
Whether you love talking to new people or not, a list of questions to ask can help you if you hit a mental wall. If you find yourself starting to fawn over that keynote speaker, remembering that question you came up with can help save you and make you look less like a total blog stalker. I found myself wandering around a lovely reception the first night of Blog Elevated last year, tongue tied and unsure how to strike up conversations with total strangers. So I ate a lot of cheese instead. (Kroger really brought it with the cheese, so that was not a bad thing.) Conferences are short and you don’t want to waste any time! (Not that cheese is a waste of time in ANY circumstance.) Help break the ice with some good questions.
Don’t Forget Stuff.
Last year my main packing concern was making sure I had a breast pump and a cooler for milk since I was still nursing Cooper but she stayed with Rob rather than coming with me to the conference. This year I’ll have Quin with me, so I don’t need to worry about breast pumps, but I won’t be five minutes from home so if I forget something like a camera battery charger or power cord to my computer, I’m out of luck! Here you can see my packing list that has the basics you’ll need as you’re preparing for a blog conference. Click HERE to download your free printable! Use the “notes” section for things that might be specific to you. This year that section will include things like my SlingEZee sling and a nursing cover.
Don’t Wait Til the Last Minute to Pack Your Clothes.
There is nothing worse than going to pack and realizing you hate (or don’t fit in) anything in your closet. If you are a fashion blogger, what you wear matters most, but even if not, you will be interacting with brands and other professionals. EVEN IF YOU MOSTLY BLOG IN PAJAMAS ON YOUR COUCH. (Not that I do that.) I need to go shopping next week, which I’m looking forward to and also dreading. I’m still carrying a bunch of post-baby weight but it seems to be in different places than the last time, which means my transition clothes from after Cooper all look icky. I love shopping, but it’s hard when you aren’t at the place where you want to be. Plus I don’t want to spend a lot of money on clothes that will hopefully be too big in a month or two. I created a board on Polyvore with looks I hope to find or add to what I DO have that fits.
I AM NOT A FASHIONISTA. I like to keep it simple. love to stick with black or gray and then punch up things like accessories or shoes or a jacket with bright colors. I don’t always feel like I have a put-together style, but if I did start from scratch and pick out my perfect wardrobe, it would be casual and funky. My favorite thing on this whole board? The Han Solo shirt. LOVE. Please don’t tell me I’m too old for graphic tees. I’ll be 80 in a retirement home and still love that shirt. The other big thing about that board? Everything is under $50. That STILL adds up to more than I have in my clothing budget if I bought everything, but my plan is to buy 1-2 things (like pants) and make other things in my closet work.
Whatever you are choosing to wear, make sure it’s comfortable. Not just that it fits, but that you feel MENTALLY comfortable. There is nothing worse than wearing a dress that makes you self-conscious (even if it looks great on you) or pants that make you feel like someone else. Wear things that you love and that make you feel like YOU. Check the weather report and the agenda before you pack so you’ll know what the events will be and whether you’ll need long or short sleeves, tights or sandals. For more on clothing, check out Feisty’s post on Taking Your Style from URL to IRL.
Conferences can take a certain amount of bravery. You’re meeting strangers who are also in your field. You are meeting people you might greatly admire from a distance. You have paid a great deal of money and possibly traveled a great distance. Don’t waste your time and money! Even if you have to start out with a pretend bravado, stepping out with confidence can help you get the most out of your experience. I’ve found that often after I PRETEND to be brave and confident, I begin to feel and embrace it. I don’t have to pretend for long. (And even if I do, there’s always that hotel room where I can jump on the bed and turn on HGTV and climb back into my introvert hole at the end of the day.) You paid for this. You DO this blogging thing. OWN IT! Or at least pretend a little bit.
Need more blog tips? Follow my Pinterest board Blog Conference Command Center! I’ve collected some great posts. Let me know if you have a post about blog conferences so I can add yours! And don’t forget your FREE CHECKLIST!