I consider myself a bit of a blog conference veteran at this point. What’s a bit nuts is that it happened in just one year. The upcoming BlogPodium conference in September will be my 5th (!) since last July. I hardly believed it myself until I actually counted. I went to Alt Summit in San Fran last July (my first ever), BlogPodium in Sept., Alt SLC in January, Alt Summer in June, then full circle to BlogPodium this year. It will be interesting to see how it will be different from last year. I’m definitley a more seasoned blogger and I’ve built some great relationships with other Canadian bloggers I met at BlogPodium last year so I’ll know a bunch more people. After last years conference I started up the Toronto Lifestyle Bloggers group which lead to a few Blog Brunches and I started getting invites to a bunch of media events that are kinda like mini-blogger reunions. It’s so nice to have some actual face time with fellow local bloggers.
If this is your first blog conference, you probably have a million things running through your head and you’re either so excited you could pee in your stylish but playful skirt or so nervous you could vomit in your fun striped Kate Spade hand bag. Just breathe. Here’s 5 tips for your first blog conference to keep in mind based on my personal experience:
1. Leave the laptop and DSLR at home. Coming soon will be a blog conference packing list and 2 things that won’t be on it are a DSLR camera or laptop. It’s a jam packed day, you’ll want to soak everything up & mingle and you won’t have time to take pretty pictures. Or if you do, you’ll be missing out on the good stuff. There will be tonnes of pro photos to share after the conference and likely a photobooth so your camera phone will do just fine. It’s a long day and you’ll likely be filling your bag with various free swag and don’t need to start the day off with a super heavy bag. As far as the laptop – in my experience the old fashioned note taking is the way to go. You paid to see these experienced speakers, try to be present and listen and jot down some the most important points. Some of them may even have their presentations available after the conference online. (the exception is if you’re taking the photography workshop or stopping by Camp Tech’s Nerd Station…then nerd away)
2. Dress comfortably. So you’ve probably heard that these blog conferences can be a bit of a fashion show. I guess it’s true to a certain degree. I mean you are in a room full of creative people who like to express themselves so it makes sense. Don’t get me wrong, I like to put thought into what I wear as well and love seeing what great outfits people put together. My advice is to look great AND be comfortable. You’re making a lot of first impressions and networking so you definitely want to put your best foot forward but this is not the day to try those new heels you bought or rock some totally new look. If you’re not comfortable in what you’re wearing, literally or figuratively, it will show and you won’t do yourself any favours. Plus, as mentioned, it’s a long day so you don’t want your footwear to ruin it for you. Whether it’s jeans, tshirt and a knockout statement necklace or a totally unique look, just make sure it’s YOU and you feel comfortable wearing it.
3. Don’t be shy. I know this is easier said than done for some people but trust me, you will go home with regrets if you don’t push yourself to come out of your shell at a blog conference. I do realize it can be intimidating. I’m an extrovert and don’t consider myself that shy and I’ve had those nervous moments – especially when I’ve attended ALL of those conferences mentioned above on my own. But I’ve learned two things, 1 – it’s not nearly as hard as you think and 2 – you will most definitely regret it later if you don’t try. You are surrounded by people who love to share and express themselves and a bunch of them are thinking the same thing as you. Grab that single seat at a table or chat up the person waiting in line next to you. I pretty much guarantee that they will be friendly. Bloggers are an incredibly friendly bunch of people. If all else fails, comment on their cute shoes or handbag to break the ice.
4. Come ready to network. This is a good followup to #3. You paid money to come to this conference and you want to walk away with not only new blogger friends but potentially new professional opportunities and you can’t be shy. You’ll be meeting some seasoned bloggers who are looking to collaborate as well as brand reps, expert speakers, and PR & Media agency reps. All these people can help you make your blog more successful (if that’s your goal). Have your business cards and elevator pitch ready.
5. Have fun! I know this one is a bit cliche but it’s true. Relax, meet some new people and have fun with it. The conference is just as much of a social event as it is a learning event. My friendships & relationships that started at Blog Podium last year have only grown. This may be a bit tougher at your first conference but I promise that the fun part will come if you’re open to it.
And I guess it’s no surprise that after all those conferences in one year that I managed to get myself on the other side of the table, literally. I’m so happy to be hosting a roundtable discussion at BlogPodium this year. If it’s your first year or you’re thinking of starting a blog, please stop by and catch my chat – Your First Year of Blogging:How to Get Noticed.