I was recently invited to attend a relatively local 2-day blogging conference, located about two hours from where I live. At first I followed my initial reaction and ignored the invitation. After all, I would have JUST launched my new blog a few days before the conference and besides that, I’ve never been to a blogging conference. What the heck do people do at a blogging conference?! I wouldn’t even know anyone. I quickly put it out of my mind.
But then I received a second invite. And this time I considered it more carefully. It was pretty close to home and being held on convenient days. Would I be passing up an opportunity if I didn’t go? But I didn’t know anyone and maybe it would be a waste of my time. But then – I wondered if this was just fear talking and decided to face it. I made up my mind that I would go, and gave myself a goal of connecting with one person while there. If I could do that, I figured it would have been worth it.
Fast-forward to a few days post conference, and I am SO glad that I went! It was a really inspiring and eye-opening experience – I met so many incredible people, made some amazing contacts (many more than my goal of one), and listened to some truly educational and motivating talks. I will admit that I had tentatively planned to leave around noon on the second day to beat the traffic home – but I was finding so much value that I stayed until the very end of the conference. If you are considering a blogging conference, I highly recommend it!
I did learn some tips though for the next time (yes, I do plan to attend more). Because I had no idea what to bring nor expect before attending this first one, I thought I would share what I learned with others to help with better preparation for an even better experience.
Bring enough business cards. And then bring a few more.
Fortunately, I was told to bring business cards so did have this ready. I didn’t have much time, so quickly ordered a batch on VistaPrint. I love VistaPrint because they are cheap, fast, and they have an easy-to-use business card editor. A few tips if ordering through them:
- Make sure you include your logo on both the front and back of the card.
- Include all social media names/contacts/handles to make it easy for people to contact you.
- Include a phone number.
- Consider including a QR code so that people can scan and immediately access your site. I use QR Code Generator for mine.
- It’s always a nice touch to include a personal photo. I have mine on the back of the card to free up room on the front.
- Upgrade to the higher-quality paper. It does cost a bit more but is much more professional looking.
- Always search for an online coupon or promo code before ordering through VistaPrint – they are largely available.
- Once you order a specific volume of cards, you will be prompted immediately AFTER purchase to add additional cards for a lower price. So if you’re waffling on volume, go with the lower volume amount and then add the additional at a discount post-checkout.
Make sure that you bring plenty of cards to the conference. You will be handing them out to attendees, vendors, speakers, organizers, and others all throughout the event. You can never have too many cards with you to distribute. Quite a few bloggers shared that they wished they had brought more cards as they had run out early.
Bring a media kit.
This I did not do, but will next time. I figured for the first time around, with a 3-day-old blog, it wouldn’t have provided much value. Even so – it probably would have been good for me to have one ready. I now recommend that every blogger have one created. I had the opportunity to view many blogger media kits while at the conference, so will be building my own and then will post on how I did it.
Prepare a 60-second pitch.
You will likely have the opportunity to meet with many brands and vendors at the conference, and want to make the most of your time with them. Prepare and rehearse a 60-second pitch on your blog: your name, your blog name, your premise, your topics, your readership, your social media reach, and any other interesting or compelling facts. Do you love a particular brand that is being represented at the event? Let them know! There were a couple of brands at the conference I attended that I actually had blogged about on my other parenting blog – I let them know that and it helped to create an immediate connection.
Take initiative and ask questions.
Easier said than done, I know. It can be a bit uncomfortable at your first conference when you don’t know anyone and are still figuring out how to navigate. But it is well worth the effort! Start by approaching other attendees and simply introducing yourself. Ask where they’re from, and what their blog is about. Ask questions about what they do and their goals. I found that every attendee I connected with was equally looking to connect with others – and appreciated it when approached (just as I very much appreciated it when others approached me).
Don’t forget to approach brands and vendors as well. Ask about their products, ask to test their products, and let them know if you’re interested in working with them. Be creative! I met a particular vendor who was selling certain products, and shared an idea I had about how the business could possibly be expanded further beyond a product line. The vendor was interested and we will now be connecting on how to potentially partner on this secondary project.
Collect business cards.
You didn’t think you would only be handing out your business card, did you? It is just as important to collect the cards of others you meet and connect with. If they don’t offer you their card – ASK! You can then go through them later to reach out to attendees and brands you’d like to work with, or simply connect on social media and through blogs. Even if you don’t think that you are interested in connecting offline with certain people or brands you meet, get their card anyway. You never know when an opportunity may arise and the person or company may be JUST the contact you need.
Leave the laptop at home.
This is personal preference, but I brought my laptop and regretted it. Granted, I am much more accustomed to financial service and technology conferences where a laptop is a must. I assumed it would be the same here – I could use the laptop to take notes and to work or follow up at night. Alas, some much more seasoned blogger conference attendees taught me new/better tips:
- Use your mobile phone instead. Great slide being presented? Take a picture of it. Posted sign with a speaker’s credentials and social media channels? Snap another photo. The additional benefit here is that the pictures can immediately be posted on social media, helping to create buzz and sharing your enthusiasm for the speakers and their topics.
- For things that are being said that are not presented, simply jot them down on a notepad. Easy, fast, and much lighter to carry around than a laptop for two days.
- Scrap the notion of working at night. You’re at a conference! And one of the reasons you’re there is to network! Don’t waste your time holed up in a hotel room. Attend the cocktail parties, go to dinner with a group of new friends, chat in the lobby. Use the time you would otherwise be spending on your computer to create and nurture genuine connections with other like-minded people.
Attend all sessions.
I confessed earlier that I had planned on leaving early the second day to beat the traffic home. Well, I didn’t do it. And while traffic was indeed horrible, I am SO glad that I stayed for the entire time. Had I snuck out early, I would have missed some of my favorite sessions of the entire conference. I would have missed the opportunity to network and meet new people over lunch. I would have not met certain people that I now plan to partner with. And I would have missed the swag bags given out at the end! So the lesson I learned was that if I commit myself to attending, then I am attending the entire event so I can take full advantage of all the opportunities offered.
Follow up after the conference.
Once the conference is over, start organizing the stacks of business cards you’ve obtained. Reach out to others you’ve agreed to reach out to. Send them emails, reference the conference, follow them on social media. Follow up if needed. Respond promptly to others who reach out to you – whether or not you’re interested in working together. Maintain integrity and be true to your word. If you promised to share something with someone – do it. Continue to nurture the relationships even after the in-person conference to build your credibility and learn from all the wonderful new contacts you’ve made.
I hope you have as much fun at your first blogging conference as I had at mine! I am sure there are other great tips that more seasoned attendees can provide – please share in the comments so we can all benefit.