I am a blog conference junkie veteran. I am heading out to the Build Your Blog Conference #BYB’14 in downtown Salt Lake this weekend.
This will be my 9th blog conference over the last five years – yes there probably is a 12 step program for that, but I don’t want it. Blog conferences are wonderful, magical things and if you are a blogger and there is one within 100 miles of you – GO TO IT! The family will survive without you, they don’t cost that much money (absolutely worth it!) and they are a wonderful way to learn a ton of stuff about the art and business of blogging, but more importantly, you will be creating a network of blogger friends that will be your greatest support and source of inspiration. So – GO!
Here are the conferences I’ve been to:
SITScation – Las Vegas (This was the model for the later Bloggy Boot Camps)
Bloggy Boot Camp – Phoenix
Bloggy Boot Camp – St George
Evo ’10 – Park City
Evo ’11 – (Evo stands for the EVOlution of Women in Social Media)
Evo ’12 – This was the last year of Evo and I miss it so much!
Casual Bloggers Conference (don’t remember what year)
Start Up Princess Conference
Plus I’ve been to at least FIVE Stampin’ Up Conventions, which are like 4 day mega-conferences with thousands of women. Talk about the estrogen ocean! Wonderful, but exhausting, especially since some of them came less than a week after the Evo conferences…
It’s funny because each one has it’s own distinct personality and each one is quite different. And in it’s own way, each one was wonderful and each one had a few bumps in the road. But it is interesting to see how many wonderful people I got to know and am still in touch with from each and every conference – many of them in a daily basis.
But on to the meat of the story – what to bring. If you are planning to go to a blog conference anytime soon, I can pretty much guarantee you are stressing out. STOP IT – no really, I mean it. Just relax. Everything you are fussing about will most likely work out just fine. Your outfit will be great, you will find a buddy (or ten) to eat with, you will find someone to room with, and if you don’t get into the class you are dying to get into, there will be other opportunities.
Let’s start with the most important item – CLOTHES. Yes, we are women, so that is obviously going to be the most important issue right up front. My advice is to go just a little bit dressy, but not too dressy. You want outfits that are going to make you shine and make you feel confident, but at the same time, you really need to be comfortable. Go for bright colors (if that works on you), layers because you don’t know what the room temps will be or if you will be walking outside, and for Lord’s sake – COMFY shoes. No really, I mean it – COMFY SHOES. Conferences always have a ton of walking and standing around and while we all love those pretty hooker shoes, they will not be your friends by the end of the day!
And by all means, go for the bling. Particularly a statement necklace, especially if you are crafty and have made it yourself. It’s just a nice conversation starter for people to say – what a cool necklace. Did you make it? … and that starts the conversational ball rolling.
Your next important category is your tech stuff. Blogging conferences are fully connected and you need to be in the groove. Bring your SmartPhone if you have one, your tablet or iPad if you have one, and your laptop if you must (they are pretty bulky to lug around and there often aren’t tables). Bring every charger you can get your hands on, because you will be sucking battery life big time. There is going to be a ton of tweeting, Instagraming, and photo taking. And you will make the most friends EVER if you bring a powerstrip – trust me on that.
Try to travel light if you can. Organize your outfits and toiletries into one small suitcase if you can. Here is a great post of mine on organized packing. Leave room or bring an extra bag for swag. Nearly all conferences have swag and sometimes there is a lot of it. I remember leaving one of the EVO Conferences with a Huggies Diaper box FULL of fabulous swag and another bag besides.
Now let’s talk about the conference bag. The conference organizers will give you a lovely bag with all your paperwork and other goodies in it. The problem with these bags is that everyone else is carrying an identical bag, so it’s easy to get them lost, mixed up, or left behind. I usually bring my own conference bag. I have a backpack style bag that I got from one of my Stampin’ Up! conferences that I absolutely LOVE and I carry everywhere. It has lots of pockets and is roomy enough for my iPad, chargers, powerstrip, paperwork, swag, business cards, etc. And it is unique enough that I can identify it easily. I do suggest that you completely ditch the Mom purse, or just carry a clutch. I usually just shove my wallet, keys, a lipstick and some breath mints into my Stampin’ Up! bag or just a pocket and then I’m good to go. Otherwise, you will start looking like a pack mule and you won’t have any hands free to hug people. Yes, hugging is pretty much mandatory at conferences…
Remember that old Scout motto – Be Prepared. As I am a Scout Leader, these are definitely words to live by for me. You are going to want to be prepared ahead of time for your blog conference, so do your homework and print out what you need. This could include your boarding passes if you are flying, your hotel reservation, any maps of the areas, including restaurants, a conference schedule – they will give you one, but you will be a hero to your friends if you have one on hand from the start. This also includes your media kit (if you have one!) and your business cards.
A word about business cards. Business cards are probably the one thing for blog conferences that are pretty much mandatory. Everyone is going to be asking you for them and you are going to be getting them from everyone else. They are cheap and quick at VistaPrint and there are a ton of different designs to choose from or you can go custom. A word to the wise – you are going to be giving this info out to a lot of strangers, so you want to put some thought into what info you do or don’t want to include on them.
Mine are snazzy and I put just enough info on them to keep in touch with me, but not enough info for some crazy to stalk me. No phone, no address, and no last name (mine is very unique, so I don’t use it for privacy purposes). Mine are turquoise and zebra, and are printed lengthwise instead of side to side for a little uniqueness. I have my blog name, my Email, and my Twitter / Pinterest / Instagram info and that’s enough. If I want someone to have my cell or other info, I can write it on the back. Paranoid – no, not me. Well, not much!
Some smart people carry a large ring with a hole punch. That way they can punch the cards as they receive them and keep them all together. I’m not that organized. I have a snazzy turquoise metal case that holds about 25 cards. I keep that in my pocket at all times and as I give out cards, it frees up room in the back to stash other people’s cards. If I’m really feeling organized, I may even jot a quick note on the back so I can remember who the heck is who. Hey, works for me….
If you are local, you can usually just drive back and forth, however, there is a lot of value in staying up at the conference. First of all, you aren’t distracted by all the nonsense going on at home. Second of all, you can stick around for the late night hangouts, which are usually a lot of fun, and third of all, it is a great way to cement relationships with your roommates. And trust me, there is NEVER any shortage of available roommates at a conference. My strategy is to go ahead and book the largest room I can afford – usually at a nearby hotel that is a little cheaper than the conference hotel, and then go onto the message board for the conference and start plugging for room mates. This time, I was full up in less than 12 hours. And you know, these are three women I’ve never seen before in my life. That’s just fine with me – what better way to meet new people?
Don’t stress about the meal situation. At this conference, everyone is up in arms about the Friday night dinner. Sheesh people, it’s downtown Salt Lake, there are tons of restaurants, so if you don’t get into the “Official” dinner, just grab some friends and find a spot. You’ll have a great time, I promise. Same thing for the classes. Go ahead and sign up for what you think you want, but if you change your mind, just drift along into whatever class your buddies sign up for. They never check the list, there is always plenty of room, and sometimes you’ll get into something new that you might really enjoy. So, basically, just go with the flow and enjoy yourself.
Getting to know people. I’m a flaming extrovert, so this part is no problem at all for me. Plus with as many conferences as I’ve been to, I know a TON of people, so I feel right at home. But if you’re shy, new, or a wallflower, you’re going to have to buck up and get out there. Try planning a few things you can say about your blog or a few questions you want to ask people. Practice a few compliments if you see someone with nice shoes, or a great necklace. Everyone else is nervous too and hoping they won’t be the one left out, so my advice is to just be kind, be inclusive, be friendly. Reach out to other wallflowers or anyone who is looking lonely or uncomfortable. I promise you, they will remember it.
And be grateful. The conference organizers have just about killed themselves off to pull of a huge event, so show them lots and lots of love, especially if things are going wrong. During our last Evo conference, the power went out thoughout Park City for all of Saturday evening. Could have been a complete disaster, but you know, no one batted an eye. We fished out glow sticks, candles, cell phone lights, and tap lights, and went right on with the party. It was actually more wonderful that way with a party by glow sticks and everyone had a marvelous time!
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