Blog Conferences 101

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I’m definitely not an expert on the topic of blog conferences, but I do remember the anxiety I felt before attending Haven last year.  Would I know anyone?  How many business cards did I need?  What would I, a shy introvert in extrovert’s clothing, talk about?  And speaking of clothing– WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?!  Since there may be other first timers this year who may have the same questions– and mostly to gather my own thoughts before I arrive at Haven on Thursday– I put all those questions and a few answers on paper.  Er, on computer.  Hope this helps even one person who may be freaking out a bit over what to say/do/wear at their next blog conference, even if that one person is just me.  šŸ˜‰

advice for attending blog conferences

1.  What to Wear

Let’s just get this one out of the way right at the start.  It’s funny how much the topic of clothing comes up around blog conference season.  I believe a major reason is that many of us have been working from home the past few years, out of the workplace loop for awhile.  Or it could be there’s no set rules for a blog conferences.  Unlike other professional conferences, dress at a blogging conference varies a HUGE amount.  There’s actually a great reason for that.  The truth is, instead of dressing for the conference, you should dress for your personal BRAND.  What you wear will reflect you and your blog, so my general thought is to be YOU, perhaps kicked up a notch.

For example, my friend Kelly (who contributes here at Making Lemonade) is a DIY fanatic.  The girl owns her own saw.  Several, actually.  The scary kinds that plug in.  Wearing a dress and heels probably doesn’t reflect her brand, but wearing a ‘Life is Good’ t-shirt with the words “Stop and Smell the Sawdust” is SO “her.”  Another (non-Haven) colleague has a blog called Honey Badger Mom.  What did she wear to a recent blog conference?  A t-shirt with the word SWAG across the front.  So cheeky, which is definitely her brand!

Me?  I’m a realist trying to make lemonade out of lemons.  While I adore high fashion and interior design, I need to make it work as a busy mom of two tiny kiddos.  I believe strongly in mixing what you love with what you need and creating a style that works in this season of your life.  I despise things that are difficult and fussy.  And I’m ALWAYS wearing white pants (which my husband teases me about incessantly, but doesn’t he know white pants look great with everything and are bleachable?!)  With that in mind, last year I was incredibly comfortable wearing this:

What to Wear to a Blog Conference

Comforable.  Bright.  Layered.  Extremely ‘ME’.

So here’s my advice:

  • Be YOU.
  • Wear what you love, but don’t be afraid to kick it up a notch.
  • Pack an extra layer, either a cardi or a blazer, because rooms may be chilly.
  • Consider a piece of statement jewelry like a funky ring or a necklace if it fits your brand because it may make you stand out from the crowd.
  • Speaking of brands, if it works, try to have something on your person that speaks to your blog.  I’m going to try to wear a little bit of yellow each day, in honor of my lemons!
  • Comfy shoes are a must.  You’ll be standing a lot.  Plus there’s that hike in the ATL airport– you’ll definitely get your workout for the day!

If you’re still fretting, I highly suggest you start by reading Miss Mustard Seed’s post entitled ‘Robbed’.  It’s centering.

2.  Know Your Goal(s)

This should really be #1.  Take a moment to think about WHY you’re going.  Come up with a list of your top 5 reasons.  Are you there to socialize? learn something new? meet brands and monetize? stalk the celebri-bloggers?  All of the above?  Centralizing your goals will help you make decisions about what to pack, what to do, which sessions to attend, and who to speak to while you’re there.  It’s okay to want to do all of the above, and if you do, then Haven’s the place for you.

3.  Much Ado about Media Kits

Media kits?  I NEED A MEDIA KIT?!  The answer is yes and no.  A media kit is nice to have when you interact with brands so they have your info and stats right in their hands.  That being said, nothing trumps genuine interaction with the brand.  If you stand out, they’ll remember you.  Sure, media kits are great and I plan to bring some, but truly a smile and a great conversation may open just as many doors as a dazzling media kit.  If you do decide to create one, here’s a few quick tips:

  • keep it to one page; ain’t nobody got time to read these days
  • save as a .pdf, and offer to send it to the representative via email
  • make sure you have your most important pieces of information on it: who you are, what you do, your tagline and web address, social media links and stats, pageviews and stats from Google Analytics (do NOT use Blogger stats!), and how you can help that brand (perhaps include logos of previous campaigns)
  • have a photo on there, which will help the brand remember the face that goes with that kick-butt kit.

4.  The Almighty Business Cards

If you plan to socialize and/or connect with brands (and hopefully, there’s a YES to both), you’ll want to have business cards. Also, you’ll want a place to store all the cards you collect.  A photo on the card is helpful, as well as your blog’s name, tagline, web address, logo and social media links.  My business cards were a BIG FAT FAIL this year (it’s too late to change them, oh well) but you’re gonna bug out when you see all the cool ideas from your Haven friends!  I got a good peek at #havenconf hashtag on Instagram yesterday, and woah, I’m outta my league.  Though I DID love my business cards from last year, I should probably have done the same thing this time around:

blog conference business cards

5.  Sponsorships

Something to consider to defray costs for your next conference: is there a brand who will sponsor you to attend?  This year, I’m THRILLED to be sponsored by Collective Bias/ Social Fabric!  I’ll be attending as myself of course, but also recruiting for Social Fabric.  One thing I made sure to check first were the guidelines set forth by the Haven organizers.  Since I don’t want to step on the toes of the official sponsors, I made sure to ask what I can/ can’t do in terms of promoting and recruiting for Social Fabric. The Haven organizers came up with a few (very reasonable) guidelines.  For example, I can’t use the official #havenconf hashtag on social media if I’m mentioning my sponsor.  Therefore, sometimes I’ll be tweeting and instagram-ing using #havenconf when I’m ‘myself’, and other times in my work for my sponsor I’ll be using just #Haven or #HavenSoFab.  Be sure to check out both!

On that note, I’d love to connect with any Social Fabric members or anyone who wishes to become one.  I have a special code to fast track your application (and perhaps something else for you, wink), so be sure to see me for it!

6.  What to Bring

Chelsea from Two Twenty One has a great post on what to bring to a blog conference.  I’ll ditto chargers– they are a MUST!  And an additional bag for your ‘swag’.  She also has a printable list in case you want to make sure you have everything.

Blog Conferences 101{photo source: two twenty one}

7.  Social Butterflies

People don’t believe this about me, but it’s very very true: I’m super shy.  It takes a huge effort for me to speak to new people, meet someone’s eye, walk up to a group in conversation, or go to a party alone.  I do it because I have to (and in the end, I want to), but it isn’t always easy.  I’m an introvert at heart, which means I recharge my batteries from being alone instead of getting energized by being in a crowd.  That being said, I LOVE meeting new people, hanging with my friends, and socializing in general.  But if there’s a crowd involved don’t be surprised if I back into a corner and huddle there for a little while.  šŸ˜‰  Here’s a few tips for doing the hard stuff: socializing, if you’re not always feeling social:

  • Try not to use your phone or tablet as a crutch.  It’s so easy to bury your nose and start texting your friends, but putting down the technology and genuinely engaging with someone is way more worth it!
  • Approach brands when their booth is empty.  I’m always tempted to walk up when there’s a crowd so I can get in on the conversation, but the BEST connections I made last year was when I could talk to reps face-to-face without disruptions.  Much harder, but SO worth it.
  • A pet peeve of mine is when I’m talking to someone and they start scanning the crowd to see who else is there.  I get it, you want to network as much as possible but let’s just take a minute to focus on someone no matter how big or small their blog may be.  You NEVER know someone’s backstory.  There are many times I’ve become friends with someone because I we ‘click’, only to discover later that they are a huge deal or have great connections.  Or, I just enjoyed their company no matter what they could or couldn’t do for me, and ended up making a great friend.  In other words, consider looking beyond the pageviews and connections and you might make a genuine friend (or two, or five).  You. Just. Never. Know.
  • If you need to recharge, go for it.  A few minutes lying on the bed or taking a quick walk alone for coffee really kept me going last year.
  • Don’t let one bad experience ruin your day.  Will people always respond the way you want?  No.  Whether it’s someone you meet in passing or that blogger you’ve wanted to meet for years, not everyone is going to act with tact or grace.  They may be overwhelmed, socially awkward, super shy, or be having a bad day.  It’s hard, but let it go and maybe give them another chance down the road.  {side note: Centsational Girl is absolutely as wonderful as she seems on her blog.  In case you were wondering.}

Blog Conferences 101

Is your head spinning yet?  Did these ideas leave you with more questions and anxiety? (oh, I SO hope they didn’t!)  Above all, my best advice is to BE YOU.  You are your brand.  Go with your goals in mind, have fun, and let it go.  Most of all, please be sure to come over and say hi to me.  I’ll be the one trembling in the corner with my statement jewelry and extra layers trying to work up enough courage to say hello to you first.

{and don’t forget to stop over and let me know if you’d like the code for fast tracking your Social Fabric application.  Or if you’re already a SoFab member, let’s get an #awkwardstretch photo or two!}

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  1. Thanks for sharing Carrie! I’m excited but nervous at the same time. I hope I meet you there!

  2. Carrie, this was very timely for me. I’m a huge introvert, you’d never know it once I get going though…I can talk a lot!

    While I’m very excited about the conference, thinking about just how fast paced and high energy the event will be kind of makes my head spin and want to run for cover. I will be challenging myself to put myself out there, but I know I’ll be glad I did this time next week!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi Carrie! I remember seeing your outfits last year (from your photos in today’s post) but I don’t think I got a chance to actually meet you! So excited about Haven-the next few days can’t get here fast enough!

  4. As a first timer…I needed this! Especially because I feel like attending Haven is WAY out of my league! You guys are all superstars! Thanks for the post, it was helpful!

  5. Good stuff – I love the reminder about staying focused on the person you are talking to – some times I feel I have a little ADD and would might actually not stay focused, so it was a terrific reminder!!! Thanks and see you in a few days šŸ™‚

  6. I’ll be there, sure to seek you out, since I will be in my statement jewelry, trying to ignore the fact that i’m missing my daughter’s 6th birthday! I might just drown the guilt in wine:)


    1. Jessica, definitely seek me out and we can drown a glass in honor of your daughter’s special day, haha! That’s a tough one, but I truly think she’ll be so proud of her mama and I know you’ll make it up to her. šŸ˜‰

  7. This is so perfect Carrie! Speaking of social butterflies, I just wrote a story about what happened to me at a conference on my blog. I really LOVE what you said about your pet peeve…”when Iā€™m talking to someone and they start scanning the crowd to see who else is there.” I’ve had that happen to me and it kind of hurts. OR when people will purposefully look at my name tag and then keep walking. Interesting thing too, going to these conferences has made me look at who I really am. I always thought I was an extrovert because I love people, but I think I might be more of an introvert or somewhere in between…lol! This is all excellent advice! Looking forward to meeting you.

  8. Hi, Carrie! Great tips and I’m an introvert as well. I know how to mingle but it’s just a stretch to do it for days at a time without a little recharge. But I’m going to do it! I also just joined Social Fabric and actually have a hangout tomorrow about it. Yeah! Hope to meet you at Haven.

  9. Great post, I love the part about scanning the room while talking! See you there šŸ™‚

  10. I haven’t been to a blog conference yet and am not sure when it’s in the cards but all of this info was great. I actually had no idea that brands where there. Secondly, I am so glad to know that Kate from Centsational Girl is as awesome as her blog. Her blog was one of the first I ever found a year and a half ago (prior to that I had no clue what a blog was). I not only admired her blogging style but she helped me several times by simply just responding to my emails or comments personally and with such grace and respect. So cool that you met her.

    Calming the Chaos

    1. I hate to be all fangirl about Kate, but she really *is* that cool. So kind, and even though I only talked to her for 5 minutes she totally gave me great advice about something! I love when someone’s online personality matches their offline one. šŸ˜‰

  11. Shoot, now I wish I were going with y’all (that’s my Ohio version of a Southern accent). You make it sounds so fun! I’m quite the introvert myself, so I’ve always been a little paranoid about being the only one hiding out in the bathroom for a little quiet time. Have fun. I’ll save your conference suggestions for next time around.

    1. I’ll put you on the blogroll for Haven 2014, okay Pam? It’s fun, try to come next time!

  12. Great write up! Tried to connect with you last year right at the end and we missed each other. Really hoping we meet this year!

  13. Great tips! Can’t wait to see you and that fabulous bag you have there!

  14. Carrie, this helps SO much! It sounds like there will be several ‘newbies’ this year, including myself. The thought of being surrounded by so many experienced and successful bloggers is a little intimidating, so your post is very encouraging.

    Yours was one of the first blogs I read after hooking up with the mavens… the story of your daughter’s birth moved me so…

    and your swag bag inspired me to create my own ‘brand bag’!! Hope I get to meet ya!

    1. I definitely hope we get to meet, if you happen to spot me in the crowd please be sure to come over and say hi! And I can’t wait to see your ‘brand bag’!!!

  15. Aww this just brought back all the great memories of doing Haven “with you” last year. šŸ˜‰ The tea you shipped here! The outfits! When I think of you, I picture you wearing yellow, and I think that’s because you did a great job dressing for your brand last year. Can’t wait to see you again in a few days!

    1. I know, I was nuts with that tea. But all I could think about were the security guards at the airport being like, WHAT IS IN THOSE BAGS?! Thanks for being my mule, haha! Looking forward to seeing you, expect some BIG hugs. šŸ˜‰

  16. Great tips, Carrie! I’m a huuuge introvert. Like I could be totally happy staying home and seeing nobody but my husband for a week straight, so I’m totally breaking out of my blogging shell here. But I’m also crazy excited to get out and meet some other bloggers in person who are doing what I’m doing. Thursday just needs to hurry up and get here already!

    1. I know, part of me is thinking I’d be just as happy chilling on the couch catching up on the fun via Instagram. But I know I’d regret it. See you soon!!

  17. Hi Carrie! Love this and it makes me nervous at the same time! I’m a Haven newbie. Not sure what Social Fabric is so I will have to Google it! I figure I will wing it and hope I don’t make a fool of myself in the process! Thank you for the tips and great advice!

    1. Hi Melody! Definitely come see me and I’ll fill you in on Social Fabric. Looking forward to meeting you!

  18. Best post I’ve read about Haven! It’s gonna be awesome. Can’t wait to meet you!

    1. Aw, you just made me smile! Thanks! Looking forward to meeting you as well. šŸ˜‰

  19. Carrie, I LOVE this post! I can’t wait to hear all about your conference from this last weekend. I am pinning this for the next time I attend one! Love it! Thanks for sharing on Motivation Monday:)

  20. Great tips, Carrie! I am going to Haven for the first time this year and am looking forward to it!

    1. I think you’ll love Haven, it’s such an encouraging and inspiring atmosphere! Looking forward to meeting you!

  21. Thanks for the tips…are you going this week? I’ve seen so many cute business cards I am ready to throw mine in the trash šŸ˜‰

    1. I’m going this week! I’m sure your cards are great; and what’s most important isn’t how the cards look, it’s the person behind the cards. šŸ™‚ Looking forward to seeing you!

  22. Hi Carrie, I’m so glad I saw this post. I’m going to Haven for the first time and this has helped calm my newbie nerves! I hope we get to meet!

    1. I hope we get to meet too! Please come find me– it’s normal to be nervous but you’re going to have so much fun!

  23. Hi Carrie ~ Such great suggestions and things to think about – dressing for my brand, taking a time-out to refresh, stepping out of my shyness, not using my phone as a crutch, epic fail business cards (ditto-oh well) and the list goes on! Last year, I was focused on #1 and #6. This year, I’m going to focus on #2-#5 & #7. Or at least I hope so. Thanks again!

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