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.  😉

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.  😉  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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