This Post: Best tips to prep and succeed at your next blogging conference or networking event.
Why You Should Attend a Blogging Conference
Attending a blogging conference is an investment in your business and yourself. Therefore you'll want to make sure to get the most out of it.
I've compiled resources, tips, and tricks to help you maximize your investment return from attending your next blogging conference.
Industry News and Trends
Conferences are an outstanding opportunity to learn about industry trends and insights from industry experts.
Depending on what blogging conference or event you choose, the topics will vary, but you can expect to learn about:
- improving your blogging skills
- traffic generation
- social media
- product creation
- communication skills
- and business building.
One type of session during a blogging conference is a panel discussion. During panel talks, about half a dozen experts discuss a specific topic.
Typically, a moderator will lead the panel and ask questions, and you'll get various insights and views on the topic. Panels are great and one of my favorite kinds of events.
Meeting Experts/Industry Leaders
One of the perks of attending a blogging conference is that you get the chance to meet and connect with industry experts.
Maybe there's somebody who's blog, podcast, or YouTube channel you've followed for years. So, now it's your chance to meet them.
Tips for meeting experts and speakers
- Look at the speaker lineup and consider whom you'd like to meet.
- It's a good idea to spend some time researching what they have been working on; this will also help you think of questions you might want to ask.
- If you don't already follow them on social media, it's a good idea to do it before the event. Likewise, the speakers are often excited to share and promote the event. So, maybe, you can leave a comment that you're very excited to meet them and look forward to hearing them speak.
How To Approach Exerts
- Be mindful that there is a fine line between naturally approaching somebody and fangirling somebody.
- Don't run over them right after their speech. Why? Because the chances are that that's what many other people are doing, and you'll 'drown out.'
- ITake some notes during their speech. And later try to find an opportunity to connect.
- Point out something you've liked about their speech; this shows you connected with them and their work.
Bloggers as a whole tend to be a very supportive community. In addition, many of the experts are very gracious with their time and expertise.
Blogging can be a lonely business. A blogging conference turns this upside down. You'll be amidst a ton of people. That's great (and can also almost feel like a culture shock).
You'll find inspiration from the things you learn in your sessions, niche groups, and your peers' interactions.
You'll naturally soak up new inspiration!
Especially if you've been experiencing a creative slump (writer's block, anyone?), mingling with other bloggers boosts you for weeks to come.
Sessions and panels are great and can turbocharge your knowledge within a short period.
But the actual value of a blogging conference lies in networking. The chances are that you are the only 'blogger' among your circle of family and friends.
A blog conference allows you to meet and connect with other like-minded bloggers and content creators.
I don't know about you, but saying 'I am a blogger.' is something that takes practice.
You've probably experienced some politely raised eyebrows or less polite questions - at a blogging conference; you're among your people.
Networking done right
Get to know other bloggers and learn about their stories, interests, and blogs. You'll find that you'll probably have quite a few things in common.
In addition, you'll be amazed at how many genuinely inspiring people come to an excellent blogging conference.
Networking done right is how you get a return on your investment. But how do you do that?
- Be authentic and have genuine conversations. Ask questions about the person's blog and business. Listen to what they say, and don't just wait until they stop talking so you can tell them about your fabulous blog.
- You don't have to change to become a different person when you begin to network. But consider that approaching somebody with a smile is more pleasant for the other person.
- Maintain eye contact and engage the other people by asking open-ended questions and being interested in what they have to say. You'll be amazed at how many people have unique and inspiring stories.
- Listen and focus. Try actively to listen to what the other person is telling you. Your goal is to create meaningful relationships. Ask follow-up questions and demonstrate that you are interested in them and the things they have to say.
- Prepare your elevator pitch.
- Say YES to invitations. If you've been asked to join a smaller group for lunch or dinner, use the opportunity to get to know them better. Remember, you don't have to attend every pre-organized event, talk, or session. If you have the choice between a get-together with like-minded attendees and a session, I'd recommend networking.
- Conferences will often record the sessions, and you can usually download them after the event).
Prepare Your Elevator Pitch
"So, what's your blog about?" For many of us, this is a 'deer caught in the headlight moment.'
Besides that, our palms get sweaty, our answers start all over the place, and we may even begin a nervousness-induced ramble.
But it doesn't have to be that way!
To avoid that awkwardness, start by planning what you will say. In other words, craft an elevator pitch.
If you're unfamiliar with the concept, an elevator pitch is a brief 30-60 second summary of what your blog, shop, service, or business is all about.
Once you've crafted that idea, start practicing telling it to others. Your mirror is a patient listener when you feel ready to practice with a spouse or a friend and ask them for input.
Tip - For A Great Elevator Pitch
You can alter your approach to take the elevator pitch to the next level. For example, rather than launching directly into your story, you might ask them a general question about your business.
Let's say you blog about sewing? For example, you could ask, "Have you ever thought about being able to sew your clothes but have been intimidated by complicated patterns, equipment, and techniques?"
Give the other person room to ask more questions.
If they do, it's a good indication that they care what you have to say. On the other hand, if they don't have more questions, you can shorten your elevator pitch and ask them instead of what they are doing.
Introverts and Networking
If you are an outright introvert, you realize the benefits of networking, meeting new people, and forging new relationships, but the truth is it can also be quite overwhelming.
So here are a few tips from one introvert to another.
- Try to go into networking events with a relaxed mind. You're not the only nervous person there.
- Give yourself breaks. If you're introverted, you will most likely not meet as many people as somebody who is naturally super outgoing. That's ok. You do what feels comfortable to you. Organizers are well aware of introverts and often try to make it as easy as possible for people to get to know each other in a relaxed setting.
- Ask questions. Asking questions is a winning strategy. Especially if you don't feel comfortable 'put yourself out there and immediately start talking about yourself. Most people love talking about themselves, and it will give you some time to collect your thoughts.
- If possible, have a buddy. Maybe you already know somebody at the conference. To get over the hump, ask them to tag along for a while.
- Small Groups. Conferences organizers know introverts' challenges and often set up smaller groups before the event. If you don't know anybody, take advantage of the smaller group settings. Making a few friendly connections before the event can make it less stressful.
- If you don't feel like networking, find other ways to make connections. For instance, offer to take notes during a session and share them with others afterward (not everybody will make every session and might appreciate your effort).
- Suppose your event has a private group share that you're taking notes. Many events will have a custom hashtag to share what you're doing.
Suppose the thought of interacting with many people makes you nervous. Plan what you will say. Here are a few tips for conversation starters:
- Where are you from?
- Have you been to X location before?
- What's your blog about?
- How long have you been blogging?
- Have you ever been to an X blogging conference?
- What has been your favorite event so far? Who's your favorite speaker?
These are just starters. Try to be as relaxed and calm as possible and be yourself. Consider that your conversation partner may be as nervous as you are!
So how many people should you meet? Unfortunately, there is no fast rule on that.
Ideally, networking should happen organically. But a good rule of thumb is to try to plan to meet between three and five people for every thirty minutes of networking.
Take a break when you need to. You got this!
No matter where you are in your blogging journey, you'll find other people in a similar position.
To be honest, this was something I didn't expect going to my first conference. For instance, I thought all Activate attendees had launched their blogs.
Nothing could have been further from the truth!
I ran into a dozen people working on starting their blog during the pre-conference networking event.
There wasn't an official count, but there seemed to be an equal number of attendees of beginning bloggers, intermediate bloggers, and advanced expert bloggers.
Connecting with peers at a similar stage in their blogging/business journey is as meaningful and enriching as networking with experts. Listen to your peers' stories, goals, and struggles.
Whatever you have been going through, chances are somebody else will have gone through it, too. So there is comfort in that.
Look out for others
I've already shared some tips for the introverts amongst us. However, if you're more outgoing and the idea of lots of new people isn't intimidating, focus on helping others be more comfortable.
Look around and be mindful of people standing by themselves or looking lost. Approach them with a smile and try to make it easy for them to engage with you.
Takeaway. Networking and making connections are incredibly valuable. This is true for pretty much any business but especially for blogging.
Building and maintaining a network of people in your industry will help you authentically grow your blog and business.
If you've been blogging for a while, you probably know that blogging in a silo doesn't work. Collaborations are essential to growing your blog.
Besides that, it is also very nice to meet people with similar passions and to 'talk shop.'
I don't know about you, but there are no other bloggers in my family or local friends. Meeting people who are passionate about blogging is rare. Enjoy it.
Pre Blogging Conference Prep Tips
Blogging conferences are expensive. For that reason, they often represent a significant investment in your business. As a result, you want to make sure your investment pays off.
Goals - Write down three goals.
Consequently, it's a good idea to take time before the event and develop a couple of goals you'd like to achieve.
Use the following goals as inspiration if you are unsure how to set goals for your next blogging conference.
- Meet X number of people during networking events
- Attend X number of sessions
- Introduce yourself to person X
- Connect with company Y (for possible future collaboration)
- Position yourself as an expert
- Participate in Sessions
- FUN. Get a mani/pedi with a blogging buddy. Have fun.
I recommend writing down two to three goals for your next conference.
Check the Schedule
The conference schedule should be available weeks before the event. Check out the speakers and the topics.
WHAT SESSIONS DO YOU WANT TO ATTEND?
What are the topics that you are excited about? Conversely, are there sessions that you aren't interested in?
Having a successful conference doesn't mean you have to attend every session. Instead, highlight the sessions you want to hear.
Maybe your conference has multiple sessions at the same time. Therefore ask yourself which topics are most important to you?
If your goal is to gain as much expert knowledge as possible, you'll want to attend as many sessions.
But if networking is a high priority, you might find it more beneficial to set up times where you hang out in the lobby and make yourself available to others.
Are business cards still necessary? The short answer: Yes.
You should have business cards if you go to a professional blogging conference or networking event.
- Business cards help you to quickly and easily exchange information.
- They also help you make an impression and stand out.
- Consider including a current image of yourself (a headshot works best) on your business cards.
- Most people meet many different people during a blogging conference, and having your picture for reference makes it easier to remember you.
- Business cards make you look more professional.
- Business cards are cheap to print and worth the expenditure.
You could also consider including a promotional message on your business card. For example, maybe you're launching a new product or service. You could create a special discount for your blogging conference friends and print it on your business card.
This might work well if you are in the blog about the blogging niche.
Depending on the size of the event, I'd recommend having about 50 to 100 business cards on hand.
Include the name of your blog, email, and social contact information.
PLACES TO PRINT BUSINESS CARDS
Conference Prep Tips
Conferences start early and end late. This is because organizers try to give people as much value as possible. Unfortunately, this also means you will have to focus and concentrate for long periods. During the events, you'll want to soak up experts' knowledge.
During networking events and in the evenings, you'll want to take up the chance to get to know more people and deepen your relationships.
As a result, you're going to be tired at some point. I don't know about you, but I need time to decompress as an introvert.
Schedule some time for a nap, check out the hotel gym, or explore the neighborhood. Then, recognize your limits and practice some self-care.
Conferences start early and end late. It might not be possible, but you might want to schedule a day after the conference to decompress and 'recover.'
That's also a great opportunity to 'download' the information you've learned and follow up with the people you've met.
Water and coffee are standard fares at a blogging conference. I suggest packing a reusable water bottle.
My current favorite is a Hydroflask bottle. Ok, I am slightly obsessed with them. Hydroflask bottles keep your water nice and cold; if you choose to fill it with coffee, they'll stay nice and hot.
Since water refills tend you be free, you'll save on spending big bucks at the hotel gift store for bottled water.
And you're doing your bit for the environment. So that's a win all around and worth it.
Despite proper planning, sometimes things don't work out as planned.
During one conference, a group of my blogging friends and I went out for lunch.
Long story short, the restaurant got busy, the waiter was overwhelmed, and the manager was nowhere to be found.
Most people in the group ended up leaving upset and hungry.
TIP: It's a good idea to pack some snacks. Pack something that will give you a quick jolt of energy when needed.
Gum is a bit controversial. Most of us don't want smelly breath; gum or mints are typically the answer. Just be aware that some people won't appreciate your chewing gum in public.
Did you know that Oprah hates when people chew gum around her? So mints might be a better alternative (except if you're like me and dislike mints).
Perfume and Body Sprays
Furthermore, leave your favorite perfume at home. Some conferences will actively remind you to do so, but they don't think it's a good idea.
Many people have allergies and scent sensitivities, so it's best to be thoughtful and leave your perfume at home.
Most conference venues (at least in the US) tend to be air-conditioned; depending on where you sit, it can get downright cold. If you are temperature sensitive, this can make you uncomfortable and ruin your experience.
A light sweater, cardigan, or jacket can come in handy for easy layering.
Save Money: Hotel Roommates
This solution is not for everybody.
A significant expense for any blogging conference is travel and hotel costs.
Conferences frequently will have private Facebook groups.
See if you can connect with other people who want to share a hotel room. It can drastically reduce the cost of the hotel room.
Hotels often charge an additional fee if more than two people share a room.
Research the hotel/event venue
The more prepared you are, the less time you'll have to spend being confused.
- What amenities does the venue have?
- How far away from the airport is it?
- Does it have a shuttle service?
- What's their late checkout policy?
- What sights, restaurants, and stores are within walking distance?
It will help you get a good seat, set up, and settle in. Whip out your notebook, tablet, or whatever you use to take notes. Besides, the speakers will also appreciate it if you've arrived in time.
It'll also give you the chance to meet people before the event.
Likewise, checking in with your loved ones or office is perfectly acceptable between events. However, don't use every break to check on kids, emails, employees, and whatever else is happening in your life.
Remember that you are attending the blogging conference to meet people in person. Therefore don't bury your face into your phone to avoid social interaction.
Notebooks + Laptop
It's a good idea to bring a notebook. I've found that notebooks tend to be included in conference goodie bags or be given out during the event.
But if you want to be sure, it's a good idea to put a notebook in your bag. This brings us to the laptop question. Do you need to bring a laptop? Not necessarily.
Blogging Conference Packing List
Does packing overwhelm you? Maybe you are uncertain about what to pack? As a bonus, I've created a Blogging Conference Packing List which you can download for free in my resource library.
You'll also have the opportunity to get on my exclusive CAP newsletter, where I share productivity and lifestyle tips, blogging trends, and even my favorite recipes a few times a year with awesome deals.
I print my free packing list and use it as your packing guide. But, of course, not everything will apply, and not everybody travels with the same amount of stuff.
I know other bloggers who can pack everything in carry-on and still look presentable and put together throughout the conference. I admire that, but that's not me.
So go through the list, cross out what does apply to you, and then check everything you'll need for your trip.
Blogging Conference Outfit Planner
Conference organizers will typically give information on the dress code. You can expect that to be business casual, and the interpretation of that depends on your style and comfort level.
Just keep in mind that this is a professional event.
You don't need to look like you've hopped out of Vanity Fair, but you'll want to come across like a professional. This will be especially important if you connect with vendors and companies.
I am not a style expert, but I'd recommend you leave your yoga pants at home or in the hotel room.
Finally, I've included an Outfit Planner to help you plan with your packing.
The Blogging Conference Outfit Planner is for a four-day conference, including two days of travel, so if your conference is longer or shorter, make the necessary adjustments.
Block out time in your Schedule to follow up
You've made it. You're back home. And you had a good conference, listened to exciting speakers, met new people in your niche, and made connections with vendors. So you've done a lot of work. But your work isn't entirely done yet.
If you truly want to maximize your blogging conference experience, you'll need to do some follow-up work after the conference. Don't skip this step!
You've to spend a lot of time, money, and energy to form meaningful relationships; don't let them go to waste
You're back home and busy catching up. So it's easy to put off the follow-up. But, if you want to nurture the relationships you started, make it a priority to schedule time to follow up with the people you met.
Therefore put it in your calendar and don't put it off; this part is as important as attending the conference in the first place.
Follow up with people who've met.
You've probably accumulated quite a few business cards on your trip. A variety of Apple and Android apps can help you digitalize. Create a follow-up email a few days after the conference with people who stood out to you.
Remind them of your encounter and see if they want to stay in touch. You can also follow your new networking friends on social media.
Did you take a good picture with somebody? This is an excellent method to develop and strengthen your professional network and grow your blog and business.
Suppose you took the time to take notes. Take some time to go over them. What were the five things that stood out to you most?
What was your biggest takeaway or aha-moment? Was there a speaker that shared something that lit up a lightbulb?
A good follow-up is to send them a quick tweet, thank them for their talk, and share what you found inspiring.
The important part is to use the information you've learned and implemented in your business.
Evaluate the blogging conference.
- Do you feel your investment was worth it?
- Did you meet the goals you set out for yourself? If you fell short in some area, think about why that was.
- What have you learned that will help you grow in your business?
- Will your networking efforts lead to future collaborations, such as guest posts or sponsored posts?
- Did you meet people who resonated with your message?
- How can you build better relationships next time? Take notes and file them with your conference documents for your next blogging conference or networking event.
Book Next Year's Event (save $$$)
As a result, if you are free to attend the following, you can save some real money by booking next year's event straight away.
Often, conference organizers will have a super early bird special if you buy next year's conference ticket on the spot. If you can wing this, I'd highly recommend budgeting for this at the time. Most conferences will allow you to transfer your ticket.
This means that if you have something coming up during the year and realize you won't be able to attend, you can still get your money back or, if you are good at negotiating, even get a higher price than what you've paid during the early special offer.
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