How To Prepare For Your First Blog Conference

If you are going to Bloggy Con this week, next month’s BlogHer in San Diego, or Relevant this fall,  I hope that this list will help you get ready for your first conference.

How-to-prepare-for-your-first-blog-conference

Me Rah Koh giving the keynote address at EVO 2011

1. Get business cards.

You will see amazing and creative business cards at a conference. No matter what you buy for yourself, you will want to change it after the conference.

Unless you are an artist, keep it simple and don’t spend a lot of money this first go-round.

I used Vistaprint. It was cheap, fast and easy. If you click their link at the very top right of their homepage, you can get 500 cards for $10 plus shipping.

Order far enough in advance to avoid paying for expedited shipping. Shipping can cost more than the cards.

Your picture on your card is good for helping people remember who you are the week after conference when they are going through the three hundred cards they collected. If you have a picture on your card, make sure it looks like you.

Once you’ve seen some of the creative and amazing business cards out there, you will want to upgrade. The best cards I saw at Evo ’11 were from the conference sponsor Tiny Prints.

Tiny Prints business cards are more expensive, but they have good shipping rates and the cards are unique, beautiful and high quality.

Hang on to those 400 extra Vistaprint cards you’ll have left over and use them for dropping in for giveaways.

2. Know the Players.

Become familiar with the who, what and where of your conference so you will be knowledgeable and comfortable. It would be a shame to meet The Bloggess and ask her if she, you know, blogs.

Tweet from The Bloggess during Evo Conference


I swear it wasn’t me. I only insulted Her Bad Mother that way.

In my defense, new glasses are like a disguise. My husband could put on Elvis Costello glasses and I would walk past him.

3. Prepare for Swag.

People give you stuff at conferences. Lots of stuff. For free! Most of it is really nice stuff that you will want.

If you are driving to your conference, so much the better. If you are flying, make room in advance.

packing swag from Evo Conference

And I got it all home.

Some conferences set up a shipping table so you can mail your swag back home. The line can get long, so go early or have another method prepared.

Rachael Herrscher of TodaysMama.com, one of the Evo co-founders, told me she packs a USPS flat-rate mailer in the bottom of her suitcase to conference. With pre-paid labels ready to go, you could see if reception at the hotel could mail it for you.

Remember you will be leaving for home on a weekend when post offices are closed.

Otherwise, bring a big suitcase and only pack it half full for your trip in.

Another note on swag, the cups and totes are nice, but the best swag is usually printed on paper. Examine everything you get from a brand. You might not notice a valuable coupon for product or services.

4. Follow the Twitter Hashtag.

Set up the conference hashtag on Tweetdeck or Hootsuite and check it frequently. It’s the best way to make friends in advance, learn about changes or additions, and follow what’s hot during the conference.

I’d heard how great the first SEO session was at Evo through all of the tweets flying during and after it, so I made sure to go to the second session.

Excellent decision! Dennis Goedegebuure from eBay crammed everything a blogger needs to know about SEO into a one-hour workshop. My brain still hurts!

Another note on Twitter, have a recent picture of your face as your avatar. Nothing fancy, just the real you. My roommates recognized me just from my Twitter avatar. This is good, I guess.

5. Spend More Time on Your Blog than on Your Wardrobe

Pack light. Bring basic pieces you can mix and match and change with accessories. Wear comfortable shoes. Bring a zippered tote or small rolling bag with you everywhere. After that, stop worrying about what you look like and get your blog in shape.

I wish I had backed up my blog before I got to Evo.

One of the first things I did was stop at the WordPress table by registration. The people at the table looked a little bored. I asked why they were there. “To answer any WordPress questions.”

I said I was going to move my blog from Blogger to WordPress soon. “We can do that for you now.”

I asked how much it would cost. “Free.”

Well, sign me up, honey!

Have your blog ready for any opportunity. People are going to look at it during and right after the conference. Make sure you are ready for it to be looked at!

If this is more than a hobby, act like it and present a professional product.

Much thanks to Nick Momrik and Sheri Bigelow. The WordPress Happiness Bar made me very happy indeed.

6. Smile and Mean It!

Blog business is done by friends. Be friendly.

It’s weird to be in an elevator with someone and not talk to them. It’s not friendly to pass someone in a hallway and not make eye contact and say hello.

Make an effort to remember names. When you meet someone new, repeat her first name back when you shake hands to make sure you get the name right.

In your head, relate her to someone else you know with the same name. Cement it in your brain cells.

Do this for every person you meet at a blog conference, whether they are the wait-staff at dinner or someone you know is important. Everyone is important and most people are as nervous as you are.

I know I will be forever grateful to photographer Justin Hackworth for greeting me by name every time he saw me.

With his artistic skill paired with that charm, he’s the next Annie Leibovitz. I wish I were planning a wedding in Park City, just so he could shoot it.

7. Sleep When You’re Dead

Seriously, while you are at the blog conference take your vitamins, get some exercise, drink lots of water, eat healthful food, but just know you are going to stay up late, get up early and go home hoarse and exhausted.

Don’t have anything important to do the day after you get home. Sprinkle some Nature’s Path Organic granola on the carpet, turn on Sesame Street and call it parenting.

Pizza for dinner.

Mommy’s tired.

8. Relax and Have Fun

You will meet nice people. You will learn a lot. People will like you. Have fun and enjoy the experience!

I’m going to Bloggy Boot Camp in Atlanta in October and must go to Blissdom in Nashville in 2012.

If you’ve been to a blog conference, do you have any more tips for me?

 

 

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this! I’m going to my first blogger conference in one month and have been worried about how to act. Thanks for your detailed step by step. I already feel more prepared.

  2. Thank you so much for your advice! Although I have been to hundreds of conferences as both speaker, exhibitor, or attendee, I have not been to a blogging conference. I am sooo excited to go to Relevant but everyone there will be half my age and twice as cool! So this was very helpful.

    God bless! And if I make it to Blissdom I will look for you.
    Maggie

    • I’m glad to help, Maggie.

      I’m kind of a fan, so having you comment on my blog makes me feel all fan-girl.

      I was trying to talk a friend into going to Relevant and she said the same thing you did.

      I think Relevant (and any blog conference) needs the experienced, mature women in attendance. You will rock it!

  3. This is invaluable information!

    And I re-upped on Google friend connect.

    Don’t hate me if I’m there, twice.

    The RSS feed button shows up as HTML code for me when I click on it.

  4. As always you lead my way. Thanks for everything. You really are the best. I’m seeing a man about cards tomorrow. What are your thoughts about the square ones?

  5. Chloe, I like the square cards in theory. Someone gave me one I think is adorable.

    The problem with them, in my opinion, is that they are smaller than standard size and seem to get lost in the shuffle.

    Still, get what you love!

    • That’s what I was thinking. The square ones look cute but they might be awkward and tossed.

      I ordered cards from Vistaprint and they came out perfect. I was afraid that my picture on cardstock would come out grainy and it didn’t. Not a bit. They are perfect. Thanks for the help.

  6. Can I do that granola thing even if I can’t *sniff sniff* go to any conferences?

    :mrgreen:

  7. Love the tips…both practical and some funny, hehe.

    And uh, I like to think that I’m pretty “in the know” of who the big bloggers are, but now I’m wondering if I should go do some research on that in case I’m not, lol. Got a list of the top 10 blogger faces I should recognize laying around in your blog drafts somewhere? :lol:

  8. Loved meeting you. And yes, I’m terrible with names, but I actually remembered yours :). You made a big impression because you are just so gosh darn nice.

    • Thanks, Tonya-it was great to meet you.
      I feel the same about you!

      If you are going to BlogHer, try to meet my good friend Chloe. She’s @brazenwoman on twitter. You two would like each other.

  9. My face isn’t on my cards, but my shoes are…. does that help?

    Love your tips.

    :) See you at BlogHer11

    • I always remember cute shoes!
      I wish I were going to BlogHer. Perhaps next year. Hoping it’s in Atlanta in 2012.
      My friend @brazenwoman is going to BlogHer. Make sure to say hi to her. She also has cute shoes.

  10. I wish I would have had your list before evo! You have definitely inspired to do better at putting names with faces. My kids will appreciate you if I start calling them by their correct names!

  11. Love what you said about Justin Hackworth. I totally agree. He rocks!!

    Thanks for the tips.

  12. I loved what you said about Justin Hackworth. I agree. He rocks.

    Thanks for the great tips.

    • Thanks, Jenni. I saw the engagement pictures he took of your daughter. Congratulations on the happy event!

  13. Great tips. I bought my tickets for a blog conference that is nearly a year away and I am already obsessing, er…. planning for that conference. Apparently, I have already made a big mistake because I bought a purse today that I thought would be perfect for the conference while my blog languishes. I’ll get to work and thanks for the tips.

  14. I’m going to TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) in June in Colorado.

  15. great tips! I have such a hard time remembering names and faces, I’m going to try so hard! This is my very 1st time going to Blogher, I am so excited. My very 1st blog conference was last year at the Casual blogger conference, so I already got my feet wet in a smaller environment.. :)

    • I think it’s good to go to a smaller conference for your first one.

      It knocks some of the nervous out of you and you can really connect with people.

      Good luck, Jenn, and have fun!

  16. Excellent advice! I’d love to go to Blissdom, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. I will be at Type-A Parent in June, though! I’ll try to remember to smile if I see you. :)

  17. I can’t work them into my schedule this year. :( Do they only happen in the fall? I WON’T TO GO, not meaning to sound like a brat or anything…

    • No, they are all year round.
      Blissdom in in February.
      Type A Parent Conference is in May.
      EVO is in July.
      BlogHer is in August.
      There are several Bloggy Boot Camps throughout next year.
      I’ve seen schedules on other blogs, but I can’t remember where.
      Hope that helps!

  18. Just found this through Pinterest. Very valuable tips for newbies and conference whores :) Smiling is the best tip and it makes everything perfect. You’ll meet more people that way and who knows what good can come out of it?

    • admin says:

      Thanks for commenting, Connie! I look forward to meeting you irl sometime at a conference.

  19. Thank you for the info! Found you on someone’s blog (can’t recall which). I’m heading to Haven next week and am reading up on conference info….LOVED your ‘sleep when you’re dead’ and sprinkle granola on the floor/watch tv and call it parenting one. LOVED it!!

    Thanks,
    Jen – athomeinthenorthwestblog.com

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  21. Very realistic advice. One day…..Just one of these days, I’ll be able (or good enough) to be invited to a conference.

  22. Thanks so much for the advice I’m going to my conference this year and I’m so excited and nervous!

  23. Thanks so much for the advice I’m going to my conference this year and I’m so excited and nervous!

  24. Have fun!

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