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