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Blogging conferences are a great way to fast track your blogging skills, meet other bloggers and network with brands… but they can also be daunting – especially if it’s your first blogging conference. Here’s how to get the most out of a blogging conference…
There are lots of good reasons to attend a blogging conference. Blogging conferences are great fun! They are a chance to hang out with fellow bloggers– chat about all things blogging (with people who actually ‘get’ what you are talking about!) and spend time with people who you communicate with on practically a daily basis, yet have never actually met IN REAL LIFE.
But blogging conferences are not just great social events… they are also a great place to watch hard-to-get-your-head-round aspects of blogging demonstrated in front of you (e.g. photography, videography, podcasting, tech stuff), spend time really going in depth on blogging skills you want to improve, and learn about new trends in blogging. In short, they are a great way of fast tracking your blogging skills.
Blogging conferences are also great at restoring your blogging mojo, inspiring you to take your blog to the next level and giving you new ideas.
And many blogging conferences also give you the opportunity to network with brands and negotiate potential sponsored work.
But blogging conferences can also be daunting, overwhelming and tiring. Attending a blogging conference can be a scary prospect – especially if it is your first time.
And when you are there, the options available to you can be bewildering – do you spend your time in seminars? Meeting brands? Or hanging out with fellow bloggers? How do you choose which seminars to attend when many are scheduled to happen at the same time? And how do you ensure you get enough out of a blogging conference to justify the ticket price?
I’ve teamed up with some of my fellow bloggers and blogging conference veterans to answer all these questions and more. Here’s how to get the most out of a blogging conference…
Before you go…
Make sure you remember your phone (for all the social media action), your laptop (so you can type up your notes on the train journey home!), your DSLR camera (if you plan to use photos from the event on your blog), your conference ticket, the conference schedule (if available) and all your travel documents.
Also remember to bring the power cable for your laptop and your phone charger! Consider bringing a portable phone charger too… I find I’m on my phone A LOT at blogging conferences and my battery goes down really quickly. Many times, having a portable phone charger has been a lifesaver.
As blogging conferences can involve long days and being on your feet a lot, take heed of Candace Mantle from Buckets of Tea’s advice and, ‘pack comfortable clothes and shoes!’.
Leave room for the goodie bag…
Most blogging conferences these days give away a goodie bag at the beginning or end of the event, so make sure you leave space in your case for all that swag.
Some blogging events have such big goodie bags they actually advise bringing an extra suitcase!
Don’t forget your business cards!
Business cards might not be quite as important as they used to be… but they are still worth having – especially to give to brands you meet. PRs are much more likely to remember you and contact you about possible collaborations if they have something physical with your details. Plus handing over a business card looks far more professional than scribbling your email address down on a scrap of paper!
I also like to give out business cards to everyone new I talk to. Yes, it’s true that many of them will end up in the bin… or languishing at the bottom of someone’s bag… but not all of them. And who knows what that new connection might lead to? Plus, the fact that only a few people bother with business cards these days gives you an advantage – it might be the only business card they get all conference!
Work on your elevator pitch
This is especially important if you are going to be meeting PRs and brand reps, but even when meeting other bloggers for the first time, it’s useful to have something planned in advance to say. When someone asks you what your blog is called. Don’t just tell them the name – tell them what your blog is about / who your blog is for / what problems does your blog solve / what’s unique about your blog.
Link up with other bloggers
It can be really daunting to walk into a blogging conference where everyone else seems to know each other. Choclette Ammar from Tin and Thyme recommends, ‘If you don’t know anyone and you’re feeling a bit nervous, try and link up with a couple of other bloggers online before you go. And maybe arrange a meeting place outside of the venue, so you can go in together.’
A great way to do this is to see if the conference has a Facebook group (most do) and if so, join it and join in with the chat. This is also the place where you will find out about ‘extra’ events that are not officially part of the conference, but are usually a great way of getting to know people better. For example, there may be a group of bloggers going out to dinner together or meeting in the hotel bar the night before the conference.
Plan which sessions you will attend
Most blogging conferences will send you a list of speakers and a schedule before the event. Make sure you download it and print it off (so you can quickly glance at it throughout the conference to work out where to go next).
And, as Chloe Edges from Feast Glorious Feast suggests, ‘Make sure you check out the schedule of available sessions (if available) before you arrive. If there are multiple sessions running at the same time, consider the timetable and get a rough idea of which ones you want to attend and when. Sometimes things clash so you have to make a difficult choice.
It might also be worth researching the speakers to see if their experience tallies with what you’re looking to get out of the session. But do be prepared to be flexible on the day.
And consider carefully if sessions are hosted by a company/person sponsoring the event. Whilst some sessions will be 95% valuable and 5% sales pitch, some can be 80% sales pitch and ultimately not the best use of your time. Especially if you have zero intention of purchasing.’
Book seminars in advance
Some conferences will ask you to book which seminars you want to attend in advance, others have certain sessions or workshops with limited numbers available on a first come first served basis. Make sure you find out if this is the case in advance, and if so, book yourself on the ones you want to attend – or you may end up being disappointed!
Plan which brands you want to speak to
Similarly, most conferences will publish in advance the brands that will be in attendance. Look at the list carefully and decide which ones you most want to speak to and what you would most like to work with them on.
You could even go one better and prepare a mini pitch to give when you meet them! (More about this below.)
Set some goals
You almost certainly won’t be able to do everything, so set yourself some goals – what do you most want to get out of the conference? Are you mostly going for the seminars – if so, what do you most want to learn? Is your main aim to meet up with your blogging friends? Or are you mostly hoping to connect with brands?
If you decide what you are most hoping to get out of a blogging conference ahead of time, it will help you prioritise what’s most important while you are there and mean you are much less likely to be disappointed or feel you have wasted your money.
Follow the #
Most blogging events have a hashtag. Make sure you find out what it is and follow it in the runup to the conference (it will help you make new friends before the event and feel more connected before you go).
Follow the event hashtag during the conference and don’t forget to use it in your social posts too!
During the conference…
You may find walking into a room full of strangers daunting, but bloggers are some of the friendliest people on the planet.
As Mandy Mazliah from Sneaky Veg says, ‘Don’t be scared to say hello to people. Networking with other bloggers is one of the best things about going to a blogging conference.’
Janice Pattie from Farmer’s Girl Kitchen adds, ‘Smile and engage with others, the coffee queue is the perfect place to start asking people where they are from, what they are looking forward to etc.’
Whilst it’s important to smile and be engaging, there’s no need to pretend to be someone you are not – as Vicki Montague from Free From Fairy wisely advises, ‘Be yourself and you’ll find other people like you. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not!’
Typically, seminars at blogging conferences are fast paced and give out a large amount of information in a short space of time.
Don’t kid yourself that you’ll remember everything or that you’ll wait for the handouts… the very act of writing notes will help you remember more of what the speaker says. It will also allow you to note down any specific actions YOU need to do on YOUR blog (something the handouts are never going to say!).
Also, these days the handouts are generally not physical handouts – typically the speaker will make their slides and/or notes available online – often after the conference is over. Writing your own notes means you can study them in your hotel room later or on the train home.
Besides, often the notes/slides will not include everything the speaker said – just brief notes or bullet points. Writing your own notes will mean you have a record of everything you want to remember from the session.
As Janice says, ‘Ask questions of the presenter. If you don’t understand something, then ask for further clarification. You have paid for the conference so get as much as you can from it.’
Often the Q&A session is at the end of the presentation, so use your notebook to jot down questions you want to ask so you don’t forget them!
And make note of the speaker’s email address/social media handles. If you don’t get a chance to ask your question, you can always send them a quick message later.
Plan your action points
As you are listening to the presentation, think about what YOU can do as a result of what the speaker is teaching. Note these possible action steps down in your notebook and highlight them in some way (e.g. highlighter pen, asterisk, underline).
Even if the seminar turns out to be a bit disappointing, there will usually be one or two nuggets of useful advice. As Janice wisely puts it, ‘Don’t be disappointed if some content isn’t helping you. I am always happy if I come away from a conference with one great idea that I can action. More than that is a bonus.’
Get the handouts
Ask in each session if handouts are available – often the speaker will make them available online after the event, or they may write a blog post on the topic of their talk soon after the conference.
And that goes for the seminars you couldn’t attend too – Mandy recommends that, ‘If you can’t attend every session, ask if you can get the handouts anyway.’
Network with brands
If there is a brand area, take some time to go there and meet the PRs and brand reps. But be discerning – there’s no point in spending half an hour chatting to a PR for a brand that you’d never feature on your blog!
And don’t be scared – brand reps are there because they want to talk to bloggers and discover new bloggers to work with. Smile, make eye contact and offer your hand to shake, then introduce yourself and your blog. If it’s not obvious, ask which brands they represent and ask how they work with bloggers and/or for examples of how they have worked with bloggers in the past.
I also like to find out as early on as possible in the conversation whether they pay bloggers. You can ask this quite directly, for example ‘Do you have budget to pay bloggers or do you only offer free product?’.
If you possibly can, try and weave into the conversation some positive points about your blog and why the brand might want to work with you – for example, why the product is a good fit for your audience.
Make sure you give the brand rep a business card and try to get one from them – or at least an email address and a contact name. That way you can follow up after the event if you think there may be potential for a future collaboration (more about this below).
Go to the social events
And don’t just stick to the ‘serious stuff’. As Janice says, ‘Go to all the social events if you possibly can. I’ve made some great friends and had some awesome nights at conferences.’
The lovely thing about blogging conferences is the opportunity to spend time chatting to other bloggers – who really ‘get’ blogging. Blogging can be quite a lonely pursuit and often our nearest and dearest just don’t understand blogging in the way that other bloggers do!
Learn from other bloggers
Not only is the social side of blogging conferences fun, but you can also learn a lot from the other bloggers you meet up with.
Some may have gone to different seminars to you, so you can find out what they learnt in them. You can also compare notes on what you’ve learnt and got out of the same seminars. It’s amazing how two different people can get completely different things out of the same seminar.
It’s also a great opportunity to pick other blogger’s brains about problems you have or things they are particularly good at – for example, to find out how they take such amazing photos or what they are doing to get such a good Instagram following.
Share about the event on social media
And don’t forget to share about the conference on social media (using the conference hashtag!). This will help you connect with other bloggers at the event and join in the chat and it will almost certainly give your engagement a boost too!
And if there are brands at the event, or if there’s a goodie bag with product samples, don’t forget to follow the brands and use the brands’ social media handles in the post. Making a connection with a brand at an event like this could lead to work with that brand in the future. Especially if you follow up with the brand via email after the event (see below for more on this).
After the event…
Prioritise your action points
To really get the most out of the seminars, do as Nicky Corbishley from Kitchen Sanctuary suggests and, ‘Highlight any specific actions you want to take on your blog in your notes.
If you get a chance before you leave, or on your journey home (while it’s fresh in your mind and before you lose your notebook…), prioritize those actions and schedule time in your diary to work on the high priorities.
Then schedule time in a couple of months later to review all of the actions and decide if you want to progress any more of them.’
Connect with new friends
Don’t forget about all the bloggers you met at the conference. Follow them on social media, comment on a few of their posts and say ‘Hi’ soon after the event. This will ensure those new acquaintances are not forgotten about… hopefully they will reciprocate, and a new friendship will be born!
Remember those PRs you chatted to? Follow up with them via email if you think there might be potential for a worthwhile future collaboration. Just a simple ‘it was lovely to meet you at [insert conference name] and here’s my media pack / examples of previous work / further details of X that we talked about’ is a good way of reminding them of who you are and your conversation at the conference.
Or, better still, strike while the iron’s hot and send them a pitch!
Connect with the speakers
Now would also be a good time to send a quick email thanking each of the speakers (the good ones at least!) and asking for their handouts / slides / further clarification on anything in your notes you can’t decipher. You might also like to follow the speakers on social media and comment on a few of their posts too.
If the speaker is someone who’d make a good guest blogger on your site (or guest on your podcast), why not ask them? Worst case scenario, they can only say no! (I did this after the last blog conference I attended and I got a fab guest post on PR for bloggers out of it!)
Blogging events are incredibly tiring. Try and plan a relaxing day immediately following the conference to recharge your batteries and catch up on sleep!
Over to you!
What have I missed? What’s your top tip for getting the most out of a blogging conference? Let me know in the comments below!
Or do you have a question about getting the most out of a blogging conference? Feel free to ask it in the comments 😀
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