So I’m headed to BlogHer in New York this week and while I’ve never attended this big, yet awesome conference, I have attended a few others this year (SNAP and Elevate) and so I thought I’d share some tips I’ve learned along the way with you. Enjoy!
1. Know your Game Plan
It’s important when attending a conference to have a game plan. This is not a vacation! While you will have fun, meet new people, enjoy some time away from your kids and husband, it’s important to have a plan of attack for your trip. Once you’ve purchased your conference ticket and found your roomies, make sure you know when you’ve signed up for sessions, parties, meetings, coffee dates, and even down time for yourself. Depending on how large the conference is and if you’ve attended before, scheduling some time to decompress from your day is always important.
Talk to people who are going to the conference. Reach out and find ways that you can meet up, have coffee, sit together at a session, share a cab to and from the hotel or even step out of your comfort zone and commit to a meal. Once you’ve started reaching out to people be sure to write it down on your schedule. If you don’t, I guarantee you (because I’ve totally done it) you’ll double book yourself and it’s never fun canceling or asking people to move their plans around for you. I also suggest having an electronic and printed copy of your schedule before you travel. When putting everything together for my trip to BlogHer this week I made sure to have my calendar on my iPad, iPhone and I printed a copy for home and to take with me. They all include the event I’m attending and the location and address. You can never be too prepared right?!
Another way to be prepared is to pre-print all your event tickets for any parties or sessions you plan on attending. While there is an app for everything these days, if you’re iPhone, heaven forbid, dies, at least you’ve got your printed copy.
2. Know How to Dress
So now you’ve got your conference ticket, schedule is all mapped out and it’s time to pack!!
Now you all know I’m all about dressing to impress, but it’s also important, when attending a conference, to be yourself. Let your personality shine through all the way down to all your outfits! Bring a variety of outfits, pants, skirts, dresses…. make sure to pack 2 outfits per day. You never, never know what might happen to the outfit you start your day in. It’s all about the back up plan.
Let me give you some tips for how to pack that I’ve learned from attending conferences… pack in outfits! I’m telling you it will save your life. So often when I travel I just pack all my favorite pieces and then when I get where I’m going, I’m like, “wait, what? why did I pack this?” Have you been there before too? Try to put together different outfits for each day you’re at the conference and for your travel days as well. When I travel I like to feel stylish and comfy. Since I’m right in the middle of packing for my trip, I thought I’d share some of my outfits with you. I just did some shopping at my new favorite store, Madewell, sister company of JCrew and they pretty much outfitted me for BlogHer. Conferences are always a great reason to pick out a few new pieces to take with you.
Since I’m in love with color right now I have some fun colored jeans to wear during the day and then I have 5-6 of my favorite dresses for the evenings.
At the end of the day you need to be true to who you are. Just because neon is the trend, don’t go out and buy a bunch of neon clothes if you’re never going to wear them again. When you look back at all your pictures, you’re going to wonder what you were thinking and then you’ll think of all the outfits you could’ve worn. Everyone has their own style… so figure out what yours is and rock it! Oh and PS. don’t forget your accessories.
3. Know your Networking Tools
One of the biggest networking tools you have, besides your iPhone (or smartphone), is your business cards. This is some peoples first impression of you so make sure it has all the information they need, had a clear and crisp design and reflects your blog and/or business. I always like to create some flare with my business cards so this year my Pollinate Media Group cards are a 2.5in square on a silk laminate card with UV spot printing. In English, it means they feel silk, look amazing and when you scroll your fingers over the logo it feels raised. I’m in love with them.
Don’t just design amazing business cards, research the perfect company to print them as well. This year JPG Printing sponsored all my cards for BlogHer and they did an INCREDIBLE job! I’ve even had friends who have ordered from them already. The quality is beyond impressive and I got both sets of cards in less than a week. Most importantly the people at JPG Printing make the ordering process quick and easy from start to finish, which for me is so important.
Want to know what I included on my cards? I’ll tell you, my name, blog name, website, phone number, email, social networking usernames and on my Rags to Stitches card I included a QR code that when scanned puts all my info directly into people’s phones. Know what information you are willing to share and design a business card around that and your blog or business design. I seriously can’t wait to hand these babies out.
See that one whole punch and d-ring, that’s how I keep all the business cards I collect organized. I’m pretty sure it won’t take me long to fill this one, but I have some back ups. This really is a fantastic way to avoid loosing all the cards you’ll be collecting.
Other great networking tools for bloggers include swag from your conference sponsors and a media kit. It’s like a resume for bloggers. A media kit lets brands know who you are, who you’ve worked with, what you can do for brands if they work with you, blog stats, etc. For many brands this is viewed as a tool they can use to decide if they want to look further at your blog and possibly working with you. Make sure you have one and bring many copies.
4. Know to Be Fully Charged
This one is an important one. Blogging conferences are one of the only times where it’s ok to be surrounded by people or listening to a speaker and it’s perfectly acceptable to be on your phone. In fact social media is highly encouraged. Everywhere you go has a hashtag where others not attending can live vicariously through you. So make sure that you are fully charged at all times. If you’re like me and you’re already looking for an outlet to re-charge by noon when you’re at home, you need to be sure to find a way to stay charged at a conference. While there are outlets many of the places you’ll go, do you want to have to commit to stand or sit by the outlet waiting for your phone to recharge? Trust me, you don’t. It’s like watching paint dry.
This year the amazing folks at Mophie sent me their amazing Mophie Juice Pack to take with me to BlogHer. I’ve been using this baby for weeks and it’s like my 3rd child, it goes where I go. Every night I recharge my phone in the juice pack, leaving the switch off, then when I get that dreadful “You’re at 20% battery” notification I simply switch the Mophie on and it recharges my phone!! If you don’t have one of these babies, you need one. It comes in several different colors and surprisingly is not much heavier or bulkier than a normal phone case. Mophie even has a power station for your iPad.
Here are some other tools I’ll be using to stay “plugged into” what’s going on at the conference. They are things, I believe, you shouldn’t leave at home when headed to a conference. The only thing not pictured is my DSLR Canon that’s coming with me and my Jo Totes Camera Bag.
5. Know You’ll be Overwhelmed
It doesn’t matter what size conference you attend, it can be overwhelming. It’s a lot of people, in one place, many of which you met online via Twitter, Facebook, or your blog. It’s ok! Take a deep breath. While it can seem more than you expected at first, it gets better. Remember everyone is just as nervous as you, they’re all in the same boat as you so don’t be afraid to be the first one to say, “hi.” I met one of the most amazing bloggers at SNAP waiting in line to get food. When I got home from the conference we ended up teaming up with a bunch of other awesome bloggers for a group giveaway and through that giveaway I met even more wonderful people. I’m all about community building and all it takes is saying hi to one person to start building that community.
If you’re the kind of person who needs alone time to recharge, make sure yo take that time, even if you’re hiding out in the hotel bathroom. No shame in that. Having space to breathe and decompress is important for everyone. Just know that you’ll have plenty of time when you get home to follow up with people you’ve met, process all you’ve learned and begin implementing it on your blog. It isn’t uncommon for people to feel as though they need to hurry up and start making all those wonderful changes they are learning about, but remember, there’s no fire.
Don’t feel like you need to say yes to everything. My schedule for BlogHer is pretty much wide open, why? Because I’m hoping God will bring unique opportunities in my path to meet some wonderful people and I want to know that I don’t have the pressure of where I need to be looming over me. I can just focus on being present and making connections.
At the end of the day you just need to know that it’s going to be overwhelming and crazy and there will be lots of people, but…