Okay, maybe not everything, but I believe that every blogger should attend at least one blogger conference. If you're thinking about attending one, have already purchased a pass for an upcoming conference, or even if you've decided that conferences are not for you, here are a few things to consider.
- Research blogger conferences and figure out which conference is right for you. Do you just want sessions and information, but can do without all the frills? Do you treat it as a mini-vacation and plan to spend more time in the city beyond the conference? Do you want to network with brands and attend events and parties? Every conference might not be for you. Going to blogger conferences can be a huge investment (yes, investment in yourself and your blog), so you need to figure out what you want out of a conference. For me, I like a little bit of everything – make new blogger friends, catch up with old blogger friends, attend sessions, go to parties, and network with brands. If it's in a cool city, that's an added bonus. There are so many blogger conferences now, that you're sure to find something that meets your needs.
- Plan in advance. As I stated above, attending a blogger conference can be a big investment. You've got to pay for the conference itself, plus if it isn't held in your city, then you've got hotel, flight, food, and taxi/rental car/public transportation costs as well. Not to mention the cost of any extras that you want to do before the conference, like updating your blog, printing new business cards, getting blogger swag and handouts made, and if you're like me, shopping for new clothes to take with you (although really, what's wrong with my old clothes that most of these people have never seen…ok, maybe they've seen it on the blog, but probably not in real life). And what if you want to attend more than one conference in a year? I start thinking about which conferences I want to attend about a year in advance. If your blog/brand is a priority to you, then saving money for a conference should be a priority as well.
- Don't be afraid to go alone. I've heard many times that bloggers are afraid to go alone or that they are afraid that they won't fit in or that this won't be their type of crowd. There will be a lot of bloggers there, so trust me that you won't be the only one who came without a blogger posse and that you will meet at least one blogger you can connect with. If you are afraid to go alone, then a smaller conference might be the best first step for you. I attended my very first blogger conference alone. I didn't know anyone before going, but left with a lot of new blogger friends and mentors and had a great time. You feel a sense of community at blogger conferences and come away with invaluable information. Think of blogger conferences as Continuing Blogger Education. Because the social media world is ever-changing, I learn new, useful information every conference that I attend and feel reenergized and ready to take my blog to the next level every time I leave.
- Follow the official conference hashtag and Twitter account before the conference. Get involved in the conference conversation months in advance. You might find that someone wants to sell their conference pass at a discounted price. You will "meet" other bloggers who are going and can get to know them better before the conference. You can find other bloggers going alone who might want a roommate. You can figure out if anyone wants to share a ride from the airport to the hotel. You can find out speakers' Twitter handles in advance and begin a conversation before the conference. Also, you can score invitations to official and unofficial blogger conference events.
- Map out your conference schedule. Conferences usually post the agenda in advance and you will see that there is way more going on than you will have time for. Figure out which sessions, events, and parties are a must-attend for you. If two sessions that you want to attend are occurring at the same time, ask someone going to one session if they won't mind sharing their notes with you and offer to do the same. There might be a lot of
runningwalking from one session to the next, so keep that in mind when you consider what shoes you're going to pack and wear.
BONUS TIPS FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT ATTEND A BLOGGER CONFERENCE!
Ok, I get it. Blogger conferences are a big financial investment and time commitment and with everything else going on in your life, trying to find extra money for a blogger conference just isn't practical. Maybe you've put all of your extra money into your upcoming wedding or family vacation. Maybe you're a new Mom who can't imagine spending a few days away from your new baby right now. Or maybe the thought of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch for the next 2 months to save money doesn't sound appealing. I completely understand, so don't worry. I've got a few bonus tips just for you.
- Follow the official conference hashtag during the conference. Save the hashtag as a search on Twitter so you can see the information being tweeted during conference sessions. You will find that there are some conference attendees who live tweet a lot of good information from sessions that they attend. You might want to follow those bloggers or create a Twitter List of those bloggers so you don't miss a thing. I always live tweet the sessions that I attend and even try to compile all of my tweets at the end of the conference for bloggers who could not attend (See In the BAG). Also, most speakers will tweet a link to their conference presentation.
- Check the conference website to see if they will live stream and/or upload podcasts of the sessions. Some blogger conferences will live stream and/or offer podcasts for free! If they live stream, then perhaps you can take a morning, afternoon or whole day off from work to watch the live stream. If they upload podcasts of all the sessions after the conference, you can download them to your mp3 player or listen to them online. You can even get together with other local blogger friends to watch and/or listen together. I've watched blogger conferences via live stream that I could not attend and downloaded podcasts of sessions for conferences I did and did not attend. I keep some old blogger conference podcasts on my iPod so I can listen to them again from time to time. I often find that some information may not have been relevant when I attended the conference or listened to the podcast the first time, but that the information is relevant now.
- Get involved in your local blogger community. Outside of conferences, there are many ways to increase your blogger knowledge and to network with other bloggers. There are so many bloggers now that you should never feel alone. No matter how small your town, there is bound to be at least one other blogger in your city or surrounding area. If there isn't a local blogger group or society that you can join, start one. If you want something a little less formal find out who the other local bloggers are and meet up for lunch to talk blogging and social media. I occassionally get together with local blogger friends for brunch and although the conversation isn't always 100% about blogging, we do get some blog talk in and someone comes away with some helpful information.
Do you have any questions or additional tips about blogger conferences? If so, leave a comment below.