Preparing for BlogHer or Other Social Media Conferences
With BlogHer coming up next week, and other social media conferences approaching soon after, the topic of preparing for such conferences is one that many are discussing right now. How do you prepare for attending blogging conferences? What should I bring with me? How do I make the most of my conference experience? What sessions should I attend?
These and many other questions are on the minds of many conference attendees, especially if they’ve never attended bigger conferences like BlogHer or are new to social media conferences in general. While everyone has their individual approach for attending conferences, here are some personal tips I’ve found work best based on my experience.
What Should I Pack?
5 Essentials to Pack for BlogHer and Other Conferences
Business cards: BlogHer, especially, is known for its networking. But, all conferences provide the opportunity to connect with not just brands, but also many bloggers. Other bloggers you meet and share your time with, will more than likely want to keep in touch. Various brands or PR representatives will probably meet with you at various times during the conference and you’ll want to provide them with your contact information. Always carry your business cards with you and be sure to bring plenty, especially if you participate in the speed dating sessions many conferences hold.
Camera/video camera: You’ll find yourself wanting to document various parts of the conference (sessions, parties, private events) and of course, there will be plenty of photo opportunities with your new friends. You will also probably have the chance to interview different brand representatives or fellow bloggers, which can make for great blog content. *Don’t forget the chargers too!
Printed calendar/agenda/schedule: For smaller conferences, this may not be as necessary, since the conference program might suffice. However, for BlogHer, I find this to be extremely useful. Personally, I create a Google calendar just for BlogHer and add all the parties, private events, meetings, and even important sessions I want to attend. BlogHer is a very busy conference, so I like to have an agenda in mind before I arrive. That said, I know that I have to be flexible and that I may change my schedule around depending on what’s going on at the moment. This is so true, that there are even reasons for NOT preparing for BlogHer.
Variety of outfits: Though you don’t want to bring your entire wardrobe, you do want to bring a variety of clothes that will work for both the day’s events and evening parties. Make sure you’re comfortable as there will be a lot of walking and a lot of times, you’ll be rushing from one event to another.
Laptop/tablet: Attending a social media conference can be done without a laptop, tablet, or other device, of course. You can always use a notepad and pen, and many times, this will be preferred in order to fully take in what the speakers have to say. But, if you have a laptop, it’s a good idea to pack it so that 1) you can more easily take notes during sessions, 2) you can live-blog or live-tweet sessions, and 3) you can keep your inbox under control.
What Can I Expect?
Networking: At BlogHer, there will be an estimated 3,000+ attendees this year. Other conferences, such as Blogalicious Weekend and Type-A Parent, have about a tenth of that attendance, making for a more intimate experience amongst the 300 attendees.
Either way, you’re sure to have plenty of networking opportunities to engage with other bloggers, brands, and PR companies. Make the most of it! Let folks know what you and your blog are about. Exchange business cards and make a note of how you may be able to collaborate so you can follow up after the conference.
Most of all, don’t be shy! Get comfortable with other bloggers and get to know them. Sign up for meet-up opportunities, such as the birds of a feather sessions and lunch that BlogHer provides. These are a great way to get to know others with similar interests. Mingle at the parties and chat with others in between the dancing!
Learning: Of course, you can expect to learn while attending social media conferences. After all, that’s one of the biggest components, isn’t it? Every conference has a different level of content provided via the panel sessions as well as varying tracks. Plan ahead and select a couple of sessions that are a must for you to attend. Look over the speakers’ bios in addition to the session description to help you choose. Take notes, ask questions, and introduce yourself to the speaker(s).
Fun: After a day of learning and networking, the evening events at BlogHer and other conferences make for a lot of fun! BlogHer, especially, has many parties, both official and unofficial. The evenings are also a chance for you to get together with friends (old and new) for dinner or a relaxing night in at the hotel.
Important to remember: Don’t get caught up in drama. Sometimes, with so many bloggers in one place, so many great events, and the opportunity to acquire lots of swag, it can be tempting to get caught up in the drama of it all. There can be lots of gossip, rumors, and even disagreements which can make for a not-great conference experience if you let it get to you. Ignore it. Don’t get caught up in it and waste time and energy. Make the conference matter to you and focus on your goals for attending.
Do I Have to Write About Products I Received as Swag?
There is no obligation to write about any products you receive during the conference. Of course, the brand and PR companies hope you do; this is one reason they hand out samples. However, they’re also providing samples so that you can get to know the brand and what they’re about.
It’s great to thank the conference sponsors since they support our blogging community by continuing to invest in blogging conferences. If you like a product, it’s not a bad idea to either send out a tweet including the conference’s hash tag, or include it in a conference recap post, if you don’t decide to do a full post for the product. But, again, you shouldn’t feel obligated to do so. Remember to disclose, though, if you do end up writing about a product. A simple #samp in your tweet or a line in your post letting your readers know you received the product while attending the conference is enough.
The best tip you can take with you? Have fun. The agenda for BlogHer and most conferences can be jam-packed. You’ll receive tons of information and meet lots of people, while trying to take it all in.
Pace yourself, get to know others, and have fun. You’ll probably find that you’ll return home motivated with new friends and fresh ideas.
What other suggestions or tips can you share for those attending their first conference? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below.