If I were a newbie to an enormous blogging conference, here’s what I’d want to know beforehand:
Everyone is just as nervous as you are.
As my social media expert of a best friend suggested, I searched #blogher on twitter (even though I don’t have a twitter account) to see what other people were saying about the conference. This led me to plenty of articles where past attendees posted what they learned. The commonality being – everyone feels just as nervous and insecure as you. It will not be like the high school cafeteria, people will talk to you and no one will care what you wear. In retrospect, it was fine and there was nothing to be anxious about. Everyone is there to meet new people. And honestly, I met more newbies than recurring conference goers, which made me feel better that everyone was in the same boat.
Reach out to people beforehand.
Find out who’s going. Search twitter. Search your Google reader. See who has a BlogHer logo on the blogs you normally read. Then reach out to them. I emailed a dozen people whose blogs I normally read to say that I’d love to meet them. Some replied, some didn’t.Some were going, some weren’t. I even reached out to DIY super stars Jen from Tatertots and Jello and Shelley from The House of Smiths. And then when I spotted them, I wasn’t just any stalker reader. They already knew my name and blog and that I wanted to meet them J
Walk up to people and introduce yourself.
Yes, obviously we’re all there to network. But it always takes me a few mental tries before mustering up enough courage to walk up to someone and start talking. Sure, it’s always awkward to not know anyone in a room full of people who are already talking to one another. But just do it. Ask what they blog about, where they’re from, what sessions they went to, etc. It's also helpful to know your own elevator pitch.
Similarly, if you recognize someone, go say something!
Opportunity 1: I caught a glimpse of who I thought was Penny de los Santos (I already told you how excited I was to hear her). But I kept walking, thinking “Was that her? That has to be her. Should I say something?” I proceeded to walk and said to myself, “ Dah! I should’ve told her how I was so inspired by watching her live streaming seminar and that I was so excited to hear her speak today.” But I didn't, wah wah.
Opportunity 2: I recognized Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen on the speakers list and love her food photography tips, which I also already told you about. Like I mentioned in tip #2, before I left, I reached out to her. And she replied saying I’ll have a blast and to attend the newbie breakfast. On the first day, I saw her in passing, but wasn’t sure if it was her and moved right along. Later on, I saw her again, and I swear that was her, but kept on walking. Ok this happened like three more times and I never said anything! Ugh, stop being such a scardy cat! I did attend her session though and asked a question and followed up with her afterwards (via email). And although she’s a busy woman with two kids, columns to write for and TV shows to appear on, she replied saying that I better introduce myself next time!
Opportunity 3: In the bathroom, (like a creeper) I thought I recognized Rebekah from A Blissful Nest, but didn’t say anything. Then while getting lunch, I saw her again and was pretty sure that was her. Thinking about opportunities 1 and 2 that I already let pass me by, I just said “Go do it!” and introduced myself. Good thing I did beacuse we ended up talking all through lunch and now she has a face to put to all the comments I leave on her blog. She even featured me!
Opportunity 4: I noticed that someone had been eyeing me for awhile. She finally came up to me and asked if I was the woman behind Don't Speak Whinese. Yes, I know Asians may look alike J But I didn’t care that I wasn’t who she thought I was. I’m glad she finally came up to me and I hope she found the blogger she was stalking looking for!
If you don’t like a session, leave.
One session was just not for me. Rather than waste time pretending that I was interested, I just left and went to a different session. This worked out perfectly because that’s where I found Jen and Shelley, who I reached out to beforehand to hopefully meet them! I also didn’t see any pertinent sessions the second afternoon and headed over to the Queen Bee Market instead. Check back tomorrow for lots of pictures!
Leave A LOT of extra space in your suitcase and hit up the Expo early.
You will get free stuff. Lots of it. I didn’t stop to talk to too many vendors at the expo, yet I still went home with a suitcase full of swag. No joke, my belongings aren’t even in here...just a ton of free shit, yippee!
I also found that company reps were most interested and enthusiastic to talk to me earlier in the day, as opposed to the end of the day, where they are exhausted from being on their feet all day giving the same spiel for the thousandth time. So if you actually want an engaging conversation about their products, don't go late in the day.
Wear comfortable shoes.
This is a conference. At a convention center. There is a lot of ground to cover between the breakfast/lunch area, keynote rooms, breakout sessions, sponsor lounges, Expo, your hotel, cocktail hours, and late night parties. Not to mention you’re toting around your purse, camera, and bags of free stuff (see #6 above) while you trek around all day.
You don’t need your laptop.
Unless you like to take notes on your computer or feel the need to be digitally connected at every breathing moment, you’re probably fine without your laptop. iPads and fancy phones are enough to keep you connected to Facebook, twitter, your blog, and the blogs of people you just met. A computer will just be an extra thing to lug around on your already aching shoulder and feet.
“Do you tweet?” was a common question people asked. And I don’t L Which means missed opportunities to connect with people. But I’m ok with not having another social media outlet to suck time out of my day.
Don’t stress about not having an increase in traffic/followers.
Just like Lori said in her recap, don’t worry if after the conference, you don’t have an increase in traffic and followers. Let’s be honest, of the 60+ business cards I collected, I didn’t check half of them out. And of the ones I did check out, although great to meet, maybe their site isn’t aligned with my current (blogging) interests. So people are probably doing the same to me. Which is fine. Because you’re a loyal reader, right? J
For any newbies heading to NYC for BlogHer’12, I hope these tips help! Or Haven, or *SNAP!, or the Creative Connection. Ha, there’re a lot of conferences out there to meet face to face with the people you know so well from behind your favorite blogs! Don't worry, tomorrow's the last you'll hear about BlogHer'11...you still with me?
The Martha Stewart in me loves all things creative and little details make my heart go pitter patter. There's SO much inspiration in the blogosphere...I hope you can leave here feeling a little inspired too! Click here to read more...