As a writer, editor and recipe developer, I sometimes have to step away from the beach for a bit to network and grow my business. It’s an important thing for the vitality of my work. Attending conferences? That’s definitely part of the business package.
Back in March, I headed south to Orlando, Florida, for Food Blog Forum Orlando. It was my
third fourth blogging conference, and the first time that I took my kids and husband with me. Turns out, I really like traveling that way. It was low-pressure for me. I was able to attend to all my work needs, without leaving my family behind. Loved that. Food Blog Forum Orlando was a small, intimate conference held at Walt Disney World. Just over 100 bloggers attended. and we were encouraged to bring our families (that’s a huge plus in my mind). It was, by far, my favorite conference experience to date.
Later this week though, I am headed to New York for BlogHer ’12, where I will be speaking, going to several meetings and generally mixing and mingling. I’m looking forward to it — even though I am headed there solo and it’s a huge conference. BlogHer (I previously attended in 2010 and also attended BlogHer Boston in 2008, a regional conference) will have thousands of attendees. It will be challenging to locate the folks I want to see — and harder to just run into people and befriend them.
It’s a stark contrast to my Orlando experience.
At a small conference, there is a natural sense of community and a welcome feeling that you can meet and chat with everyone. It wasn’t hard to find people to strike up a conversation with. And better yet, when I found one of the few empty seats at the conference on Saturday, it happened to be at a table with several bloggers I actually was familiar with. That was pretty special. That experience is harder to reproduce at a large conference.
Ultimately though, after my Food Blog Forum experience I realized that any conference is what you make of it. It may be easier to find, meet and get to know folks at small conferences — but the art of doing so really doesn’t change whether you are with 100 others or 3000 others. So, if you go into it with the right attitude, you can make the whole thing spectacular. What should you do?
How to Make the Most of Blogging Conferences
- Make a Plan – I can’t tell you how important it is to go to the conference with a plan for what you want from it. Are you there to learn more about blogging? Network with other bloggers? Network with brands? Connect with folks you admire? Whatever the case, know why you are there, know what you do and what you want to do and then adhere to it. But also leave a little wiggle room for spontaneousness too.
- Bring Business Cards – This is something I’ve only come to realize lately: people may not know your logo or associate it with you. But they will remember your face. So put yourself on your business cards.
- Dress Intentionally – When I was preparing for Food Blog Forum, a discussion popped up on Twitter about what to wear. I said wear something that you feel comfortable in and that makes you feel beautiful. Others argued that if that was the case, they’d be in PJs or sweats. But I stand by that advice. It’s important that you wear something that feels like you — because then you won’t be wasting time tugging at your hem or wondering if your underwear lines are showing trough unfamiliar slacks.
- Open Yourself Up – It’s a hard thing for me, but being open — and friendly — with the other folks at blogging conferences is what makes them worthwhile. On one level, it’s networking, which is undeniably important. But on a deeper level, it helps you meet and get to know people who are like you, who understand what you are doing and who can be fantastic sounding boards for moving ahead. Open up and make friends.
- Talk to the People You Want To – At Food Blog Forum, it was important to me that I speak briefly with a few people who I had connections to — and I did. In fact, I so wanted to say hi to Dawn Viola, who I once interviewed for an article, that I accosted her during a special lunch event in a line at a serving station. Hey, you just don’t miss opportunities like that.
- Network, Network, Network – This doesn’t mean sell yourself to anyone who’ll listen. It means talking to people, finding like-minded individuals and getting to know them. Then keep in touch with hem after the conference. This is how you build your personal tribe. There is great power in following up.
Looking for more tips? Check out these articles on BlogHer success that I wrote for SheKnows.com’s Parenting Channel (hence the mom slant — but mom blogger or not, these are helpful. Swear.):
- Make Meaningful Connections with Other Mom Bloggers
- How to Get Brands to Notice Your Mom Blog
- What’s the Scariest Part of BlogHer Conferences?
And one more guide to read. I didn’t write this one, but it was so spot-on, I had to share. Go read 12 Blogher conference tips no one will tell you on Mom 101. It’s worth it.