In exactly two weeks I’ll be in New York City at a blog conference hanging out with some of my favorite bloggers, meeting and networking with a ton of my favorite brands, and having fun at the Blogger Bash. This will be my sixth blog event already this year, so I’d like to think I’m a pretty well oiled machine when it comes to blog conferences.
I’m sharing my top eight tips for rockin’ a blog conference and getting the best return for your money you can. Because isn’t that why we all go? Money really is the bottom line when it comes to blogging for your job. So here, your blog conference guide!
How to Get the Most Out of a Blog Conference
#1 – Do the prep work.
Whatever you do, don’t skip this one. Before the conference, look through all of the materials provided and do some prep work so that you aren’t going into the conference completely blind. What prep work you want to do is up to you, but here are some things I like to do to give you suggestions:
- Review the schedule and figure out generally what classes/sessions you want to go to
- Review the sponsor list, figure out which ones are the best fit for you, and start interacting on social media.
- Join the Facebook group or search the hashtag on social media to see what other bloggers will be there, who you want to meet, etc. Start interacting and reaching out if they’re not already in your tribe.
- Creating professional a business card and media kit that reflects your brand and personality – I only typically bring business cards with me but have the media kit done so you can send out right after
#2 – Sign-Up for Events, Activities, etc.
Most conferences I’ve been to include some sort of special activities, events, and classes that you have to sign-up for. At Blogger Bash, I had the opportunity to apply for speed pitching with brands (and was selected, hooray!), and to take a free ride on The Ride in New York City. At other conferences I’ve been to, there have been meals with brands, sponsored segway trips, and more.
Pay attention and sign-up or at least apply as early as you can. I can’t stress enough how important and beneficial it can be to meet people in these smaller settings. Some of my best brand connections have been during speed pitching and some of my best blogging friends are people I met first in the additional activities. They are so worth it.
#3 – Really review the schedule.
Out of the five conferences I’ve been to so far, I went in extremely prepared for four of them. I’d read through the schedule, taken notes on what classes I wanted to go to, and figured out the best times for me to meet with people and brands. And the one conference I didn’t? It was kind of a disaster. I wasn’t ever sure where I was going, wasn’t sure when I should talk to brands, and missed a bunch of classes that I really wanted to go to.
So my advice? Familiarize yourself with the schedule, figure out what you’re most excited about, and make a plan.
And understand you may or may not stick to that plan, but at least if you know what you’re missing you can make an educated decision.
For instance, I’ve already checked out the Blogger Bash schedule and am so excited for:
- Weds morning – Care Bears Share Brunch
- Weds afternoon – speed pitching with food brands
- Weds night – biggest night of play in the Sweet Suite
- Thurs morning – Kate & Mim Mim Breakfast
- Thurs afternoon – Peanuts Character Lunch
- Thurs night – Set sail closing party
I have no interest in listening to Snooki speak, so I’ll be skipping that session and visiting the sponsor expo instead. And that leads me into my fourth tip.
4 – Be picky.
Conferences are one of those times that it’s not only okay, but good to be picky. Once you’ve looked at all of the options on the schedule, pick and choose the ones you want to attend. You by no means have to attend everything. If there’s a session you’re not interested in like me and the Snooki one, skip it. Go talk to sponsors or heck, get a drink and just sit for a few minutes instead.
The one thing I am so excited about this year at Blogger Bash is the Sweet Suite. The description on the website calls it the biggest night of play, so it’s kind of a no-brainer right? I kind of love to play.
I’m most excited about seeing what JAKK’S Pacific holds in store for the sweet suite. They actually sent me a fun package full of toys including a bunch of the Disney TSUM TSUMs and Disney Princess toys, which my son immediately deemed “girl toys.” Better for me because I’m a huge fan of Disney Princess toys, especially after hearing from the Disney Princess team at the Disney Social Media Moms Conference earlier this year. He did, however, love all of the little TSUM TSUMs and decided that the Beauty and the Beast Tea Party set was a good place to eat with his new friends even if it was a girl toy.
The little TSUM TSUMs are kind of perfect for my 3-year-old because he’s obsessed with little characters. We go to King’s Dominion and come home with a pack of plastic dinosaurs. We go to the zoo and come home with a pack of rubber fish. And he uses them for pretty much everything. The new Disney TSUM TSUMs were right at home with the rest of his Disney characters. I’ll for sure be in the sweet suite playing with everything JAKK’S Pacific and the rest of the sponsors at Blogger Bash have to show us.
#5 – Think about your elevator pitch. Then think again.
One of the most important things I can tell you is to make sure you know who you are, what your blog goals are, and who your audience is before you go into a conference. My friend Cori has a fantastic book about rebranding and in the book she really dives into figuring out your elevator pitch, what you want your blog to say, and how your brand should reflect that.
My advice is to figure out what you’d tell someone about our blog to give them the inside scoop in say 30 seconds. Make it fit your personality but keep it fairly general. If it helps, make a mood board just for you.
My mood board is basically a visual version of my elevator pitch and really helped me refine my elevator pitch before going to a conference. Here’s my “elevator pitch,” see how it matches my board?
I grew up in a family that played board games at night and went to amusement parks on the weekend. I truly believe that the best memories are made when you’re having fun with people. Play Party Plan is a resource for women who are trying to find ways to entertain their families both at home and abroad to make life a bit more fun, whether it be creative party ideas that people can actually recreate, family travel tips, or easy recipes. I share my ideas so others don’t have to come up with their own, so they can spend more time creating memories with their family and friends.
Once you’ve nailed down your generic elevator pitch, think of ways you can personalize it. Look at the sponsor list, brands you’re speed pitching, etc. and turn that elevator pitch into something specific that shows how you would work with that brand. So if I was meeting with JAKK’S Pacific for instance, I might talk about how I like to share themed party ideas and a Disney Princess tea party featuring their toys would be a huge hit with my audience who is regularly looking for creative party ideas for girls.
#6 – Pamper yourself.
Okay, maybe you don’t need to pamper yourself but in my experience, I get more out of a blog conference when I feel better about myself. When my nails are done. When my hair is done. When I have an outfit or two that I feel downright killer wearing. You’re going to want to be confident as you’re meeting a ton of new people and it’s amazing what a good haircut or the perfect outfit will do for your confidence.
My secret is getting a gel manicure before every conference. I change it up to match my brand, match the feel of the conference (e.g., Mickey Mouse for the Disney conference), or match wherever I’m going. Figure out your confidence secret and make time for it before the conference.
#7 – Make the most of every moment.
Now that I’ve given you tips on how to prepare for the conference, let’s talk about at the conference itself. My biggest tip is to make the most of every moment. And write down those moments.
My secret to following up with brands after conferences is actually something I do during the conference. I have a hot pink permanent marker that I keep with me at all times. After I talk to a brand (or a blogger I’d like to work with), I take a minute before moving onto the next one and write down what we talked about, any inside jokes, and anything I need to remember about that conversation. Then I use those notes to jog the person’s memory when I’m emailing them later.
Those notes are seriously a gold mine when it comes to reaching out to brands later. Gold mine.
#8 – Give yourself a break.
Mentally. Physically. Emotionally.
I have the worst case of FOMO ever, but I’ve found for me the most important part of my day is the few minutes that I take for myself away from everything. Conferences can be extremely overwhelming, especially if you don’t know anyone or it’s your first one. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, go sit in a chair for a few minutes or even go back to your room and take a nap. Skip a class.
And at the end of the conference when you feel like you could’ve learned, done, pitched, [insert verb here] so much more, give yourself another break. Don’t ever look back and think, oh man I wish I’d gone and talked to this person or I wish I’d had a chance to connect with that brand for longer. Think, there is going to be another opportunity. And I’m going to send them a follow-up email that will blow their minds.
Then take it one step at a time. Create a list of all of the things you want to do, people you want to contact, and projects you want to start. Prioritize the list, then do one thing at a time. Not everything all at once.
Come to Blogger Bash
I am attending Blogger Bash 2016 as an Acorn Ambassador. Products from JAKK’S Pacific were sent to me to use and test at no cost, my thoughts and opinions are my own. Want to join me at Blogger Bash in NYC later this month? Get a $60 discount code off the ticket by clicking here or on the Blogger Bash image below. Hope to see you there!