1. Establish Your Goals: Why are you going? To see friends? Meet other bloggers? Meet brands? Learn how to be a better blogger? Have fun? Whatever your reason, know it and plan your agenda around it. Otherwise you will be spread too thin and will come home with nothing else than a bag full of swag and business cards. I have gone to blog conferences with no goals, and while I had a fabulous time, I also regret not taking the time to connect with other bloggers and follow up with the brands I met.
2. Take (GOOD) Business Cards: This seems like a given but a lot of people leave it to the last minute. If you haven’t started, there’s still time to get cards. You can use a site like Vistaprint or Uprinting for a basic, inexpensive, card. Must have information? Real name, blog address, email address, Twitter ID, and a phone number. I take two different cards: one for brands with my address on it and one for other bloggers that are more personal and fun.
3. Put Yourself Out There: There is never a reason to feel alone at blog conference. If you’re feeling left out, walk up to a group and say hi. See a seat at an empty table? Grab it. People are very welcoming and you get the chance to meet a new friend. Put a smile on your face and start a conversation. If you only take one piece of advice from this post, make it that one. And don’t be discouraged if you do get the cold shoulder, it’s more about them than you. Move on to the next person or group. See someone you want to meet? Go up and say hi (try not to interrupt their conversation though, I am guilty of this one!)
4. Don’t Make It About You: The biggest mistake bloggers make at conferences is talking without listening. I still remember a moment at TypeA 2011 when I was talking with two other bloggers about their passion and projects. Another blogger walked up to join us, which was great. Except that she interrupted our conversation and talked about her project for ten minutes without ever asking us about ourselves. Her project was normally something I would loved to be involved with but her attitude turned me off. This goes for brands too. Definitely tell them about yourself but also ask them what they are about and what they want from bloggers.
5. Do Your Research: If you want to connect with brands, do some research before you go. Know who you want to see and make it a priority to seek them out. Reach out to the brands on Twitter and Facebook before you go. If you’re going for blogging or a personal project, read the pre-conference guide to see what the sessions are really about. Take a few minutes to research the keynote speakers.
6. Have An Elevator Pitch: I joke that my elevator pitch is “Hi, my name is Kate.” But realistically you should have an idea of what you want to say about yourself and your blog when you meet people. Practice it a few times in front of a mirror or a friend so you don’t get flustered. Mine? “Hi, I’m Kate. I go by Guavalicious on twitter. Currently I have two blogs. One is a hyper-local group blog about my town Columbia Missouri called The COMO Collective and a lifestyle blog called The Guavalicious Life about trying to do it all with twins, an old house, and too many projects. I hope to launch a website this year focused on special needs.”
7. Make Connections Before Hand: Reach out to people on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs and ask if they would like to meet up. Exchange phone numbers so you can text people (it’s way faster than Twitter!) I made a sheet last year with people I wanted to meet and what they planned to attend. Then I texted them when I got there and we would find each other that way.
8. Always Be Prepared to Connect: Two things to have on you at all times: breath mints and business cards. You never know when you are going to meet someone who you want to give your contact info to. A great idea is to carry your cards in your badge holder so they are always on you.
9. Don’t Get Drunk: When I don’t follow this one, I invariably end up having a conversation with a blogger I really like… that I totally don’t remember. Then I look like an ass and I miss out on talking to someone I really admire. Stop one drink before you think you should.
10. Be Nice: This should be a given but in case you need a reason to be nice to everyone here you go: you never know who you are talking to. The person that you held the elevator for may be that blogging hero you’ve wanted to meet. The person who asks to sit at your table may be an editor who can give you paying work. The brand rep for a brand you hate may also be the PR person for a brand you are dying to work with. The blogger you’ve never heard off may be best friends with The Paper Mama. Smile and talk to everyone and you will always make a good impression.
And above all: BE YOURSELF! You are the only one like you and I guarantee that is the person people are most interested in connecting with!