Attending a blog conference is an ideal opportunity to both learn a lot and network a lot in just a few days’ time. Many bloggers feel fortunate if they can attend one event a year, and some are lucky enough to attend several.
Most blog conferences are 2 or 3 days long, and require some planning and prep work in order to keep things running smoothly for your blog while you’re busy learning and networking, as well as make the most of your conference experience.
Below are some tips on how to prepare yourself and your blog for a blog conference.
- Posts to publish during conference – You’ll need to get a few posts written and scheduled ahead of time if you want to keep traffic coming to your blog while you are gone. You can write new posts, rerun old favorites or ask a couple bloggers to guest post for you.
- Posts to publish a few days after conference – When you get back home, you are going to be worn out and overflowing with fresh ideas. You’ll need time to catch back up and will want to begin putting your new ideas into action. Having a few posts already set to go helps lighten your load and gives you some room to breathe.
- Cleaning up your blog before you leaveÂ – It’s great to do some basic housekeeping from time to time. You’ll be meeting lots of new people when you attend your blog conference, so why not have their first impression of your little corner of the blogosphere be the best it could be? Spend a little time cleaning up your sidebars, tightening up your About and Contact pages, updating your brand and making any other changes you’ve been putting off.
- Twitter listÂ – Organizers of the blog conference you’ll be attending most likely will start a list of attendees’ Twitter handles several weeks out. It’s a great way to find and follow others who will be attending with you.
- Column filtered by conference hashtagÂ – Adding a column in Tweetdeck or Hootsuite that filters by #BlogConferenceName is a great way to track mentions of the conference ahead of time.
- Reaching out via Twitter or blog posts before conferenceÂ – Once you begin following other attendees and the pre-conference chatter on Twitter, be sure to jump into conversations! If someone extends an open dinner invite or is looking for a cab share to and from the airport, tweet back that you’d love to join in dinner and share the cab cost. Conference veterans also often run a blog post about what to expect at the upcoming conference. Take the opportunity to read more about the conference and leave a thoughtful comment for the blogger you’ll soon meet.
- Add a Twibbon to your Twitter avatar – Conference organizers often create a Twibbon, which is an image or other branding designed to be applied to your Twitter profile photo, for attendees to add to their photo in the weeks leading up to the conference.
- Make a list of your “Must Meets”Â – And after making that list, don’t be timid about walking up to them and introducing yourself. You’ll find that the vast majority of people are thrilled to meet someone new.
- Business cards – Sure, it’s a *blog* conference but business cards are the norm. Get some printed with your name, URL, email, Twitter handle and branded imagery before you go.
- Smart phone, laptop/tablet/paper, cameraÂ – Every person has a method that works best for them. If you prefer to take notes with pen & paper or on your smart phone, then do it. You definitely won’t be the only person in the conference sessions without a laptop or iPad.
- Power cords and chargers for your chosen electronics – Be sure to pack power cords and chargers for whatever electronics you choose to bring.
- Snacks and a water bottleÂ – Besides meal times, drinks and snacks aren’t necessarily readily accessible. Bringing along an empty water bottle and some of your favorite snacks can really help you out.
- Cash – There will be extraneous expenses beyond the conference pass, lodging and transportation. Be prepared to pay for cab rides, drinks and probably dinner. It’s not unusual for a conference to only have breakfast and lunch included.
- Do your session homework before leaving homeÂ – You don’t need to officially decide which sessions you are going to attend until the conference is underway, but it is helpful to read the descriptions of the sessions on the conference website before you leave home. It is common that more than one session is running at one time, so it helps to do a bit of research and consider your session preference beforehand.
- Feel free to switch sessions, if desiredÂ – No blog conference attendee will love every single session they sit in. Feel comfortable to get up and leave your current session and try another. This is your time to learn; if one session isn’t what you expected, don’t hesitate to make a change.
- Sessions are important, but networking connections are KingÂ – If you run into someone you’ve been dying to talk to but you know your next session is starting momentarily, don’t sweat it. Stay and talk, and make it to your session when your chat is over.
- Comfortable clothesÂ – Blog conferences mean long days, with lots of sitting, standing and walking. You do want to look nice, but be sure to think pratically, too. Jeans are very common at nearly every conference.
- Comfortable shoesÂ – Not only do you need to be comfortable in your clothes, but good walking shoes are important, too. Some bigger blog conferences are known for attendees needing to do a lot of walking. It’s OK to save the heels for the evening events (or not bring them to the conference at all).
- Keep a sweater on handÂ – Hotel ballrooms are notoriously cold. A versatile cardigan, sweater or hoodie can make a huge difference in your comfort level.
- Really, don’t worry about clothes!Â – Many people cite “clothing” as one of their biggest pre-conference worries. But don’t worry; no matter how “formal” an event is supposed to be, you’ll see other attendees in jeans. You really can’t go wrong with clothes.