As a blog conference newbie headed to SheStreams in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida I was a newbie, noob, virgin, green. I was nervous, unsure, and frightened. Now I am no longer a conference virgin but blog conference newbie tips would have made all the difference for me.
Nine tips every blog conference newbie needs to prepare for success at their first blogging conference, coming from a former newbie.
Blog Conference Newbie Tip #1: Plan out your clothing
It is super important to feel comfortable in what you are wearing. You will be sitting, standing, or walking for long periods of time.
You do not have to buy a whole new wardrobe and there is no need to buy clothing you will never wear again in an attempt to impress others.
Look at the conference schedule to see what events are happening. Most conference generally have a business casual dress environment which ultimately means there is a range from shorts and jeans to dresses. What matters is that you feel comfortable and confident in what you are wearing. Your confidence will show through in how you introduce yourself to others and appear in pictures.
If you are unsure of exactly what to wear, head to Twitter and see what others are talking about, search for pictures from the last event, and see what others wore. Emailing someone who is in charge of the conference and directly asking is also an option.
Purchasing one dress for lunch on a yacht with Disney Parks and one pair of new red sparkly “Dorothy from Wizard of Oz” shoes for a whopping total of $60 + tax was my total for SheStreams. Note: Finding those two items took several weeks, tons of stores, and way more dressing rooms and shoe stores than I ever care to see again unless I am on Rodeo Drive and having my own Pretty Woman kind of experience.
Confession: It took me so long to find the dress and I was terribly worried the airline would loose my luggage only to wear one outfit the entire time so I packed my conference clothes in a carry on bag and made sure they went directly with me, just in case. My luggage arrived safely but I am thankful I was conservative and prepared.
Another confession: Wear something surprising and you might get noticed or remembered. One individual loved my new glasses with flames on the side and called them “Bad Ass”.
BONUS: Bring a backup outfit or two. Accidents happen and it is a great idea to have something to change into, just in case, otherwise you might be remembered as the one who had soup all over her shirt in all the conference photos.
Blog Conference Newbie Tip #2: Follow the conference hashtag
During the conference everyone tweets using the specific hashtag designated for that conference. You have a Twitter account, right? If not then get one right away, even if you only use it for the conference. Conferences may create a Twitter list of attendees and is a great way
Take a look at #SheStreams to discover all the great tips and fun that we had. It is also a great way to meet up with others.
Follow it from the time the conference is announced to learn more about what is going on, changes, and important announcements. Sometimes they even give away tickets to attendees or other prizes. Tweeting the hashtag makes you also visible to others.
Without realizing it, attending a Twitter party before the conference allowed me to be visible to at least one person who sought me out the morning of the conference and sat with me. It was her first time too and was such a pleasure to meet her. We would have never met had I not attended the Twitter party.
BONUS: Make sure your Twitter photo is of you not an avatar or your blog logo and a recent picture so people can recognize you.
Blog Conference Newbie Tip #3: Be visible and authentic
Be present at the sessions, tweet, and pay attention. Many are watching and observing you without you even realizing it. Do not try to impress anyone. They will see through it.
Above all else, be authentic. Just be you, no matter what. No one else can be you, so just be good at who you are already.
BONUS: It is better to have people like you for the real you than like only the pretend version of you.
Blog Conference Newbie Tip #4: Hiding in the hotel room is a bad idea
While it may be tempting to spend time in the hotel room stealing a few moments of peace and quite away from life, while the conference is going on it is recommended to stay at the conference.
Sure, you can take a quick run to drop off materials, grab a snack, and put your feet up for a few minutes to recharge your batteries, but if you stay in the room long you just might miss out on some awesome bonding opportunities. Many of those moments came about for me because I was not in the hotel room.
When I did take a break and headed to the room, I missed a wonderful opportunity to walk to the beach with others. Even though I was not hiding at all, that break meant a missed chance.
BONUS: Drop off items at your hotel room and only carry what you absolutely need helps with conference fatigue.
Blog Conference Newbie Tip #5: Conquer shyness so it does not paralyze you
A room full of strangers can easily be intimidating. If you have chosen your conference carefully, chances are you already have contact with the ones in charge.
How many women can say they walked around a conference room with a bowl of milk in one hand, a plate of fruit in the other, and a small box of cereal tucked under the chin? It was the only time the double chin did not show and no one took a picture. Not that it was me or anything. Okay, so it was me. Definitely one way to scream “I am a blog conference newbie!”
It took me quite awhile before I came out of my shell and was willing to ask for a picture with others. In that time, I missed several opportunities that only came once. Even though I talked with @LauraSpencerOne from Disney Parks, I was too shy to ask for a picture with her and I missed the opportunity.
Pictured above is the Beautiful Twitter Party Queen & Creator, Amy Lupold Bair, who may be more recognized as @ResourcefulMom. Can you tell I was so super excited to finally meet her that I squished up my face?
BONUS: Don’t squish your face like mine. In. Every. Single. Picture.
Blog Conference Newbie Tip #6: Decide whether you will fund the conference or wait for a sponsor
I had a choice when I went to my first conference. I could have sat around waiting for a sponsor to approach me, worked my tail off to find one, tweet about it, or just pay for it myself. While have a blogging conference sponsor would have been ideal, it did not happen for me. Unlike what some people have experienced, it did not just land in my lap.
I also was not willing to beg, borrow, steal, or plead for someone to help me. I will not sell myself just for a buck. It is important to honor what I stand for and not be swayed just because it is attached to a dollar bill. Think of the phrase, “You have to stand for something or you will fall for anything.”
I purchased the ticket, hotel fees, air fare, taxi cab, and meals outside the conference ones provided. No one else did that for me. To help with expenses, I shared the hotel room with one roommate, who was the best one I could have ever asked for. I was truly blessed. In the process of sharing, I met a life long friend. There is no price that can be put on friendship.
There is freedom in paying for a conference yourself. While reading about how other people landed sponsors I realized they wore their clothes, carried bags with logos, or handed out swag to other attendees. While that is completely acceptable, since this was my first conference I was not aware of the etiquette and it was so nice to not have to worry about offending anyone or misrepresenting a brand. Talk about complete freedom to be me.
BONUS: Double check with the conference to see what they allow for sponsorship and follow their rules exactly or you just might lose your conference badge.
Blog Conference Newbie Tip #7: Rise early
The hotel beds were so comfortable. A little too comfortable, if that is possible, because I did not want to get up. It also might have been the conversation with my roommate that went well beyond 3 am that helped lead to this desire to lounge in bed.
As hard as it was to drag my body out of the bed with less than 3 hours sleep on a 3 hour time zone difference between Arizona and Florida, I did it. Besides, the excitement of what the day will bring was surely an easy way to get going.
The conference started at 8, which allowed an hour for breakfast. There were no lines and it was easy to have plenty of time to eat, get settled, and ready for it all to begin. The next morning I arrived at 8:30 am and barely felt like I had time to get ready. But I am one who likes to be prepared and loves the boy scout motto, even if I was a girl scout.
BONUS: Schedule a wake up call with the hotel and set your alarm on your phone but make sure the volume is on or you just might sleep in since the room is quiet and comfy and you just might have been up late chatting with your roommate.
Blog Conference Newbie Tip #8: Choose your travel wisely
If you are a morning person, fly then. If you are not, then fly later. You might have to pay a little bit more, but finding a time that is comfortable for you is key.
Picking a flight that would have nearly made me end up in the hospital due to lack of sleep or sleeping on the beach in a tent is not the best option. In order to save a little bit of money I originally picked a flight that left at 1 am and arrived at 9 am. Then I would have had to sit around the hotel until check in at 3 pm. It was not the best choice and thankfully my husband helped me see the error of my ways, even though I really could not stop thinking about the price difference.
The morning after the conference ended I knew I would be very tired, so scheduling a flight that left in the afternoon allowed me to get a little bit of sleep and still spend time with my children once I arrived home. It worked out perfectly for me.
BONUS: Remember the time zone difference when scheduling flights and allow for extra time to return to the airport so you do not miss your flight.
Blog Conference Newbie Tip #9: Pick your first conference carefully since you get what you pay for
A blog conference newbie needs to do their homework before deciding on which conference to attend.
Investing your money, time, and energy into something worthwhile is important. Check the background of the conference, the organizer, the location, the sponsors, speakers, and attendees. When someone has a stellar background, a long history of successful events, selects an established brand name hotel, invites successful and professional speakers, and has attendees that are recognizable names it helps to reassure the conference will provide quality content worthy of your time and energy.
A social media profile, blogging presence, videos, and website structure should all convey professionalism. If not, then you might want to carefully evaluate the validity of the event. A consistent, reliable, and professional presence spreads across all avenues, no matter what. Period.
Here is a bonus one for you, just because you are awesome!
Blog Conference Newbie Tip #10: Watch out for the conference “bug”
These are not the flu bugs, bed bugs every one dreads, or the mosquitoes common in the Florida area. This is purely something unexpected, that left me totally unprepared. When your first conference is amazing you just might be sad for it all to be over.
Without knowing it, I contracted a terrible disease called Conferencitis. The only medicine is to attend another conference, as quickly as possible. There is no cure and once you have been bitten it gets into your blood and is highly contagious. Yes, I totally made up that word, but it is true. I simply cannot wait for my next conference.
Are you a blog conference newbie? Leave your question below.