This past weekend, I was able to attend the Build Your Blog Conference in SLC hosted by Six Sisters Stuff, and it was an absolutely incredible experience!!
(ahem… as you already know if you follow me on Instagram and I photo-bombed your Insta feed this weekend!)
As this was my very first conference experience ever, and I really came away from it with so much new knowledge and even a new sense of confidence in what I’m doing as a blogger and online influencer. While everything is still so fresh in my mind, I wanted to share with you 10 of the most valuable lessons I learned at BYBC. Maybe it’ll help prepare YOU for your next conference, whether you’re a first time newbie like I was or a seasoned conference pro!
These are in no particular order…
Now, I don’t mean you need to be running around in high heels the entire conference (although looking nice is recommended, but more on that in a minute)! When I say “stay on your toes,” I mean be up and walking around as much as you possibly can!
There’s a good chance you’re going to make a friend who you connect with on a BFF level instantly. And it’s tempting just to find a spot somewhere to sit and chat the hours away. But might I recommend fighting the urge to do what is comfortable (pal-ing around with the same person the entire time) to do what may be uncomfortable: reaching out to lots of new people!!
Generally, these conferences are 1-2 days. 3 days tops. And I found, even making an effort, it’s unlikely that you’ll come even close to meeting half of everybody in attendance! Which means you need to be on your toes, busy networking the entire time.
That being said, I definitely feel like it’s okay to pause and take time to develop an important connection you may make– whether it’s for business purposes (like an investor, publisher, or potential blogging partner) or simply someone you’d like to be better friends with. So don’t get me wrong! I don’t mean that you should brush people off, because you’re “too busy networking.” But definitely be aware of your time, and use it wisely!!!!
The conference I attended was a 1-day event (with a 3ish hour Meet and Greet the night before) and lasted for about 8 hours. Keeping in mind any adjustments for different lengths of different conferences, here are some items I strongly suggest keeping in your purse for the day:
- Lip gloss, lip gloss, lip gloss
- Band aids (in case those cute new shoes aren’t quite broken in yet)
- At least 150 business cards (that way if there’s card swap set up, you can leave half or more of the cards there, and still have enough on you to hand out to people you interact with directly)
- A notepad and 2 pens
- A point and shoot camera (you’ll be sad that your phone pics look so grainy, but I definitely wouldn’t haul around an SLR either!)
- Snacks + a light meal if you have any diet restrictions (don’t take for granted that there will be food provided that will fit into your diet)
- Something to hold all the business cards you will collect (a lot of people liked using a hole punch a ring, but I preferred putting them into a small pocket in my purse)
- Your headache medicine of choice (especially if you’re prone to headaches when overheated)
- Phone charger (especially if you’re using your phone to snap pics!)
- Conference itinerary
- 5-10 copies of your media kit
- A tablet (as opposed to a laptop) if you think you’ll want it to take notes, pictures, or to look up people’s blogs on the spot
People will be taking your picture. Period. No question about it.
And it is equally definite that those pictures will end up somewhere online.
So make sure that your shirt doesn’t make you look pregnant (unless you are, of course :) ), take the time to do your hair (using hairspray and all that jazz), and wear an appropriate amount of make up (clown pictures are no bueno).
Unfortunately, I can speak from experience when I say that you will regret not taking the time to do these three things for all conference events.
Just take my word for it.
Some of the breakout sessions I attended were smaller, about 40-50 people in a room. These classes made for an ideal setting for asking questions. Of course, don’t be a pest! But if there’s something you just don’t understand, don’t be afraid to raise your hand when appropriate (you may be asked to wait for a Q&A at the end) and ask for clarification. And if you have a question that can’t be simply answered during the allotted time, be sure to get the contact information for those teaching the class and ask if it’s okay to reach out to them with further questions. Chances are, they’ll be more than happy to help you out when they have a little more time on their hands.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask other bloggers questions as you meet them! Remember, it’s not likely you’ll get to have in depth conversations with everyone you meet. So if you run into a blogger that you’ve been dying to meet, and you’ve always wondered how they manage to consistently post 7 days a week, go ahead and say, “Wow, I have always admired your very ambitious posting schedule! How do you do it all??” Or maybe they have a design that is to DIE FOR, go ahead and ask them who they hired (or if they did it on their own)!
You get what I’m saying: time is limited, don’t be shy! If you have something to say, spit it out!
I was sort of on the fence about this before I went to BYBC. I just kind of like my own space.
Not in a snobby way or anything, but… you know. It’s sort of a risk to sign up to sleep in the same room with people you maybe have never met before.
My verdict? It’s totally worth it (as long as you’re pretty certain your future roommates aren’t serial killers or something creepy), and makes your conference experience a great one. I found that it gave me a sense of security, like I had 3 automatic best friends going into the conference even though we had never met before. And that gave me the feeling that I wasn’t going into a nerve racking experience on my own.
Just having a group of friends do simple things like eat breakfast with, or even just to stand in the registration line with, makes a difference in the experience. And having roommates can give you that automatic friendship! I loved the group of girls that I roomed with. I totally feel like I gained 3 new near and dear pals. Plus– it totally helps with hotel costs!
This was the biggest surprise for me this weekend: Blog Conferences are EXHAUSTING!
I don’t know why this never crossed my mind. I guess because sitting in class and casually mingling with friends doesn’t really sound like that much work. But seriously, the brain power behind absorbing every word the speakers say is incredible. And you’ll be surprised at the ground you cover in “casual” mingling. Plus, I don’t know about you, but my face can only handle so much smiling before it starts to resist.
I spent the entire week leading up to the conference writing late night posts, and scheduling this and that for while I was gone. Biggest. mistake. ever.
I arrived at the conference practically dead on my feet, and I didn’t make it through 2 classes before my eyelids were burning and I found myself writing down key phrases I heard to “Google later” when my brain wasn’t so fuzzy. It was still a great experience, but if I could go back and do it again, I think I would have left some things undone the week before in order to get a little more rest.
I’ve had two nights in a row of 8+ hours since the conference, and I’m still not fully recovered!
This was my favorite lesson learned: every single blogger you meet is just a normal person, just like you.
It was SUCH a relief to me to find that other bloggers (who I’ve only known as the glamorous and perfectly “with it” looking head shots on their blog) are human. We all have bad hair days, we all fight the weight resulting from photo-worthy cookies, we all get tired, and we all worry about time management. I couldn’t believe how much I could relate to some of the bloggers I had always considered way “out of my league.”
So remember: fabulous as they may be, they’re still just people. And they’re probably really, really, nice and super willing to talk to you.
And guess what? Sometimes they know who YOU are, and they’ve been following YOUR blog just like you’ve been following theirs.
I can’t tell you how many times I introduced myself to someone (who totally intimidated me) and they said, “Oh! Something Swanky?! I love your blog!” And I’d be thinking “Omg, omg, omg, omg. Be cool, Ashton. Just BE COOL.”
And I’m not saying this to brag, because I’m totally not alone in that experience. I just want YOU to know that we’re all sort of the same. We’re all here to support each other and promote growth among other bloggers. And we’re not just on the same team online– we’re friends in person too! So chances are, the same bloggers you care about and take time to support know who you are and care about your blog too!
The lesson: don’t be scared to introduce yourself to someone who totally geeks you out. You may only get the chance to meet them once, and who knows what sort of a friendship (or business relationship) could result from a meeting! (And don’t forget your business cards!)
I know this isn’t possible at every conference. But I had the unique opportunity to spend some up close and personal time with the gals who put together BYBC. And even though we were just having fun and chit chatting, it was evident how much hard work and even sacrifice they had put into the conference. And getting to see a little of that first hand made me feel SO grateful for everything they had done to help support me in my blogging efforts.
So if you have the opportunity to thank those who have organized the event, definitely take the time to do so.
A BIG, HUGE THANK YOU to Camille, Elyse, Kristen, Steph, Lauren, Kendra, Courtney, and so many others for the tremendous efforts you put into planning such a wonderful event!
Maybe this is a little cliche and cheesey, but it’s super applicable nonetheless: the experience you have at a blog conference is the direct result of your attitude. No event with hundreds and hundreds (or especially thousands and thousands) of people is going to go off without a hitch. There’s just no way. And when things go a little awry, it’s up to you to handle the situation in a positive or negative way.
Disappointed in a class because you didn’t learn anything new? Make an effort to at least meet the speaker. They’re probably an “expert” in their topic, and maybe establishing an introduction with them will open opportunities for you to learn more from them later on.
Feeling lonely because nobody has walked up to say hi? Again, cliche. But strike out on your own and be the person who says “hi” first!
Didn’t run into an investor/publisher/big time PR company at your table? SEEK THEM OUT! Find them, get your business card into their hands, and say “Hi! I’d be interested in learning more about an affiliation with you.”
Take this experience into your own hands and mean business! If you come away dissatisfied with a blog conference, I’m convinced there’s no one to blame but yourself. There’s something there for everyone if you’re eyes are open to it, and you’re willing to put forth a little effort.
Yeah. I just said “warm fuzzies.”
And I mean it. This is your opportunity to be a genuine and sincere force for good among your colleagues. Leave a good impression. Scratch that, leave an AMAZING impression. Walk away from that conference knowing you did your best to make everyone you came in contact with feel BETTER about themselves.
Just about every one at a conference is nervous on some level. Some may be less nervous than others, some may just be really great at hiding it. But a blogging conference is an intimidating social situation no matter which way you cut it. Be someone who is comforting to talk to. Be sure to compliment clothing choices, hair accessories, and business cards. And, of course, be sure to mention how much you admire their blog if you’re familiar with it (and can honestly say you admire it).
FIND SOMETHING POSITIVE in each person you talk to, and be sure to mention it. People will remember your kindness much longer than they’ll remember your impressive media kit.
So get out there and smile like your life depends on it!
Happy conference-ing everyone! I hope you found this helpful and motivating :) .
And, on a side note: for those of you who attended (or didn’t, for that matter) the Design 101 session at BYBC, I’ll be posting a re-cap next week on Something Swanky. And… er… I’ll be including some of the slides/screen shots that weren’t shown during the class ;) . So be sure and stop by for a little more “Monkey” business next week!