BlogHer 2013 is just around the corner, while other conferences happen all year long. No matter which conference(s) you go to, you are going to want to make sure you get the most out of them. Chances are, you’re sacrificing a lot of time and money to be there, so don’t make it a waste of those precious things.
• Get uncomfortable. Peel yourself off of the wall. Stop standing by the snack table pretending like you’re doing something. I know, it’s a room full of strangers, but you’ve got to put yourself out there. Think about it like this – just about everyone there knows the same number of people as you. You are (I hope) there to meet and connect with bloggers and brands, so do it! Which brings me to my next point…
• Don’t treat it as a party. I know, it’s awesome meeting your “blogger friends” in real life, but the truth is, you can hang out with them for a lot cheaper than at a blogging conference if you really want to. You’re there to meet NEW people and make connections, not just to strengthen connections that have already been made.
• Bring 3 times as many business cards as you think you need. Why? Because you’ll feel pretty silly for not forking over the extra $50 for more cards when you run out 8 hours into a 3-day conference that you’re paying $500-$1,000 to attend.
• Be ready for swag, but don’t be greedy about swag. You’re going to see it, but it’s important that you don’t participate in “swag looting”. It’s tacky, rude and simply embarrassing to be a part of. See my post about Blog Conference Etiquette here. Now, you may be offered quite a bit of swag depending on which conference you go to, so you do want to be ready. Bring an extra backpack or bag to hold your swag. Leave room in the car, or in your suitcase for swag. I have heard countless stories of bloggers mailing boxes of swag home because they couldn’t travel with so much stuff. If it comes down to it, pass on swag that you know you have no use for. It’s hard to turn away free stuff, but if space is an issue, be selective.
• Try and arrive early. This will allow you to get your bearings. One day in advance is good, especially if this is your first conference. If you can, get to the venue and scope out as much of it as possible. Walking into a place that you have been before will give you a little bit more confidence.
• If you’re there for presentations, do what you can to arrive early, sit toward the front and stay focused. Just like in school, right?! But seriously, you paid for this, so get the most out of it! Bring a recorder or take a lot of notes! On taking notes: bring a notepad and pens! There will be times that you don’t want to take notes on your laptop or tablet!
• If you’re there for networking, network! Browse booths not for swag, but for something more valuable: relationships. Forming a long-lasting relationship with a brand is worth way more than a water bottle or flash drive with a logo on it. Don’t forget why you’re there.
The most important thing that you can do is have fun. Connecting with brands and bloggers in real life should be a blast! If you’re enjoying yourself, it will run off on others and you’ll leave a long-lasting impression on everyone you come across.