In two days, I’ll be getting on a train to go to the biggest women’s blogging conference in the world, BlogHer. More than 4,500 women (and some men) will converge on New York City for a weekend of networking, learning, and parties.
I’ve been watching the conference hashtag on and off for two weeks. I have seen scads of women lament about already feeling lost in the crowd, about packing stress, and about general anxiety related to the conference.
I went to BlogHer in 2009 (in Chicago), and I skipped 2010 and 2011. I made a lot of mistakes that first time around, so let me share with you some lessons I learned:
- Know yourself. BlogHer will be as stressful or as relaxed as you make it.If you spend your time running from one appointment to the next, from one party to the next, and from one luncheon to the next, you are going to get stressed out really quickly.
I know that I need a lot of downtime to recharge and feel like myself. If I don’t have that time, I will get edgy and be miserable. In 2009, I let my fear of missing out tread all over my need for personal quiet time, and my conference experience suffered for it. I’ll not make that mistake this time around.
- Be comfortable. As my friend, Dawn (whom I met in Chicago because she saved me and my boatload of BlogHer swag in the airport), says, BlogHer is a business conference, not cheerleading tryouts.Don’t wear shoes for the first time at the conference. Don’t pinch and squeeze and force yourself into clothing that doesn’t fit because you think you should.
Should you look your best? Absolutely! But please do that without making yourself miserable.
- Plan your wardrobe ahead of time. At the very least, plan outfits ahead of time. Put together the clothes with accessories and shoes.You’ll need daytime outfits for Thursday (unless you’re arriving late), Friday, Saturday, and maybe Sunday, and nighttime outfits for Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night. I like to assign outfits to dates and times, but you don’t have to be that rigid.
What you do want to avoid is taking a whole bunch of stuff and having to make decisions in your hotel room. Make them now and pack as lightly as possible.
- Set some conference goals. Why are you spending hundreds of dollars to go to BlogHer? Surely it is not to bring home a few free jars of grape jam, right? You could buy those at the grocery store for much less than the conference is costing you.Do you want to make connections with brands at the expo?
Meet small businesses?
Make face to face connections with other bloggers?
See old friends?
Learn about something new?
Decide now. What do you want to get out of this conference?
If you don’t know what you want, how will your investment be worthwhile?
- Make a list of must-meet people now, before you leave home. Make a list of people you really want to meet up with: bloggers, company reps, PR people, Twitter friends, whomever.Make a list, get their cell phone numbers so that you can text each other and be sure to connect. If you don’t, you will get home without having met most of the people on that list.
- Make a schedule. Create a schedule now, before you begin to travel. Write it down or type it, and fold the paper to fit into the purse or tote you’ll be carrying at the conference.Include a lot of downtime, more than you think is necessary. You might use downtime to work on your blog, peruse Twitter, have a conversation with someone you met, or go take a nap. You will need it, though, so plan for it.
Give yourself enough flexibility to change your plans or ditch a party or spend extra time chatting, and don’t forget to leave a little time to explore New York City if you’ve never done that before.
- Don’t try to do everything.You just can’t. In 2009, I tried to go to every single party that I’d been invited to. In one night, I went to five different parties.Guess what. I didn’t have fun at any of them. I spent the whole night watching the clock to be sure not to miss the next party, and I barely connected with anyone. It was silly.
Limit yourself and enjoy the events you choose.
- Don’t forget about the expo hall. If you go to every session and every party, you will miss out on the expo hall.Hundreds of companies are there, waiting for a chance to talk to you.
If you have absolutely no interest in monetization or products, skip it. If you have any inclination that you might want to work with companies now or in the future, do yourself a favor and meet some in the expo hall.
- Do forget about the parties you aren’t invited to.Another thing I’ve seen on Twitter over and over and over again is the “I wish I was invited to #bigbrand’s party. I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t go.”Please. I decided to go to BlogHer two weeks ago, and I wasn’t invited to anything.
Guess what! I’m totally okay with that.
There are official parties going on in the Hilton from dinnertime until the wee hours of the morning, Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night. You don’t need a ticket; you’ve already paid for your conference registration.
Go to the official parties. Enjoy yourself.
- Do forget about the swag. It’s worth repeating. FORGET ABOUT THE SWAG.I say that as much for myself as for you. In Chicago, I came home with so much swag, I had trouble getting through the airport. I picked up every single item I could possibly get my hands on, and I was delighted to be coming home with so much free stuff.
The problem was that most of the free stuff was junk, and I didn’t need it. We donated or tossed a good portion of it.
Be very selective with the swag you accept, and please don’t be one of those people who hunts for it everywhere.
Having said that, do be prepared to come home with a lot of stuff.
It sounds like I just contradicted myself, but I didn’t. Still be selective, and don’t go looking for swag.
Even if you don’t, you are going to come home with a lot, so go with a suitcase half full or an empty tote bag or suitcase packed inside your luggage.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Your comfort zone holds you hostage in a place where you can’t grow.You are going to feel a little uncomfortable at first, introducing yourself to total strangers. It’s a risk.
But if you aren’t willing to stick your hand out and introduce yourself and start conversations, you might as well stay home.
The only person who thinks you aren’t good enough or interesting enough or big enough is you, so get over that feeling and start talking to people.
BlogHer is all about networking, connecting with new people. You and your blog will be so much better for it.
- Relax and enjoy your weekend.Don’t tell my husband, but a blogging conference is a lot like a girls’ weekend away.It’s time without the kids, without the stress of housecleaning and chauffeuring and every day life. It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun.
Plan on having a great time, plan out stretching yourself, and then go do it.
What are your best tips for getting the most out of BlogHer?