People go to blogging conferences for a multitude of reasons.
Whether you intend to spend your time focusing on SEO or increasing your Facebook audience, the variety of topics will likely include something to improve your performance as a blogger. In the end, what I took away from the conference I recently attended wasn’t what I expected, so go with an open mind and absorb what’s shared with you; you never know what will stick.
1. You don’t have to attend all of the sessions.
Before I arrived in Miami, I stressed about how to fill my schedule. There were keynote sessions and there were break-aways, where participants would break into smaller intensive groups in different rooms. Sometimes, I just wasn’t feeling any of the topics that were available though. I thought I had to attend everything offered–I was wrong. Take some time for yourself, too. If something doesn’t tickle your fancy, don’t go. This is your conference experience and you should be able to tailor it to your needs and desires. I don’t regret spending an hour by the pool during one of the break-away sessions, and neither should you. Do what you need to do. Nobody will punish you for it.
2. Talk to the Representatives from Brands That Interest You
You will be overwhelmed by the variety of brands at the conference. There may be games or giveaways to encourage you to talk to all of them, even special parties and dinners put on by the brand representatives. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Focus on fostering relationships with the few that interest you–that fit your niche–and let the others go. You’re wasting time otherwise.
3. There will be a lot of swag.
You’ll feel like a red carpet diva as you make multiple trips to your hotel room to drop off the bag after bag after bag of swag. Then you’ll find yourself paying to bring it back, literally. If you’re into swag, that’s great–bring an extra bag, whether that’s a duffle flattened inside your regular bag or a carry-on packed in another carry-on. You’ll need it to get all the goods home. But think about it, too. Was it really worth accepting the extra bags of snack crackers and granola bars if you’re going to have to pay $25 or $30 to check that bag of swag on your flight home? A lot of women ended up leaving behind their goodies for housekeeping. Others had special gifts confiscated at the airport security checkpoint because they didn’t realize a corkscrew was hidden in the massive mounds of many. Take what you want or you’ll use, but make sure you have a plan for how to get it home.
4. Make Friends
The blogging world can be a lonely one. Hunched over your laptop in your living room or on your bed, you’ll spend more time with yourself than anyone else. Branch out. Take this opportunity to put faces to the names you already know online and make lasting friendships. You’re not alone in the world. Neither are they. Enjoy that. This is one of the most important parts of a conference, in my opinion. Make friends and spend time with them outside of the sessions.
5. Get Outside of the Conference Walls
Get out of the hotel and explore the area around you. I knew I would probably never visit Miami again after BlogHer Food, so I planned on having an extra day before and after the conference for exploring. I rode the bus with Rachel of The Stay at Home Chef. I went on a Culinary Tour of South Beach. I checked out a Miami Beach night club at midnight between conference days. The location was likely picked because of what it has to offer–so make sure you take the time to figure out what that is. Writers improve by writing; cooks improve by eating. Eat the local flavors. Find new favorites. And just plain explore. There is so much more to the world than what lies within the hotel walls–make sure you see some of it.
Coming home from BlogHer Food, I had so much more than a plan of attack for how to move forward with my blog–I had rich experiences to savor and reflect upon. That is almost more important.
Disclosure: I won my conference ticket to BlogHer Food in an online contest. All opinions and photos remain my own.