6 Things I Learned From Attending a Lot of BlogHer Conferences

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I have been to eight BlogHer conferences. I have gone to them with friends, and I've gone to them alone. I've shared hotel rooms and slept by myself. I've flown, bused, and driven. I've been a speaker and a listener. I've gone into some conferences so excited that I'm chatting with every single person on the plane about where I'm going, and I've gone into others sobbing as I walk through the hotel.

In other words, I have done the BlogHer conference every single way you can.

And that's why I return each year. It's not just that the content is different; I'm different. I get something new out of each experience, and I've yanked together the best things I've learned from doing this eight times.

You Feel a Little Weird If You Don't Go

Back in 2014, I missed San Jose. I KNOW! I missed the 10th anniversary conference, which made me feel 10 kinds of awful. It was my first time not going to the conference since 2008.

But life happens. I couldn't make it that year, and maybe you're unable to make it, too. And maybe you feel... left out. You see everyone having this great time, and your instinct is to stay off of Twitter because the FOMO is too great.

But this is the thing: We all get it. Everyone who is at that conference (except a select few) has had to miss a conference from time to time. We know how hard it is to be at home. But instead of avoiding, jump into the conversation because you're among people who understand.

Follow along on social media. Tweet some questions for panelists. Or ... get someone to walk around with a little picture of your head, as some of us did for Nora back in 2009.

Melissa and Jenny with Nora's HeadImage: Melissa Ford

If It's Your First BlogHer, Slow Down

I cannot explain to you how important it is to get it through your head right now that you're not going to be able to do everything. First: Unless you have Hermione's Time Turner, you won't be able to see all the panels, since many will run at the exact same time. Second: You will be exhausted if you never take a break.

So let it go.

Zone in on one or two things that are "can't miss" moments. Like Voices of the Year, aka VOTY; that's always a "can't miss" moment for me. Or meeting up with a blogger or two I know will be there. Make sure you hit your "can't miss" moments, know that you'll have time for a bunch of other things, and be okay with the stuff you do miss.

If It's Not Your First Rodeo, Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

I don't mean do something that will freak you out (such as flying without Ativan), but don't keep walking the same well-worn conference path. There is so much to do at BlogHer; think about something you've never done before and get yourself a new experience.

I mean, it can be as simple as attending the panels if you've never done that. Or go to the parties. Or volunteer to read at the open mic. Or wander the Expo. Or grab another blogger and go for a walk near the hotel. Or try to sneak into the Magic Castle. (That is my lifelong goal; to get into that damn Magic Castle.)

It's All Right to Cry

Like that Free to Be You and Me song said, it's all right to cry. There are dozens of reasons I've cried at a conference, from missing my kids to seeing bloggers who mean so much to me. Which brings us to my next piece of advice: Pack tissues.

Even if you're not a crier, there is a chance you may shed a few happy or sad tears at VOTY. And even if you don't, someone else around you will need to blow their nose. Be that person who comes to the rescue with the tissues.

People Will Come Out of the Computer!

The best part about the conference is that all these people that you only interact with digitally on a day-to-day basis will be there, in front of you, flesh and blood! Don't mess up that opportunity to sit down, face to face.

Get each other's phone numbers and text as you move through the conference so you can meet up. Grab lunch at the same table. Go to a panel together. Save a seat at VOTY. The point is that meeting up with people is the best part of BlogHer, so don't forget to make it happen.

It's Okay to Do BlogHer YOUR Way

As I noted back in 2013, BlogHer is best when you do it your way. Not the way you think you should do it, but the way that makes you happy. I spent the first few pre-conference hours by myself instead of rushing around, jumping into big groups, and I loved it. It set a good tone for the weekend.

So don't look at how everyone else is doing BlogHer. Only think about how YOU want to do BlogHer. Do you want to go do a bunch of one-on-one dinners with other bloggers? Then get out of the hotel and chow down. Do you want to go to all the parties? Then, by all means, put on your dance shoes and let loose.

The point is that you will read about what everyone else is doing, and you have a decision to make: You can let it make you feel guilty, or you can smile at someone else's experience and then go back to enjoying your own. Me? I'll take the latter.

What is your best conference advice?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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