Conference Corner: Tips for BlogHer First-Time Attendees (Newbies)
With two weeks left until BlogHer Food in Seattle and just ten short weeks *gasp* until BlogHer '12 in New York, the pre-conference jitters are starting to set in across the internet. Whether it's your first BlogHer Event this year or your eighth, we are all united by one thing... we all, always, feel like a #BlogHer12Newbie.
I remember how nervous I was walking into my first BlogHer, back in '08. I'd never been to a conference that didn't require wearing pointy rubber ears before, and I'd never been to San Francisco before in my life, either. I had absolutely no idea what to expect -- from any of it -- and yet and still, three days later I walked out of that conference with friends I will have for the rest of my life, the inspiration I needed to take my blog to an entirely new level, and a really, truly horrible hangover.
I know that over the coming weeks, a lot of people are going to be writing posts with tips for BlogHer Newbies, and I would love to officially kick off BlogHer Newbie Season with my very own list of things of personal BlogHer must-dos. And then I'd love to hear your questions, or tips, in the comments!
1. Come on Wednesday night, if you can. This isn't such a revolutionary idea now, with a full day of pre-conference events on Thursday, but even if you don't attend Pathfinder Day or HealthMinder Day, coming on Wednesday gives you an extra, low-key night to ease yourself into the conference. With the smaller crowd comes the opportunity to spend some quality time with the people you're most excited to see.
Worth the price of admission, right there.
2. Step out of your comfort zone. Those people you most want to see? Don't spend your whole weekend with them. Mingle at the parties, sit with strangers during panel sessions, join a Birds of a Feather lunch you aren't entirely sure you belong to, talk to the lady in the bathroom stall who is too nervous to go out to the party. You won't remember everyone you meet after the conference, but you're almost guaranteed to make a whole lot of new on and offline friends.
Best people I ever met in a stall. Photo credit Jenny Lawson.
3. Bring business cards. Yes, you. Bring them. Your blog isn't too small and yes, you are cool enough. You don't need a designer or a clever tagline; you just need something with your name, your email address, your blog URL and your Twitter handle on it. It can be clever, it can be dry, just make sure it is. People will ask you for it.
My actual business card. It comes in handy.
4. Be present, and available for opportunity. There is a ton of professional opportunity to be had at BlogHer events. Being at the right place (the conference) at the right time (during conference hours) can land you an interview with a major news network (that happened to me!) or a new writing gig, or new professional contacts. Being present is the single best way to have an amazing conference experience.
I scored the interview of the year!
5. Attend at least one panel each day that you have absolutely no reason to attend. I tell everyone going to their first BlogHer to find a panel that they don't blog about, with speakers they've never heard of, and sit in it. Do that each day, at least once. There is no greater way to stretch your blogging wings, get new ideas, find inspiration to try new things, and grow as a blogger. Some of the most amazing experiences I've had at BlogHer conferences have been in panel discussions I had no previous knowledge of.
Bloggers are awesome. Go meet them.
6. Pick one night to let your hair down, and keep it up the rest of the time. Three nights + no kids/partner/cats/job = someone bumps into you an year later and says, "We totally met before; I held you hair back for you while you puked in the toilet!" Remember: What happens at BlogHer is caught on 4,500 iPhones and Flip cameras. Have a good time -- heck, have a great time, but have a great time you'll remember the next morning. I pick one night to be absolutely silly, and the rest of the time I use for networking, making connections, having wonderful conversations, and *almost* getting nabbed on camera with my old friends.
Pleading the 5th.
7. Go to the keynotes. I am terrible at this one. I always pack so much into my nights that I have to choose between going to the keynotes and putting on some fresh makeup and cute shoes. My advice? Plan your nights to start a little later. There is plenty of time scheduled at each BlogHer party to allow you to run back up to your room and freshen up. Don't take time out of the keynotes; they're some of the most informative and inspirational parts of the conference.
BlogHer '09 Community Keynote. There were so many tears.
8. Write about your experience before, and after, the conference. We're bloggers, right? Blog about your anxiety and excitement before you go, and blog about your experience when you come home! Not only is it a great way for you to keep your post-conference buzz alive for months, even years after, it's a wonderful gift to give your readers who haven't attended yet. You'll make it a little easier for the next person who's trying to work up the courage to buy their first conference pass next year.
My first post-BlogHer conference post is here, and it makes me all teary-eyed every time I read it.
9. Don't hold yourself to too much of a structure over the weekend. Go with the flow, see how things play out, and don't let yourself get worked up about what you think you should be doing, or who you think you should be hanging out with, or what you think you should have worn. Do it your way, and it will be awesome. Example? I'm ending this list right here, at nine points. Why? Because it feels like the right thing to do. That's a good enough reason for me.
Now, tell me, what are your favorite #BHNewbie tips? I'd love to hear your suggestions, or your questions. If you're so inclined, I'd love for you to write your own #BHNewbie post on your own blog, or right here on BlogHer.com, and leave me the link in the comments!