Conference ROI: How to Connect Before You Leave

BlogHer Original Post

The best part of the #BlogHer16 conference is all the new online content creators you'll meet. The most overwhelming part of the #BlogHer16 conference is all of the new online content creators you'll meet. It's a good conundrum, because there are important things you can do to make sure those new connections actually mean something.

You know what I mean?

When you're at the conference, everything feels manageable. It's unfathomable that you'll forget that new person you walked around the Expo with for two hours. Get home, and it's a different story. All those people meld into a sea of faces when you sit down to try to match social media to online content creators.

But with a little forethought, you can get more out of your BlogHer experience.

how to connect at a conference

Use the App

If you haven't already downloaded the BlogHer conference app, run (don't walk) to your preferred app store. It is the easiest way to keep information neatly organized before, during, and after the conference.

Download the app and then choose BlogHer16 from the first menu. It will download conference-specific information to your phone. Take the little tour of your dashboard, and you're ready to start connecting.

If you tap the Attendees list, you'll see everyone who has chosen to make their profile public. To make your own profile public (and make it easier for people to find you at the conference), go to the Message Center by swiping left, tap your profile in the top bar (it will say Tap here to setup your profile the first time you open the app), and make sure the box is checked next to Publish My Profile.

Collect the Cards

You've ordered your business cards, right? Um, if you haven't, stop reading this and go order them already! Do you want to be stuck scrawling your name and blog URL on post-it notes like a doctor's prescription pad?

It's not just YOUR business cards you have to worry about. What are you going to do with all the business cards you collect? Those things are your roadmap back to the bloggers you meet along the way.

Go tuck a Ziploc bag in your purse and slip all the cards you receive into this bag. Seal the bag when you're not using it so the cards don't spill out all over the inside of your bag. Voila! Now you know where they are when you need to find them.

Jot Down Notes

It's a smart idea to jot down notes either during the day or at night before you go to bed. Again, it feels like you won't forget that Jen A is the writer of blog X and Jenny B is the writer of blog Y, but most people get conference brain the moment they check out of the hotel.

What is conference brain? It's that warm, happy buzz you feel after a conference well-spent, when your mind is churning with ideas and you can't wait to get back in front of the computer and revamp your blog.

You can hold onto conference brain for many weeks if you don't let yourself get overwhelmed. Biggest killer of conference brain? Getting home and panicking because you can't remember why you wrote the word IMPORTANT in all caps across the back of a business card.

So use the paper pad in your hotel room or the My Notes section of the app. To use the My Notes section, tap on it and then tap on the square-and-arrow icon in the top right corner. That will bring up the ability to Add a Note. Tap that and start jotting down people, blog ideas, and all the blog projects currently swirling around in your brain. But mostly the people. You're going to want to remember who they are after you leave Los Angeles.

Make a Plan

There are all the random, new people you'll inevitably meet at the conference when you share a lunch table or hang out in the lobby. But there are also all the people you know are going to the conference. How do you meet up with those people?

It's best to put a plan in place before the conference begins. Start posting on your blog and social media sites about the conference in order to find other bloggers who will be there. Once you have a few names, start an email chain and set a firm time and place to meet up. Maybe it's sitting together at VOTY, or maybe it's grabbing coffee before the opening keynote. Just make sure you make a firm plan to meet up rather than leaving it to chance.

The same goes for sponsors in the Expo, though you obviously don't need to set a meeting time before you get there since they'll be at their booth through the conference. Look at the sponsors and see which ones you want to meet. Make a list that you check off after you've given the person your business card.

#BlogHer16 is going to be awesome because you're going to make it awesome by putting plans in place. You want to be able to use all the new connections you'll make in the weeks and months to come.

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

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