A few weeks ago, I attended my very first blogger conference. While I had wanted to attend other conferences in the past, I wasn’t able to do so for various reasons. I was dying to go to a conference to get smarter about the blogging business, learn how to perfect the “art” of being a blogger, and network with others. That’s why I was so glad to hear about the Women In Travel Summit (WITS), which took place in Chicago March 14 – 16, 2014.
The conference offered the perfect trifecta in my book: It was located in my hometown, it had a nominal attendee cost, and it brought together an amazing group of women travel bloggers. So, of course, I had to go. But, before I did, I had to do my homework and study up on how to prepare for my first-ever blogger conference.
Now, having attended my very first blogger conference, I’m glad to be able to share a few tips of my own with you. Hopefully, they’ll help you prepare as you set out to attend your first blogger conference – or just jump into any upcoming networking opportunity.
Here are my top 6 tips to get prepared to attend your first-ever blogger conference:
1. Get your social media house in order. From the moment the conference started, there were opportunities to “follow” the speakers, “tweet” about key learnings from the conference, and "like" or connect with others. During one session, we even had the opportunity to record a short video and then upload it to our Instagram or YouTube channel. Having many of my social media accounts up and running in advance of the conference allowed me to jump right in and participate - without a moment’s hesitation.
At minimum, I’d suggest you set up accounts for Twitter, Instagram, and Google+, which you can do as yourself (in your own name) or as your brand. If you have an established brand, I’d also suggest having a Facebook page.
For WITS, having a Twitter and Google+ account allowed me to “follow” all of the latest conference updates and even connect with other bloggers in advance of us all converging in Chicago.
Following the conference, I set up a branded Google+ account and YouTube channel – after hearing that it’s a must during WITS. A few speakers also suggested having personal and branded LinkedIn accounts, or figuring out a way to combine them both if there is an easy, logical connection. (I currently maintain one LinkedIn account, but include a link to my blog on my profile.)
2. Order business cards – and don’t be shy about handing them out. Another good reason to have your social media house in order is so you can list them on your business cards. Yes, before you step foot into the conference, it's good to have at least a small quantity of business cards on hand.
At WITS, I ended up passing out five business cards just during the opening session alone. I was fortunate to sit next to a great group of women travelers. As we got to know eachother over coffee and pastries, we exchanged business cards to help crystalize the connection and try to stay in touch – even after the conference.
Another good reason to have business cards is that some speakers or exhibitors collect them to use for giveaways. (I won a super-cool, light backpack from Columbia!)
I ordered 50 business cards to bring with me to the conference, and I had some leftover to use for another time.
After the conference, I went through the business cards I collected from fellow attendees and connected with them via their own social media channels.
3. Perfect your blogger elevator pitch. Before I handed out my business cards, I usually gave my short “elevator pitch” on Raising World Citizens. It was helpful to be able to tell my personal blog story in under one minute.
My full elevator pitch is… Raising World Citizens chronicles my efforts to open my son’s eyes, minds and hearts to the people, places and cultures of the world through our travels in our hometown – and around the world.
Then, based on who I’m speaking with at any given time, I can add additional stories or details to help bring my purpose and my brand to life for them.
4. Dress the part – and your brand. I know it may sounds a bit silly, but I wasn’t totally sure how to dress for a blogger conference. In my mind, there were two possible extremes – a suit or jeans. But, I wasn’t sure which, if any, was the right approach.
I was lucky to virtually stumble upon a blog post by the Glamourous Traveler, who shared some thoughts on how to dress for WITS. Two of her tips hit home for me.
The first one was to dress professionally since you’ll be representing your “brand” to companies, organizations and others who may want to do business with you. The second one was to live your brand, and lend some personality to your “look” that would help leave an impression.
With this in mind, I opted to wear a blazer and casual pants. To add some Raising World Citizens flair, I wore my favorite multilingual “hello” shirt and my DesignHype London metro cuff. Both helped spark a few conversations along the way, and gave me the confidence to talk to anyone and everyone.
5. Look at every interaction as an opportunity – to help others. WITS was an amazing summit in that it wasn’t just about “you.” It was about connecting with others, and listening to them just as much as you spoke to them.
As Brooke Roberts, CEO of Yoga Travel Tree, mentioned in her “How to be a rock star” session, networking is all about connecting others – and nothing about you. She emphasized the importance of listening to others vs. just talking about your needs. And, that in doing so, you’ll be helping to build your own network before you even need it. Then, we had to speak with the women seated next to us and find at least one way we could help them. How cool is that?
Even after WITS, I’ve found myself thinking about how to help my fellow attendees, and have enjoyed meeting with others like Kathryn Pisco of Unearth the World to see how I can try help her grow her new business venture.
With all that said, my words of advice to you would be to look at any person you meet as a great person to know – and then get to know them. You never know if they are destined to be a good friend, a potential business lead, a source of great “blog” content, or just someone you’ll help inspire as they reach for the stars.
6. Be open to – and up for – anything. I had no idea what to expect when I set foot into the opening session for WITS. But, I was open and up for anything.
I think that attitude helped me to make the most of my experience at WITS. I was inspired and got tons of great tips from the conference speakers. I met a lot of great women travelers, who I know I’ll stay connected with for a long time. And, I learned how to achieve even more from future conferences.
I’ve already started to apply my key takeaways to Raising World Citizens. I opened a few new social media accounts for my brand. I started turning my Raising World Citizens Weekend Planner into a regular vlog. And, I’ve continued to perfect and stand behind my “brand.”
My experience at WITS ’14 was incredible, but I have to admit that I’m anxious to attend my second blogger conference so I can do even more - as a more experienced attendee.
I now know that time is precious, every connection matters, and I can learn from everyone. So, with that in mind, I’m on the lookout for other valuable blogger conferences – and I’m also looking ahead to WITS ’15 in Boston.
Were you once a blogger conference newbie? What did you learn from your first conference? For those more experienced conference goers, what else have you learned over the years? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.
Interested in finding out more about WITS? Here are two other posts I wrote on the women travel conference:
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