I’ve attended several blog conferences now, of all different shapes and sizes. The biggest by far has been BlogHer, which I’ve now made the trip for twice. I was in San Diego in 2011, and I was in New York a week and a half ago. And while I’ve heard mixed reports, I really enjoyed myself both times. I got a lot out of the experience – but not necessarily what I expected.
Adjusting my Expectations
Here’s what I didn’t get out of BlogHer:
- PR connections or new advertisers
- Lots of in-depth information that I didn’t already have
- The chance to meet and speak with everyone I would have liked to
- Big ticket swag (I know people who have gotten vacuum cleaners, tablets and so on – I got toothbrushes for my kids)
If I had attended BlogHer expecting to make a bunch of money, learn a whole bunch of mind-blowing blogging secrets or come home with a pile of free stuff, I may have been disappointed. Alternatively, if I had expected the conference organizers to only accept sponsors who conformed with my values, or I expected all the other attendees to have the same goals as I did, I would have been disappointed. Some people attend blog conferences to network with PR folks for potential opportunities to work together. Some people attend blog conferences and don’t go to any sessions. Some people use Lysol and love it when they can get their hands on free Lysol products. I feel like there’s more than enough room for all of us to create our own conference experiences, and take what speaks to us from the buffet that’s on offer.
What’s Awesome About Blog Conferences
Okay, so no conference can be all things to all people, and no two attendees have exactly the same goals or experiences. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get some fabulous stuff out of attending a conference like BlogHer, though. Here’s what I took away:
- The chance to meet amazing people – who are really old friends – in person for the first time.
- Inspiration and ideas to keep me going when I’m back home, writing by myself in my family room once again.
- An opportunity to engage in an intelligent, in-depth conversation about blogs and social media.
- A reminder that when we’re publishing our words on the internet, we’re never truly alone.
- Recognition of the role we play as influencers – however we choose to use that influence.
- A chance to dance.
- The opportunity to explore a new city.
When you work from home, you don’t have the chance to see your co-workers every day. You don’t get to chat in the hallways or go to meetings or watch other people in action. This isn’t all bad – there were certainly lots of things about working in an office that I didn’t enjoy. But there are definitely things that we miss out on when we don’t get together with other people who are doing the same sort of stuff that we’re doing. If you’re a blogger, attending a blog conference is the best way I know of to change that. Discover that you are part of a community, and learn just how fabulous that community can be. Because you know that with 5000 people there, your people will be somewhere in the mix. Finding them has made me proud of what I do, and I think that if you keep your goals in mind when you go, it can do the same thing for you.
I know that the idea of walking into a room where you don’t know many people is pretty intimidating. I know that it can be overwhelming to go that first time, when you’re not sure what to wear or what the other attendees will be like or how many business cards you need. I was terrified before I attended my first blog conference. I was terrified again before I attended my first BlogHer. In retrospect, I needn’t have worried. I wore what made me feel comfortable. I didn’t pass out many business cards, and I found that pretty much everyone else was there because they wanted to meet other people, so they were all very friendly. If you can put on your brave face and put yourself out there, I know you’ll find good things, too.
Are you a blogger? Have you attended blog conferences? What was it like for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!