I’ve been blogging for 6 years and have been hearing about blogging conferences almost as long.
I’ve attended real estate conventions, but was always so busy focusing on my real estate business that I never got around to signing up for a blogging conference.
I have attended a few single day events in St. Louis that covered a variety of blogging, social media and tech topics. While I knew I would get a lot out of a full blown blogging conference, between the cost and the time, I just had a hard time pulling the trigger.
When I heard that one of the biggest blogging conferences, BlogHer, was being held in Chicago this year, I knew I had to sign up. With Chicago just a 5 hour drive or a 1 hour flight, it was the perfect location.
I’ll admit it helped that I knew a few other St. Louis bloggers who were going. When I went to the Keller Williams Realty conventions, I spent all of my time with other people from my office. The idea of going without knowing people had me imagining spending a lot of time by myself.
I shouldn’t have worried.
Every single person I met at BlogHer was friendly. You meet people everywhere. Standing in line for the shuttle, getting on the elevator…even walking toward a breakout session in the convention center.
Me and Nichole Saland enjoying beers from the open bar at the Expo Hall
And these people aren’t just friendly. They are willing to start a real conversation. They are willing to sit with you at breakfast or wander the Expo hall with you.
One evening I commented to the only other woman at the pitiful dinner buffet at one of the evening events that I was really disappointed. Granted, dinner was not officially included. But they could have done better than hot dogs, sausages and limpy french fries. She completely agreed, and we decided on the spot that we would leave and go find a restaurant to get a real dinner. We spent the entire evening talking about blogging and our lives.
Funny thing is, I barely spent any time with the St. Louis bloggers I knew. I ran into Janice Person just one time, the first night. We had planned to get together on Saturday night, but we were both running late from our earlier evening plans and it didn’t end up happening.
Robyn trying on a decorative headband designed for Monster headphones
I did spend some time with my friend and fellow St. Louis blogger, Robyn Wright. Robyn invited me to 2 private parties she was signed up for, we ended up in one breakout session together (accidentally), and we had a farewell brunch on Sunday before heading home.
That said, I spent almost all of Thursday night, and all day Friday and Saturday (except for that one breakout session with Robyn) wandering around by myself or with people I had just met.
BlogHer CEO Lisa Stone interviewing Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook CEO
A lot of people go to conferences for the networking and even the swag, but for me to spend almost $1500 between the conference ticket, travel and hotel, I wanted to walk away with information that I could implement right away on my blog. I wanted to be re-inspired and to understand what I needed to do to turn my blogging efforts into an income stream.
BlogHer offered everything I hoped for and more.
But the breakout sessions is where you really get the most value since you are able to pick the topics that will help you go to the next level.
I think one of the biggest challenges is realizing you can’t attend all of the session you want to. With 2 breakout sessions each day and a dozen options in each block, there will certainly be 2 or 3 that appeal to you. Pick the ones that has the information that you need NOW, not eventually, and you’ll be in good shape.
Networking in the hotel lobby
As I mentioned earlier, everyone I met was friendly. Some of the people I met randomly were people I hope to stay in touch with, and others were nice but we didn’t have all that much in common.
These people were great for wandering the Expo and enjoying a meal, but I had goals for my networking. I want to start monetizing my blogs (yes, that means making money!), so I was specifically looking to meet people who could help me further that goal.
I wanted to meet people who were successfully making a living off of their blogs, and I did.
I wanted to engage them in conversations and get them to share candidly what to charge and how to get started, and they did.
I also wanted to network with brand representatives who might be willing to hire me for some social media campaigns. I learned very quickly that it is really the PR people you need to connect with, not the people manning the booth in the Expo hall, handing out swag and food samples.
Again, I was successful in networking with people who make the decisions about social media campaigns for brands.
I actually did connect with some of the PR people who worked directly for Best Buy and Ancestry.com. I also met some PR people who work for firms that manage social media and blogging campaigns for many different companies. I can’t thank my friend Robyn Wright enough for inviting me to the Bloomers private party, and suggesting I introduce myself to one of the influential PR people at the party who specializes in working with 40+ bloggers.
I was surprised at how many bloggers attended the BlogHer convention who blog simply as a hobby. I guess if money isn’t tight, then attending a BlogHer convention would be very inspirational for any blogger.
Bloggers who want to get started blogging as a career or want to ramp up their business, will definitely benefit from attending a BlogHer convention. We’ll have to see where it will be held next year, but I will be going again if I can swing it.
Over the next week I’ll be writing a few more posts about the event. Next up is my experience taking Amtrak for the first time. I’ll also share my thoughts about swag, attending private parties, tips for 1st time conference attendees and what I learned.