After nearly three years on this Hot Pink adventure, I have explored so many different techniques on how to successfully develop an organic online brand and build a large engaged audience. I’m still learning daily but two factors I can confirm are:
- Great content will always be the most essential element to blogger success.
- Conferences are THE BEST way to really connect and engage with your blogging community.
And there comes a time in your blogging career when you have to accept that you may not be the next BIG thing (with hordes of publishers just begging you to accept their cash advances) and community is really the most important element to this craft.
This week I’m shipping off to Mississauga, Ontario to act as a Community Leader and lead micro sessions on Food Blogging at the Blissdom Canada conference. Two days before the event and that nerve cocktail has begun to stir inside of me. Even after all these years, I still find walking into a sea of strangers intimidating. Fortunately for me, my experience tells me that shortly after arriving I will meet some very groovy new bloggers, actually share a room with some of the talented web stars that I’ve been following for years and engage in some really insightful media-based conversation.
Whether attending your very first blogging conference, or your seventh, there are a few things to consider when preparing for a conference:
Reach out to other attendees weeks before the actual event, set the groundwork for building these relationship. Jump on the community boards and use the twitter hashtags to start a conversation.
Prepare for the swag. Given the option, stay in the hosting hotel or nearby. The vendors at these type of events love to load you up with free swag, which is awesome, yet also heavy. Have a storage plan. (Don’t hesitate to tweet out to other attendees about needing somewhere to put your stuff, someone is bound to come to your rescue.)
Write your elevator pitch – a planned, punchy and interesting answer to the question, “What’s your blog about?”
Don’t set your expectations too high. The best mindset to waltz into a conference with is an open one. You’re there to meet some new people and possibly learn a few new things. Anything that happens beyond that should be considered a bonus.
Let it be known that there is no secret solution to monetizing your website and turning a hobby into a career – don’t go looking for one because you WILL be disappointed.
Some pretty large egos attend these events. Some have been earned, some seem to believe that number of followers directly relates to degree of cool. If you have a bad run-in with a “big head” just ignore them and move on to the next cool cat. Remember that one real friendship is more important than thousands of followers.
Have plenty of your business cards on hand. Preferably ones with your brand logo, your name, your blog’s domain, email, twitter handle, and any other social media you’re involved with, as well as a picture of yourself. Most of these attendees will head home with 100+ cards in their pockets from the event, do whatever you can to make it easier for them to remember you.
Be as mobile as possible. Each conference has its own agenda but all involve bouncing from one room to the next and playing the largest scale game of musical chairs ever, but when the music stops you have to shake about 100 hands. Should you bring your laptop? I would recommend an iPad or notebook instead. Should you bring your DSLR? Your choice but you will be confused with the staff hired to capture the event and you will have to lug it around with you. I much prefer using my iPhone camera – and there are always recharge stations available so don’t forget to put your charger cable in your purse.
Pack a few protein bars in your bag. These events do tend to be catered but there is no predicting what, when and how much will be available. Avoid finding yourself in a starving adrenaline crash.
Any time you see someone you recognize and want to meet, DO IT. Any time your internal voice says, “Nah, they look busy, I’ll just talk to them later.” turn it off, tune it out and go extend your hand. You are there to meet people (even if just for 30 seconds at a time) so just DO IT.
Now, the golden question of…
What to Wear?!?!
I can remember tearing my closet apart three years ago, trying to figure out what to wear to my first blogger conference in Toronto. As honest and real as my blogging voice was/is, I was terrified that other bloggers wouldn’t like the real me so I dressed up in this really conservative getup, being sure to expose as few tattoos as possible. About an hour into the conference I met Karen (aka That Mom Blog), another heavily tattooed, amazing and outspoken mom blogger who seemed so much more comfortable in her sparkly shirt and black pants than I was in my gear. We hit it off instantly and I was quick to roll up my sleeves and stop caring what anybody else thought.
Come as you are. You are bound to meet some people with similar interests and style in a crowd this size. So be comfortable, maybe a slightly elevated version of your day-to day self (i.e. great shoes with jeans and a dress(ey) shirt or a t-shirt and blazer combo). And then take that one step further and have some fun with your brand. Albeit I don’t wear an actual hot pink apron to these conference (at least not 100% of the time) I will always fit hot pink into my wardrobe so I’m easy to spot.
Note: Bring a sweater. It can be a freaking meat locker in those conference rooms.
“Have fun. But also work. I mean if you REALLY wanted to go and have fun, shouldn’t you have spent that same money and flown to Hawaii? By all means, enjoy yourself, but keep in mind the conference isn’t just for fun. Network by meeting brands, fellow bloggers, agents and publishers. Learn stuff from the sessions and take tons of photos and ask a million questions. Remember that you are there for a reason.” – Perfectly put by Irvin, the talented food blogger behind Eat the Love. See more of his write-up on attending conferences here. I have been admiring Irvin’s photography, recipes and writing for so many years that I was admittedly a little star struck when I saw him in the Austin Hilton lobby during last June’s BlogHer Food conference. I took a deep breath, did my best to stay cool, calm and collected, strolled right up to him and said, “Hi! I’m Dana, I write Hot Pink Apron.com.”. As it turns out, he’s not only incredibly talented but he’s also the NICEST guy as well – he even went so far to pretend he knew who I was. What a sweety. Those are the moments that make all of the time, money and anxiety put into attending these conferences worthwhile.
Will you be attending Blissdom this week? If so, DO say hi. I may look like an extra from Sons of Anarchy but I’m actually a freaking teddy bear that just loves to gab about food, my kids and pop culture. Apronite Jodi is coming along for the Blissdom ride with me so be sure to grab her, me or us at some point and tell us how much you LOVE Hot Pink Apron – we adore that! 🙂 Hope to see you then!
What I’m Drinking: Green smoothies (kale, celery, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, yogurt, frozen strawberries and mangoes, coconut water and almond milk) and buckets of coffee. This preparing for a conference / preparing your family to be sans-mom-for-48-whole-hours business is tiring work, I need all the fuel I can get this week.
What I’m Listening To: I have been revisiting my love for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs this week. Heads up, I may subconsciously pack a lot of spiked leather to this Blissdom conference.
What IS your name? If you’re attending the conference this week or we’ve met at another or you just want to say a friendly “hello!”, be sure to comment below.Add to favorites