How to prepare for blogging conferences

Waah! I can’t believe I’m not going to Problogger this year!

If you’re anything like me, every time you think of the Problogger   training event coming up soon on the Gold Coast then you’ll be getting a touch of the butterflies.

Who knew that a training event could be so eagerly anticipated and such an exciting thing to attend. In my brief and now very distant career as a secretary, training was a dry and boring thing to have to do, and all we had to look forward to was a glass of wine or two at the end of the day probably with the boss watching.

A far cry from the picture below which shows some of the Problogger team having outrageous fun with organiser Darren Rowse at the event party in 2014.

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Some of the Problogger team with Darren Rowse 2014. Pic courtesy of Olympus photo booth

But Problogger is different. Oh Wow – prepare to be awed. Not only are the training sessions inspiring and informative but the in between stuff that goes on is great fun too and the best bit is that you will be with people like you who are just crazy about blogging, online publishing and marketing.

As I write this on the plane flying back from London to Perth, I have an extreme dose of FOMO welling up inside me, because, sadly I’m not going this year. I’ve been lucky to attend for the last four years, so I do count my Problogger blessings

Over the years I’ve done some things wrong and some things I’ve done right, so for anyone who’s a Problogger newbie, here’s my ten cent’s worth of advice.

On the business front

You’ll be rubbing shoulders with pro-bloggers and newbies as well as presenters and speakers, but it doesn’t matter who you are going to meet remember that if you are serious about this business of blogging, you are your brand.

Have an elevator pitch

So be well turned out, professional but friendly, and when you meet someone new have a well rehearsed pitch about you and your blog – so for heaven’s sake practice your elevator pitch before you leave home, so that when people ask the obvious question, “What is your blog about,” you give an intelligent and succinct answer.

There are many times that I’ve stumbled my way through an introduction and noticed that the person opposite seems to be looking er, not interested! Their eyes glaze over and they look over their shoulder for someone else to speak to. I don’t blame them, I would too.

But not having a great elevator pitch did little for my confidence.

Take business cards

Do take business cards, and don’t forget to hand them out. Sometimes there just isn’t an opportunity, though I’d say as you move away from a conversation, just ask, “Do you have a business card? Perhaps you’d like mine too?”

If you really want to meet up with someone in particular, why not drop them a tweet or an email and see if youu can’t schedule time with them during a lunch or coffee break. It beats having to lurk like a stalker until you can get them alone.

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Holly Galbraith, Linda Fairbairn, Amanda Kendle and me. Pic courtesy of Olympus photo booth.

How to Take Notes.

I started out four years ago with a pen and pad. I found a Reporter’s notebook was the best size for the auditorium sessions and a small palm sized notebook was great to have in my handbag ready for if I was standing up talking to someone and wanted to write down a contact or a quote. The small notebook is my modus operandi for when I’m travelling.

iPad, Note and Blogsie

These days I take notes on my iPad. I don’t worry about mistakes, I just type as fast as I can. I also might have my laptop in the hotel room so that I can download photos or begin writng blog posts in the evenings as I find blogging from my iPad difficult. Although the app, Blogsie which syncs with WordPress is great, and can be used offline, in fact  I’m using it now on the plane.

I also take notes on ‘Note’ on my Samsung mobile, which is great for short notes and reminders.

Media Kit

Media Kit – if you are wanting to collaborate with brands or blogging agencies, your Media Kit should be ready before you leave for the conference. Believe me when I say that any contacts you make who ask for your Media Kit will quickly forget you if you go home and spend weeks getting one ready. You need to be agile and ready to go. The other thing to bear in mind is that when you return from the training event you will most likely have a long list of things to do on your action list – so anything to do with your blog that you can improve or prepare before the conference will help with the overwhelm you’ll most likely feel afterwards.

At the blogging conferences.

Please do front up and speak to people. It’s all too easy and confining to grab a cup of coffee and some (no doubt) fabulous eats and stand in a corner and watch everyone else chatting nineteen to the dozen. You’ll look around and think: “Good gracious, everyone knows each other,” and feel really left out. I would be lying if I said there were no blogging cliques, and some bloggers have formed very close relationships with other interstate writers over the years and are keen to catch up.

However, and this is more than a generalisation when you consider there will be around 600 people attending the 2015 event, mostly people will be there on their own and looking to make bloggie connections and new friends.

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I met Linda Fairbairn, Journey Jottings, at a blogging conference and we’ve kept in touch ever since.

So deep breath. Join a group of people, listen to what’s going on, and then chime in. After that you’ll most likely get a chance to introduce yourself and your blog too. If you can’t bear the idea of elbowing your way into a group situation look around you for someone standing alone. I promise you … whoever you front up to won’t be offended. Everyone is there to meet like minded people and many bloggers are introverts.

I met Annabel Candy first in Melbourne at Problogger 2011 and we’ve caught up at every opportunity ever since.

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Do enter the competitions – someone has to win. Last year WA bloggers took away some of the big spoils! My roomie Amanda Kendle (third from the right) won a not insubstantial amount of Velocity Points!

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Choose your sessions wisely and just because your new made friend is going to such and such don’t be swayed unless you want to be. Although you’ll most likely be offered all the sessions afterwards as podcasts, there’s nothing like listening to a great speaker live on stage – Such as entrepreneur Pat Flynn below.

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I always feel self conscious going up to a well known speaker to make conversation. They are busy people and they will in all likelihood be surrounded by bloggers asking them questions or rubbing up against them hoping that some of their shine will transfer! Okay, I’m being cynical, but well it might be a little bit true – I’ve tried (it doesn’t work!). Four years down the tracks and I’ve rubbed shoulders with the organiser of Problogger, Darren Rowse, a few times, but sadly I’m still as dim, as he is bright and hugely successful 😉

Darren Rowse and Johanna Castro at Perth ProBlogger Event Feb 2014

However, the glitterati are only human, and they’d feel awful if they were not surrounded by people (well, wouldn’t you, if you’d just given a presentation?). There was a long queu of people waiting to meet up with lovely Nikki Parkinson (Styling You) when I had this picture taken with her so I was careful not to hijack her attention for too long.

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In order not to look like an absolute cycophant Dick though, I find the best thing to do is to decide who I’d really like to meet prior to the event, look at their bios and their notes on their talk and write down a couple of reasonably intelligent things to ask them based on this. The art of chatting to a minor celeb though is to know when your time is up and not to totally ambush them for too long. Rand Fishkin and Geraldine DeReuter flew over from America and had so many people eager to talk to them.

Crikey, I love Geraldine DeReuter’s blog The Everywhereist. She’s so funny.

Nah, I didn’t front up and meet them. I had a ‘Help, I’m just an asshole’ moment and just looked at them in awe like a complete twit.

Rand Fishkin, Gerladine DeReuter

Rand Fishkin and Geraldine DeReuter, pic courtesy of Olympus

Dress

Anything goes. Jeans, dresses, separates, you name it. Wear whatever you feel confident in. I’ve worn clothes from brands that I’m promoting, and I’ve worn my own clothes, I’ve worn a cocktaily sort of dress and I’ve worn black trousers, but at the end of the day my main concern has been comfort and dependability. If you wear something new that you feel the need to tweak constantly, or the waistband is too tight, then you’ll feel uncomfortable. So wear something elegant that reflects you and your brand, something that you can just put on and forget about.

At one Problogger in Melbourne I had my photo taken with Chris Guillebeau, one of my blogging heroes and although I thought the dress I had on was lovely, in the photos I looked like a little old lady – it was the scarf I chose at the last minute (Melbourne being so much chillier than Perth in August). It put years on me! So do check in your mirror at home, your spouse and maybe your friends if you don’t want selfie mistakes like mine.

Shoes

Which brings me to shoes. You’ll most likely do a fair amount of walking and there will most likely be stairs. Unless you have a very comfortable pair of heels, don’t rush out and buy a cheap pair for show. Darlings, uncomfortable tarts trotters are not required at Problogger, but stylish shoes for action are. For my first Problogger in 2011 I had fold up shoes in my handbag to walk to and from the event, and changed into wedges at the event. But to tell you the truth even the fold up shoes added too much weight to my daily hand-carry and I would have been better off without them.

After Party

For the main after party – there maybe a theme – if there is 90% of the attendees will dress up, so my advice would be to make an effort. It’s much more fun feeling like Cinderella at the ball than an ugly sister hugging the back wall. I think this year the theme is “Shine” which gives lots of scope.

Overall

The event will be go go go, and will be over before you can say Jack Robinson. You need every ounce of energy – so don’t arrive tired thinking you’ll be able to sit down and chill out for long periods of time. Get some sleep sister before you attend.

Pace yourself too. There will be fabulous food, cocktails and wine to be drunk if you want to, just don’t get carried away and drink so many cocktails that you wake up with a thumping hangover for the second day.

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If there are get-togethers for various groups of bloggers try and attend. It’s so helpful to meet others in your niche and I’ve met some wonderful people and formed awesome friendships because of meet ups. Travel Bloggers are a particularly social bunch, but you’ll often find that someone is putting together some sort of meet up on one evening for a particular ‘niche’ of bloggers.

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Annabel Candy and Seanna Smith organised a meet-up at the Mantra Sun City last year.

Check List

Business Cards

Notepad and pens, and/or tablet and laptop.

Mobile Phone – there will be lots of Tweeting and taking photos too. Don’t forget to live-share the event on Facebook with your friends and followers too.

Camera if you are serious about photography.

Chargers – don’t forget your chargers.

Clothes for each day and your party outfit. I’ve written more in depth about clothes here: How to dress for a conference like Problogger

Stamina and a sense of humour!

Most of all have fun!

Oh, and have a drink on me, because I’ll sadly be missing you.

You might also enjoy:

What to expect at Blogging Conferences and Training Events

What makes a successful blog with thanks to Chris Guillebeau

Over to you – your tips please!

Comments

  1. Great advice! Having spoken at a bunch of events, it is great when people have specific questions instead of just wanting to say hi or being awkward.

  2. Ta for the tips Jo. I am throwing caution to the wind and head off to it this year. I am more than a little nervous. Feel like a fraud really.
    I haven’t any business cards and just can’t imagine that anyone will want one, but I am very keen to take some notes about social media stuff about which I know bugger all.
    No problems about forgetting the heels cos I reckon my red thongs will get another outing.
    Sorry that you will not be there. Would have enjoyed a good natter I reckon.
    Cheers

    • Oh I am soooo sad I won’t be there to catch up with you Sue 🙁 but I hope you have a wonderful time and No you are NOT to feel like a fraud. Hold your head up high and go for it!

  3. Great tips for any kind of conference I reckon, though ProBlogger does sound especially fun (I’ve never been obviously!)

  4. Phew – If I’d read this and didn’t have a ticket I think I’d be miffed! You’ve brought back so many happy memories of the fun we had last year – And your advice and list of what to take, is spot on.
    All noted –
    Including to be sure to get some photos with other attendees – which I don’t usually think off till its too late – So I’m super grateful to you for the above of us!
    You’ll be missed! 🙂

  5. Oh I am so jealous you are going to the problogger conference. I would love to be able to go! This is a great list for anyone attending (especiall first timers)! Hopefully i will see you at one soon!

  6. Jo, you have saved my bacon. I had no idea what to take to the conference. Your tips are just what I needed. Thanks heaps!

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