Wow, it's difficult to believe that BlogHer 2011 is only two months away. It's even more difficult to believe that this is going to be my fourth time to attend the BlogHer conference! I remember how nervous I felt when I was at my first conference (San Francisco, 2008). Don't worry, it's perfectly normal; just bear in mind a few key things and you'll be well on your way to learning new things, meeting new friends, forging new relationships, and having the time of your life. For all you blog conference newbies, here's some advice:
* Don't get too hung up on what to wear. For each day you'll be at the conference, bring comfortable clothing and shoes, and a nice outfit to wear to the cocktail parties in the evening. Don't forget a sweater; it can be chilly in those air conditioned conference rooms.
* So you don't have an iPad. Or a netbook. Should you take a laptop to the conference sessions? Honestly, it depends on how detailed of a note-taker you are. Personally, I find that a smart phone or a good old-fashioned notebook is fine for jotting down key ideas, and it's much easier to lug around. Or you could just crib off the tweets people are sending during the sessions.
* Get some business cards; they're a great way to break the ice when meeting people because it's so easy to start the "so what's your blog about" conversation. Cards are a great way to exchange contact info with the bloggers you meet; you'll also want to hand out cards out to the PR reps at the booths. You can have your cards done with any number of companies, but one of the standouts in my opinion is Tiny Prints. They did my current set of business cards, and I could not be happier with them:
Tiny Prints is especially perfect if you don't have a specific design set in stone; they have tons of stylish layouts and graphics, and you can customize your business card with text and photos. Check them out at http://www.tinyprints.com/businesscards.htm.
Bonus!! You could get free Tiny Prints business cards! They are signing up bloggers to do reviews of their business cards. If you'd like to be considered for a Tiny Prints business card review, fill out the form on this page: http://blog.tinyprints.com/tiny-prints-conference-business-card-review-sign-up/
* Best place to meet new people: Not at the cocktail parties (too loud). Not at the sessions (too focused). It's at the breakfast and lunch tables. Just find a open spot at a table, plonk your food down, introduce yourself to your table mates, and pass those business cards around!
* It does seem like bloggers travel in groups, so if you're at the conference alone, you may feel a bit intimidated or left out. Don't. First of all, most bloggers are pretty warm and friendly. I've never seen a blogger been snubbed outright by another blogger (strangers, at least; frenemy bloggers are a different matter altogether). Second, there are other bloggers like you who don't have a blogger BFF; find them and make your own blogger BFF!
* You may hear about all these exclusive parties going on that you aren't invited to, much less even know about. Don't sweat it. Yes, there are guest-list-only parties sponsored by brands and companies, but trust me, there will be more than enough all-are-welcome parties to go to. And no, they're not lame. One word says it all: CheeseBurgHer.
* Be a good hotel guest and remember there are other non-conference attendees staying in the hotel as well. It will go a long way towards maintaining a good reputation for bloggers with the hotel and with the rest of the world. That means keeping the hallway noise to a minimum, confining the pajama parties to the inside of your hotel room, and putting your trash in the garbage bins. It sounds basic, but I've seen what two thousand conference attendees and free booze can do to a hotel!
* Leave lots of room in your suitcase for swag! But if your case is really full to bursting, don't worry, there will probably be a mailing service for you to send your stuff home via parcel post. Just remember to get a box an shipping label early, because there will be a mad rush on the last day and they may even run out of boxes or labels.
Disclosure: I am being compensated for this post in the form of a Tiny Prints business card, courtesy of Tiny Prints and Global Influence. Product information is provided by Tiny Prints and is indicated in italics. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.