In two weeks, I’ll be in Dallas at the Blissdom Conference for my second year as Community Leader. This will be my eighth time attending a major women’s blogging conference, the sixth in which I’ve had some official role on the program. Blogging conferences are familiar territory to me by now, but Blissdom ’13 will contain a brand new experience. For the very first time, I will be attending with a friend from home–someone who has been a guest in my house and knows my husband and kids, and vice versa. I feel a bit like Lucy Pensevie leading Edmund through the wardrobe to Narnia. I just hope Sarabeth won’t betray me and tell our friends in Little Rock that I’ve been making up this whole blogging conference world all along.
This will be Sarabeth’s first ever national conference (that’s us pictured above at the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged retreat last fall: Sarabeth is third from the left), and I know she’s going to have a blast. I don’t think I’ll ever be immune to that unique jumble of pre-conference jitters and anticipation, but I know hers is dialed all the way up to 11 right now. I thought I could help dial them down to a 9.5, so I told her to ask me anything she wanted to know. Maybe it will help someone else going to Blissdom, or another conference, for their very first time.
What do I wear?
Excellent question! One of the most fun aspects of women-focused social media conferences is that we’re allowed to play dress-up and nobody will think we’re less professional. A great pair of shoes or an eye-catching bag is one of the best conversation starters there is, so if you enjoy that sort of thing, bring it on! Otherwise, stick to safe basics. You’ll mostly see people in dressy jeans with blousy tops, maybe a few casual dresses or skirts with fun tights and boots. Depending on the evening event schedule, you’ll want at least one “dressy” outfit, like what you might wear on a girl’s night out to a nice restaurant.
Also, keep in mind that wardrobe malfunctions can happen. At a social media gathering, they will be photographed, posted and tagged. Good foundation garments are your friend.
Finally, don’t forget to bring sexy lingerie for the tickle fights our husbands imagine will be going on.
How am I supposed to meet all these people / remember them later / IS ANYONE GOING TO LIKE ME?
You won’t meet everyone there–not even close, so relax and enjoy the connections you do make. The ones you don’t remember later are the ones you don’t need to remember. Everyone will love you.
Any recommendations on picking sessions?
Attend at least one session that is off your beaten path. Something that really makes no sense for you, except that the topic or person leading it seems interesting. You’ll be surprised how relevant it might be.
If you could tell me one thing about heading into a big blog conference, what would it be?
To paraphrase JFK, ask not what the conference can do for you, but what you can bring to it. Whenever I read about someone having a difficult conference experience, it’s usually apparent that they were hyper-focused on themselves the whole time. Everyone struggles with self-consciousness, but try not to get mired there.
I’m not as big/well-known/famous as these people. That’s not really a question is it?
Yes, it is, and it is on every newcomer’s mind. It would be easy to whitewash it with some motivational platitude, but that doesn’t address the reality that there will be people there with established relationships, and it can sometimes feel clique-ish.
Blissdom is a great first conference experience because they go out of their way to integrate newcomers, but should you find yourself standing awkwardly apart for a minute or two, trying to look fascinated by the hotel wall art, remember it’s not you, it’s them. A blog conference is a great place to meet new people, but for return attendees, it is also a reunion with friends they don’t often see. There’s no excuse for rudeness, of course, but newbies sometimes set themselves up with unreasonable goals and expectations. You might feel like you know that blogger you read every day, and you might wind up hanging out together, but you might not. Don’t overlook the newcomer next to you. She might become the next big deal in blogging, or even better, your friend.
How important is the brand/business/partner side of things? Any advice on this?
I am probably the worst person to give advice on this, as I’m still figuring that out for myself. All I can say is that a conference is a fantastic opportunity to learn about branding and business opportunities, both from the exhibitors/sponsors and from experienced bloggers. The greatest professional and personal benefit I’ve derived from conferences is the peer relationships they foster, so that’s where I invest my energy.
What should I really be excited about?
Feeling like you are part of something big, exciting and real. Which, face it, is hard to grasp when you are blogging from the end of the dining room table, surrounded by breakfast dishes and still wearing pajamas. At some point during every blog conference, I look around in awe of the scale and scope of the event, and think, “Whoa, we are kind of a big deal.”
What one thing do I absolutely need to have with me?
Your fabulous smile.
Do you snore?
Of course not. Also, please get that non-disclosure agreement signed asap and returned to me.
Do you remember your first time–at a blog conference, or other butterfly-inducing professional or social event? Any encouraging advice or experiences to share?