Note: I wrote this post originally for BlogHer ’08, but didn’t see the sense in re-typing all of it again, since much of the advice holds true. Enjoy this recycled post with a few edits to make it more relevant to this year.
Can you feel the tension and anxiety building in the blog world? Thousands of (mostly) female bloggers are a couple of weeks away from traveling to Chicago for BlogHer 13. The tweets about what do I wear? and will anyone talk to me? are already in full swing as some newcomers start to panic and wonder if they’ll be mocked if they don’t have an iPad with them or don’t say the right things.
This will be my eighth BlogHer conference, so I do claim the right to call myself a bit of an expert on this topic. I’m ready to see old friends, meet new friends, browse the Expo and make connections with brands, pick up some new skills in sessions, and party until I drop. However, I was a member of the nervous newbie club once, too, so I know how some of you are feeling. Confession: I still get a little nervous each year. So allow yet one more person to give you a little advice on surviving your first BlogHer.
Hit the parties
There are a lot of parties planned this year. More parties than one person can possibly attend without being a Doctor Who companion, and the official parties are open to anyone attending BlogHer. Go to the parties, especially the Thursday night parties! This is your first chance to mingle and socialize in a low-stress environment.
Even if you have a hard time making the first move to introduce yourself to another person, I promise that someone will ask you who you are and will want to get to know you.
Prepare for short attention spans
At the same time, expect most people at these parties to behave as if they have some kind of attention-deficit disorder. (Some of us actually do…ahem.) It’s only natural – for those who have been to BlogHer before, they’ll be bumping into lots of people they haven’t seen since last year. And others will suddenly turn and see one of their blog friends standing right in front of them for the first time.
So don’t be surprised if you’re talking with a group and someone disappears or squeals and runs away. It’s not you – she was probably overcome with happiness to see another friend. It’ll happen all night, and as one person disappears, others will appear to join in on the conversation. It may even be you doing the ADD-wander-off.
Expect happy surprises
Don’t be surprised if others come running to you, too. At my first BlogHer, I felt so lost when I was checking into the hotel. There were women everywhere – many were clustered in groups, and I was far too shy to approach one of these groups to find out if they were bloggers I knew.
I remember walking past everyone, dragging my suitcase behind me, anxious and feeling like I wanted to hide in my room for the next three days, when I heard, “Is that Christina? Hey, woman!” It was Izzy, and she was the first shout out of many I got that night. I was also invited to dinner with Mayberry Mom that night, too, which further helped to calm my nerves.
Hand out your card
If you don’t suffer from debilitating shyness, be sure to introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Have business cards if you can. They don’t have to be anything fancy: name, blog name, URL, Twitter name, and e-mail address are plenty.
You might think you don’t matter enough to have a business card, but you’re wrong. That card will help people remember you, and will help them find your blog after we all leave Chicago. Without cards, I never would have remembered the blog names of everyone I met at BlogHer, many of whom I now read regularly.
Once the conference begins, you’ll meet even more people at the sessions you attend. These sessions are wonderful, with lots of information for beginners as well as advanced bloggers. But you may occasionally find you need a break, or find a period of time that doesn’t have any sessions you want to attend. That’s totally OK. There’s no rule that you must attend every session – hanging out in the hallways chatting with others is often just as valuable as the sessions themselves.
Expect to be photographed
There are cameras everywhere. You’re probably bringing one, too. Remember that everything said or done at BlogHer is on the record, so be prepared to end up on Flickr or Instagram. This especially goes for those who like to drink, but can’t hold their liquor. (However, if you do want drunken antics to show up on the internet, drink away!)
You’re going to find bloggers in your niche, but you’ll also encounter bloggers on nearly any topic. Take some time to get to know women outside of your niche, too. Surely you have interests beyond being a mom, right? Mom bloggers are lovely, but there are some awesome DIY bloggers, too. And pet bloggers. And fashion bloggers. And food bloggers. And shopping bloggers. If you can’t find someone who blogs about one of your secondary interests, maybe you need to start a new blog, eh?
Step out of your comfort zone
There will be a moment when you’re encouraged to do something a little… silly. Zany. Wacky. It could be in the Expo hall, it could be at a party, it could be in the elevator. Yes, this is a professional conference, but this is also a chance to have a good time. (Most conferences build in some kind of fun.)
Trust me – take the chance and do at least one silly thing. You might come to appreciate a new talent for yourself. Or you may just laugh at the memories created.
Remember to rest!
This one is important. You’re going to be staying up late and getting up early each day. Some of you will be drinking a lot, too. Pace yourself, or you’ll collapse before it’s all over.
…or, don’t do any of this!
The beauty of BlogHer is that a diverse group of women will all be coming together to share and learn. Diverse = we don’t all do things the same way, and that’s just fine. My advice is just like every other advice post out there: the advice of one person. Maybe you feel more confident when you stick strictly to your color-coded and well-planned Google calendar schedule, or maybe your motto is sleep when it’s over and don’t waste a minute of the action. Both are valid. Go with what works best for you.
But don’t go into it feeling you’re not important, not big enough, not wearing enough makeup or not the right dress size, or anything else that makes you think you’re less worthy of being there than others. Because you’re just as important and valuable as every other attendee and shouldn’t let any nagging fears keep you from having a successful conference experience.
So what I’m trying to say is don’t stress out about coming to BlogHer, because you’re going to have a good time. It’s a crazy, chaotic few days, where you’ll meet new friends, rub elbows with blog “stars” and maybe even find that someone admires you, too.
Just a few of the women I admire. (BlogHer ’11 – photo by Rita Arens)
Dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable, and don’t worry so much about your hair and makeup. After all, it can’t be as bad as my hair disaster from ’06.
And if you need someone to give you that initial boost of confidence and support, come find me. I may be a little socially awkward and I really do have ADD, but I love meeting new people and I’m always available for a hug. At my first BlogHer several friends held my hand and made me feel comfortable, and I’m happy to return the favor for others.
You may not find all of this advice useful, but it’s what I’ve learned from the past seven BlogHer conferences I’ve attended. Hope to see you all there this year!
Edited to add: You may notice there are no photos from BlogHer ’07 in this post. I was there, but most of the photos looked liked this: