Last fall, BlogWorld 2010 was my first real industry event (at least, when it comes to the blogging/new media industry). I went into the event with a list of people I wanted to meet, a schedule of the sessions and parties I wanted to attend, and a plan for the work I wanted to get done while there.
By day two, that had all gone to hell.
Part of the reason was that I was overwhelmed as a newbie to the conference scene and part of that was…well…the fact that conferences are just like that. The best laid plans get derailed by random meet-ups, the need for naps, and more.
As things began to wind down and I returned home, reflecting on my experience at BlogWorld, I realized that I should have spent less time feeling obligated to do as much as possible and more time doing a few things really well. Meet fewer people, but really get to know them. Attend fewer sessions, but really take a lot away from each one. Start fewer posts, but actually finish them and publish them before the event even ends.
But just because I didn’t stick to my schedule religiously (or at all, by the end of BlogWorld) doesn’t meant that they are worthless. In fact, I’ll likely be planning out my BlogWorld NY 2011 schedule in the weeks leading up to the event just like I did for BlogWorld 2010 (check out Sched for an interactive way to plan which sessions you’re attending). Here’s why I believe schedules, even loose ones, can make BlogWorld better:
- You don’t miss the most important events.
At BlogWorld, or any conference for that matter, it is easy to lose track of time. When you have a schedule, you’re reminded of the can’t-miss events that are happening, like a keynote address you really wanted to see or a tweet-up that you really wanted to attend. By all means, have a cup of coffee with a friend or spontaneously go sight-seeing in the city with some people you just met – but don’t do so at the expense of missing something conference-related that you really wanted to do.
- You have something to fill your free time.
Free time? What’s that?
Believe it or not, you will have “free time,” so to speak, when you attend a conference like BlogWorld. By free time, I don’t mean that there’s nothing to do – there’s always something to do. I mean that there’s nothing pressing to do – none of those must-attend events that I talked about in the last point and nothing spontaneously happening with people you’ve met either. If you have a schedule, you have a plan for that free time.
I like to fill out my schedule to the minute with stuff to do – I mark the sessions/parties I have to attend red, but come up with a schedule of the most interesting sessions/parties for every timeslot, in case I have nothing else to do. This part of the schedule I create can change, but I can also make the most of my time at BlogWorld by always having something to do (and planning out ahead of time what is the best thing to do).
- Schedules calm the nerves.
I know that most of you aren’t quite as anxious about conferences as I am, but I also know that a lot of bloggers out there are living with panic disorder, anxiety, and other problems that make in-person events difficult. I’ve found that scheduling helps me stay sane. Schedules give me more of a purpose – I feel more in control of the situation. Even if you don’t have social anxiety, but are just a little nervous or intimidated about attending a big event, a schedule can help you feel more prepared.
Not everyone is going to sit down and plan out a BlogWorld schedule like I do; I realize that. But it does pay to at least do a little research and jot down some times if there are specific things you want to do and see while in New York. Otherwise, you could find yourself leaving BlogWorld only to discover that you didn’t get much out of the event.