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13 Ways to Make Sure You Get Your Money’s Worth from Your Next Conference

conference session Have you ever been to an industry conference where you ponied up as much as a thousand dollars or more and the conference really sucked? Can I tell you something? Now, this may sting a little bit so do yourself a favor and strap on your big boy or girl pants and get ready. If it sucked, it was all your fault.

I know, I know. You didn’t book the speakers or schedule the keynotes. You weren’t in charge of the venue. You didn’t choose the subject matter. In fact, other than buying a ticket and showing up with your iPad and your fired up Twitter account, you had nothing to do with it, right?

Exactly my point.

I don’t care how much it cost you, how many people were there, where it was located, what venue it was in, who was speaking or what company it was run by. The success of that event for you is in direct proportion with the effort you put into it.

Here are the facts. You are thrown into a room with speakers that are oozing value and want to share it with you. Attendees that are there to learn are also scouring the place looking to meet new people within their industry. Vendors are paying a lot of money for a mere few minutes of your time just to show you what they do.

There are opportunities everywhere. If you missed them, you blew it.

But you don’t have to blow it next time. That’s what this article is about. It’s 13 of the best little bits of advice I have to give you to make sure your next conference is an overwhelming success. Whether I am there as an attendee or a speaker this is the mindset I have when I walk into that room. And this is why I always leave with more value than anyone else there. It works. Trust me.

1. Bring 25 Business Cards with You Each Day

No more. No less. I know this goes against conventional wisdom which states that you should bring two for every person within a 25 mile radius of the convention hall. Don’t. If you bring a lot of cards you are going to want to give them all out. That’s when you become that guy. You know that guy. The one handing out business cards as if he was dealing blackjack. Nobody likes that guy. Nobody respects that guy. And nobody remembers that guy. By bringing only 25 cards you are forced to seek out and create 25 quality relationships throughout each day. That means spending more than just a few minutes with someone. It means really discovering who they are. It means telling them something interesting about yourself instead of attempting to sell them. This is called building a relationship. Wouldn’t you rather have 25 new friends instead of 1,000 less business cards?

2. Eat Lunch in the Conference Center

I don’t care if you bring your lunch or go out and get something and bring it back. There is no eating outside of the convention center. Even if it’s a nice day. You aren’t likely to find a small empty table with one chair or a quiet corner that nobody else knows about inside which means you are going to have to sit with a bunch of strangers. It’s a great opportunity to stretch outside of your comfort zone and build a few new relationships.

3. Be Friends with the Ushers that Check You in at the Door.

You know those folks that stand in front of the door to check you in to each track? Well, believe it or not they are human beings! And they have cool stuff like feelings and personalities! Get to know each of them…sincerely. Be nice to them. Joke around with them. Have a little fun with them. Make them smile. The benefit? You will meet some nice people. And there may be a time or two where you are let in early or allowed into a sold out track while everyone else is turned away. Hey, friends hook each other up. Just be sincere. Like most people, they can smell a skunk a mile away.

4. Sit in the Front Row

If this were a concert you would knock over women and children to get to the front row. Yet at a conference, you tend to find the “safe” seat. The one towards the back with easy access to the exit. Instead, force yourself to sit in the front row for each track. Sitting in the front row assures that you aren’t going to drift into lala land, check your e-mail, play Angry Birds or partake in a host of other attention stealers while the speaker is talking. You have no choice but to be totally present. An active listener. You know…the reason you came here in the first place.

5. Clear Your Entire Schedule for the Week

A lot of stuff goes on during the week of the conference. Parties, keynotes and various after hours hangouts are as much a part of the conference as the tracks themselves. I once missed a really good keynote and networking party because I booked a speaking engagement well after the last track not realizing there would be some cool after hours stuff going on. I missed out. Trust me, it’s better to just clear your entire schedule and make room for anything that might come along.

6. Schedule Your Sessions One Day in Advance

The night before the first day, read through every track on the schedule. You can usually find them posted on the conference website. If not, get there at least an hour early. Pick the top two tracks you want to attend in each time slot for the first day only. Put them on your calendar by adding a 1 for your first choice and a 2 for your second. Make sure you include the track name, speaker and room number as well. If for some reason you either don’t like the track, it was cancelled or the room is full, head over to your second choice. At the end of the day just repeat by creating your schedule for the next day. Just be sure to only schedule one day at a time in case you catch a new speaker or subject matter that you now want to check out the next day.

7. Be the First to Ask a Question

Most tracks end in a Q&A session which tends to result in a blown opportunity for a majority of the room. I don’t get it. The speaker is likely someone that you have been hounding on Twitter for months in an attempt to get their attention and yet now that you have it the little voice in your head tells you not to get up and ask. Don’t listen. Being the first to ask a question gives you an opportunity to introduce yourself not only to the speaker but to a room full of like-minded people. If that doesn’t sell you, this might. A speaker’s biggest fear is that uncomfortable silence that comes after asking for questions and no one jumps out of their chair. A lot of speakers tend to reward those brave souls that step up first by giving away copies of their book or free admission into their programs. Free stuff is awesome.

8. Seek Out the People Running the Conference

Get to know the people behind the curtain. They are usually pretty awesome. Sometimes not, but in my experience, pretty awesome covers it. The reason I am writing this post is because I got to know a few of the people that ran BlogWorld and grew to really like them. I get the feeling that I’m one of their favorite people in the whole wide world as well. (The previous statement cannot be confirmed or denied at this time.) The only thing I would caution you with here is not to get to know them with the expectation of getting something in return. Life doesn’t work that way. Get to know them because they are cool people with a cool job. If you get some insight or a foot in the door along the way make sure that it is because they recognized that you have a lot of value to offer. Not because you’re a suck-up.

9. Don’t Tweet During the Tracks

I know this is not a very popular one. Sorry. I’ve watched too many people come to these things and stare at their Twitter screen waiting for the speaker to say something profound. And then spend the next few minutes trying to figure out a clever way to cram it into 140 characters. Ultimately they end up missing a bunch of other stuff that gets said in the meantime. Stop. Take good notes instead. Write down the good quotes and then during a break you can Tweet away. Sure, you may not be as timely as some others but more importantly you didn’t miss anything. Ultimately that’s what counts! Your Tweet only lasts for a few minutes. The knowledge you pick up by actually paying attention can last a heck of a lot longer.

10. Follow Each Speaker on Twitter

After each track, make sure you are following the speaker on Twitter and give them a shout out. Thank them by pointing out one solid thing that you picked up from them. First, it’s a nice thing to do. The speaker likes to know that they have reached their audience. Second, it’s a good way to get on their radar. Bonus points if you asked them a question during the Q&A so they recognize you when you Tweet them!

11. Visit and Speak with Every Single Vendor

The majority of these conferences have an area set aside for vendors to have a booth and pitch their wares. Most of us tend to stop by the booths with the best swag. But you’re not most people. Not anymore. Rather than just roaming around and stopping at one or two vendors, start at the beginning and visit each one. Don’t stop until you have talked to every single vendor. It will give you a chance to see what other companies are doing. Who knows, you might even find some synergy with a company that you normally would never have come across. Heck, you might even meet some cool people. And if all else fails, you’ll end up with a new wardrobe of free t-shirts and squeezy balls with someone else’s logo on it.

12. Get Yourself Interviewed

Often times you will see folks with cameras or podcasts looking to interview speakers and attendees. Pretty much anyone with half of a personality. Do whatever you can to get in front of them to be interviewed. I know, you aren’t camera material. Even more reason to get out there. It’s a great opportunity to practice being interviewed. It may even turn into a good promo piece for you! Free promotion! And who is going to turn down free promotion!?!?

13. Shut Off Any Work Related Stuff

Leading up to the conference make sure that you have any necessary systems in place that allow you to leave work behind for a few days. Don’t waste the time in between tracks distracted by work related e-mail or calls unless it’s an emergency. That time should be spent networking, visiting the vendors, going to the book signings, talking to speakers, meeting the people running the conference and all of the other stuff we have been talking about up until now. It’s a great opportunity and it’s only around for a few short days. Use your time wisely.

The easy part is done. Now comes the hard part. Actually doing it. Regardless of whether you are a newbie or an old pro at attending conferences, I challenge you to take each of these on and see what kind of results you get at your next conference.

Do you have any tips that help make the conferences you attend a big success? If so, leave them in the comments below and let’s keep the conversation going!

Five Tips to Help You Land Your First Speaking Gig


One of the speaker sessions at BWENY 2011

In just over two weeks, I’ll be speaking at Marywood University about using social media after graduation (in addition to blogging here, I also run a career advice blog at After Graduation). It’s officially my first paid speaking gig, and I couldn’t be more excited! Speaking gigs are a great way to both build your brand and make some money with your blog. So how did I land a speaking engagement and how can you do the same? Here are five tips you can use to start speaking about your niche:

1. Look outside conferences and other events.

Of course we love receiving your speaker applications here at BlogWorld and other events (SXSW, BlogHer, etc.) are also great for people hoping to speak. However, for every one open session organizers are trying to fill, there are dozens or even hundreds of speakers who apply. Instead, think about other places where groups of people gather and would be interested in what you have to teach. For example, I’m speaking to a college class. You could speak at high schools, churches or religious meetings, events outside the social media industry, women’s groups, businesses, and more.

2. Don’t wait for people to come to you.

You’re going to be sitting at home waiting by the phone for a long time if you’re waiting for people to approach you about speaking. Yes, it happens, especially if you have speaker page on your blog. If you’ve never been a speaker before, though, you have to go out and actively find opportunities to speak, not just wait for people to contact you. I was proactive about contacting Marywood’s professors to land my first gig.

3. Have an “in” where you’d like to speak.

When you’re unproven as a speaker, it helps to have an in wherever you want to speak. My sister is a student at Marywood and I’ve also had interns at this school, so it just made sense. The professor who is allowing me to speak to her class knows me, so even though I don’t have prior experience, she’s willing to give me a chance. I can use this opportunity to record my talk, which will help in getting future gigs, even when I don’t have an in. Who do you know? Maybe your best friend’s company would benefit from a short session with you. Maybe your mom is the president of a business organization that is looking for speakers at their monthly meetings. Maybe your spouse is part of an alumni group who would love to hear you speak.

4. Be relevant.

If you blog about real estate but are looking for a speak about how to use Twitter, there’s going to be a disconnect for event organizers. Now, you might be more than capable of speaking about Twitter, and you might even be the best person to talk about Twitter, but unless you have some social proof in this area, it’s going to be a difficult sell. For your first speaking gig, try to find an opportunity that is extremely relevant and closely related to your experiences. I run a blog about career advice for 20-somethings and work for a new media conference. I’m speaking about new media to a group of students. That isn’t a coincidence.

5. Lower your expectations a little.

Sure, we all want to be keynoters for events in our industry, but you need to work up to that. You probably aren’t going to get paid $10,000 and speak to a room of thousands of people your first time. You may have to volunteer as a speaker and you may have a very small audience. That’s okay. You’re building a speaking resume so you can get paid more and speak to larger groups next time. Dream big…but start small.

Have you spoken to groups before? Tell us about your first gig and leave some tips for people who’ve not yet landed any speaking gigs!

How to Rock an Event….Even When You’re Not There


Don't be sad if you're left home alone - rock that conference anyway!

This past week, many of my friends were in Las Vegas for CES…or, at least, wishing they were. It happens to all of us – a major event happens and we get left behind while others in our industry attend and tweet about what a fabulous time they’re having. They blog about keynotes we don’t get to hear and post pictures of parties we don’t get to see. But the worst part is that it feels like every other blog in your niche is getting a ton of traffic as readers flock to their event posts while you’re stuck regurgitating second-hand news.

But do you want to know a secret? You can totally rock an event…even when you’re not there.

Attending an event is always the best-case scenario. It’s just not always possible, for whatever reason: money, time, family responsibilities…so let’s take a look at a few ways you can be one of the cool kids, even if you’re at home!

Capitalizing on Non-Event Industry News

Everyone at an event is focused on reporting news happening there. That doesn’t mean the rest of the world goes on hold, though. When something happens in the industry outside of the speakers and announcements at the actual event, bloggers who are actually at the event typically don’t cover it or even know about it. They’re too busy. That gives you the chance to corner the market on traffic!

For example, the night before CES started, Leo Laporte was denied access to a tech event and the PR company involved made fools of themselves on Twitter and Facebook. While this was slightly related to CES, since it was a related event, everyone was jet-lagged from flying into Vegas or attending pre-CES parties. I even waited to post my story the next day, and I was still one of the only people who wrote about it. As a result, I got a lot of search engine traffic and a fair about of shares on that post.

Direct Readers to Bloggers Who Are There

One of the really fantastic posts Julie wrote about CES, even though she wasn’t there, was a mini-directory of members of the BlogWorld community who are attending CES. If you’re interested in following news about the event, this gives you a list of people tweeting about it, and if you’re attending the event too, it’s a great way to connect with others.

The point is that even if you aren’t attending an event, you can be helpful and relevant. It’s just like every other topic you cover – be as helpful as possible to your readers, and they’ll come back for more (and tell their friends to visit too).

Create Post Round-Ups

Often, many people who attend events blog about the same things – a cool product that was the hit of the show, a fascinating keynote, or an interesting announcement. You can report on the news, but since you aren’t there, you can’t give readers a first-hand opinion. What you can do, however, is create a post round-up of all the bloggers who are discussing the topic in question. That way, people who are looking for information about, for example, a specific new technology being shown at CES, can use your round-up to find posts they’ll want to read.

Whether you attend a conference or not, if you write about it, let the community manager or social media manager know about your posts. Conference organizes love to read what people have to say about their event, and often, they’ll even help promote your posts or respond to your questions.

One More Day of BWELA 2011: How to Rock It


Today, thousands of bloggers, brand ambassadors, social media professionals, internet marketers, and all-around good people will come together one last time in (this year at least) for a finally day of networking and learning. BlogWorld LA 2011 is winding down, though I hate to use that phrase. It’s actually winding up; although we’ll all soon be boarding planes and jumping into cars to go back to our separate lives, we’re leaving with more ideas – and friends – than ever. It’s a good feeling, right?

So on this, the last day of BlogWorld (until next year at least), how can you totally rock it?

  • Take pictures.

You never get home and think “Woah, I took way too many pictures.” You can always delete the ones you don’t want! Several times, however, I’ve come home from events wishing that I would have remembered to pull out my camera. You’ve probably seen some awesome professional photographers roaming the event, but don’t rely on them to capture the images that mean the most to you. Snap pictures with the new friends you meet, the speakers you adore, the expo floor…anything and everything. You won’t regret having those pictures as memories.

  • Attend sessions.

At BlogWorld, it is easy to get distracted in the halls and never make it to sessions. Networking is uber important, but try to sit in on some sessions today too. They’ve been pretty freaking amazing so far, and today’s are going to be great too. Even if you think you don’t need more education, I guarantee that you will walk away with new tips and tricks. Heck, I even saw Darren Rowse and John Chow attending sessions this weekend. If popular a-list bloggers can get value from our sessions, so can you.

  • Blog.

We get so busy with education and parties and awesomeness that most of us don’t actually blog while at BlogWorld. Don’t forget about your readers back home, though. I’m living proof that you can attend BlogWorld and keep your blog updated while there. You don’t have to write a 2000-word killer post. Just do a quick status update, report on one of the sessions you attended, post some pictures, etc. Or, at the very least, get some posts outlined as drafts so you can clean them and post them rather quickly when you get home.

  • Say hello to the BlogWorld staff.

We don’t bite; I promise! Everyone on the staff is super friendly and we roam the halls regularly. You can catch some of us in sessions (I intend to check out as many as possible tomorrow), and if all else fails, follow us on Twitter to find out where we are. We’ll all definitely be at the party afterward, so if you don’t see us during the day, hunt us down there!

  • Make plans with new friends and partners.

Saying “I’ll tweet you when I get home” or “we should definitely do a project together” is great, but it’s rare that people follow through. If you really want to make a lasting connection with people, make more solid plans before you leave. Set up a time to talk via Skype, come up with some tasks that you can both work on developing, or otherwise come up with a definite plan instead of just a wishy-washy “see you around the internets!”

BlogWorld may be coming to a close today, but there’s still time to enjoy the conference and the company. What are you doing today to totally rock it before you leave LA?

Your Printable, 18-Numbered Packing List for BWELA


You do realize you’ve got less than a week to make sure all your affairs are in place while you’re away at BWELA, pack everything you need to pack, and make sure you don’t forget anything, right? Right!?

Are you the kind of person who always seems to forget something when you pack? Tip #1, don’t wait til the last minute to get everything zipped up. That’s probably the number one reason things get left behind. Tip #2, take this list below, and print it out. Check things off as you put them in your bags, and remember that many things you may forget could be available from the hotel or a nearby convenience store, but here is a complete, comprehensive list (from a 5 time attendee) of what you absolutely must remember to pack for your trip (yes, many of these are clearly obvious, but a checklist is a checklist afterall, and wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t list “underwear”).

  1. Comfortable shoes – Daytime can be sneakers, flats, or sandals, and some people bring dressier shoes for the parties. Regardless, make sure they’re comfy.
  2. Socks, underwear (see?), t-shirts, lingerie, pajamas, etc. for as many days as you’re traveling.
  3. Casual, business casual, and dressy tops/dresses, for women / Casual tee’s and shirts, buttoned shirts, for men
  4. Slacks, jeans, skirts, and a light sweater for chilly nights or a too-cool convention center / Blazer, jeans, slacks for men
  5. Tip: Try to make the most of your wardrobe and pack things that can be layered with each other in different combinations, so you don’t have to pack so many clothes. Many people are traveling for 4-5 days, and trying to pack 5 shirts, 5 pants, 5 sweaters, 5 dresses… way too much! Bring 3-4 tops/shirts, 3 bottoms/pants, and 1-2 dresses (for ladies). See if you can cut it with only 2-3 options for shoes including those on your feet the day you depart (they’re bulky). Ladies, accessorize to make your lightweight black top look different on Saturday night than it did on Thursday afternoon. Scarves and jewelry are great for this. Guys, one blazer that goes with multiple t-shirts is better than trying to pack 4 blazers without needing a steam iron for them all. Travel-size spray bottles of Febreeze are fantastic for keeping things fresh even though you wore them already, or you can use the hotel’s laundry service.

  6. iPad or Laptop bag with laptop, power cord, peripherals (mouse, keyboard, stand)
  7. Camera and/or FlipCam, batteries, charger, extra memory cards (I put these in my laptop bag, since it’s carried on.)
  8. Cellphone and charger (I always forget my charger!) – If you’re coming in from another country, some people grab pay-as-you-go cellphones and credits right at the airport when they land or at a nearby store, so as not to spend as much on their own line with roaming charges and international fees. You can always sell it on eBay later, or keep it for the next time you come to the States.
  9. Toothbrush/paste/mouthwash, shampoo & conditioner, soap/bodywash (in approved 3.4 oz. bottle sizes unless you put them in your checked bags). You can always rely on the hotel for some of this, but many people like to have their own brands, so if that’s you, don’t forget!
  10. Cosmetics and grooming items. ‘Nuff said.
  11. Business cards (I put these EVERYWHERE – my suitcase, purse, laptop bag, and carry on.)
  12. Mini-notebook or bound index cards and pens for taking notes when you don’t have your computer open in front of you but want to take notes on who you met or remember a website or a piece of advice someone shares.
  13. Snacks, powdered drink travel packets (I love adding these to bottled water for some variety), gum and mints, etc. Bringing your own snacks and getting water (stay hydrated, especially if you’re imbibing each night!) at a conveninece store ensures you don’t overspend on them in the hotel, and gum or mints is just polite, given all those you’ll be interacting with!
  14. Medications, vitamins, OTC remedies (ibuprofen, cold/flu/icky tummy meds, etc.), energy drinks (hehe), and hand sanitizer. Traveling takes a toll on the body, and with all the people you’ll meet and shake hands with, you’re sure to pass around some germs. Make sure you have your health covered.
  15. An 8.5 x 11 envelope. Yes, an envelope. In it, you’ll put all your receipts (after you take a photo of them for backup, and for tax purposes), handouts you want to keep, business cards you receive, and so on. Trust me, there’s nothing like trying to search for this stuff when you get home, and it makes for great filing later on once you’re back in the office.
  16. A printed out schedule. Many people go to conferences and “wing it” but I like to have a loose (ie. sure-to-be-changed-later) plan. Know what sessions you want to attend, when they are, and what room they’re in. (You can get this info here.) Also make note of the parties, their times and locations, and any other meetups or networking events you want to be sure to get to.
  17. Cash, ATM/credit cards, traveler’s checks (if you’re coming in from another country), and so on. Be prepared for unexpected expenses, or to buy a drink or two for your new friends.
  18. Copies of all your travel arrangements, phone numbers for the hotel and shuttle/taxi/hired car service you’re using, and registration confirmation email (this one’s important!) so you can keep track and in case you lose them. Yes, most people can access this stuff from their laptop or phone, but who wants to waste time booting up or searching? Just have it packed in a folder (or additional large envelope) and then you’ll know right where it is on a moment’s notice.
  19. Extra bags are great for carrying home the swag you’ll get from the expo hall, plus we’ve got a bookstore on-site with loads of great stuff, and you may want to buy a few (and have them signed by the authors) and bring those home too. You might get away with just leaving extra room in your suitcase, but even a foldable, reusable grocery bag works in a pinch and stays compact on the way home in the event you don’t need it. Alternatively, you can consider donating anything you don’t really love.

So there you have it, your 18-item list of all the things you need to remember to pack for BlogWorld. Have I forgotten anything? 😉

What NOT to do at BlogWorld (And One Big Fat Event Secret)


I’ve written often about what to do at BlogWorld – tips to help you prepare, tips to help you while you’re at the event…I’m about tipped out. Well, almost. BlogWorld LA is going to be here in less than two weeks, so I wanted to write one last post, this time featuring what not to do while attending. Oh, and head to the end because I have a big, fat conference secret that might just change the way you approach the entire event!


Tip #1: Don’t over-promise.

Thousands of really awesome people attend BlogWorld every year, and a-lister or not, a lot of them want to meet you (even if they don’t know it yet). Some of your friends might be speaking. People plan dinners and unofficial events. There are parties every night.

I know you want to do everything, but chances are pretty good that you won’t be able to get to all the cool stuff you want to attend. Don’t promise that you’ll be there, because when you miss it, you’ll disappoint (and maybe even anger) your friends and new acquaintances. The fact of the matter is that events overlap and sometimes you just need to refresh in your room for a few hours. Instead of promising that you’ll definitely be wherever someone wants you to be, tell them you’re going to do you best (and then actually do your best).

Tip #2: Don’t go to your friends’ sessions.

Deb might want to ring my neck for telling you to not go to sessions, but the point isn’t to skip them completely. Just attend the one that most fits your new media interests and needs in every time slot. With well over 200 speakers, you probably have some friends who are presenting sessions. That’s awesome. Go and support them – IF there are no other sessions that interest you at that time. You can always listen to their presentations via the virtual ticket after BlogWorld ends, but you only get one chance to actually network and ask questions in-person with the speaker presenting a topic that truly interests you. So choose how to spend your time wisely!

Tip #3: Don’t panic.

There’s a lot to do and see. You won’t do it all or see it all. It’s okay. Breathe. Focus on enjoying your time there, not on worrying that you aren’t making the most of your experience.

One of my fave pictures from BlogWorld 2010!

Tip #4: Don’t neglect Twitter.

A lot of people make jokes about people who are tweeting during the event when they could be hanging out with online friends face-to-face. While it is true that you should put your phone down to have dinner with a colleague or drinks with some readers of your blog, don’t turn it off completely. When you neglect Twitter, you miss out on the really cool stuff that pops up. Some of the coolest people I met last year were people I only met because I was watching the BlogWorld hashtag (it’s #BWELA for this upcoming event). I got to go to dinner with David Murray. I got to hang out in Darren Rowse’s suite. I got to sit up talking with Jordan Cooper until the wee hours of the morning. None of that would have happened if I wouldn’t have been using Twitter while at BlogWorld. This event is all about the people you’ll meet (like the wonderful group pictured at left), and they aren’t always listed in the program guide.

Tip #5: Don’t drink too much.

The opportunity is there. A lot of people do. If you want to party, go a day early or stay a day late. I have a heck of a good time in Vegas last year before BlogWorld started! But during the official event? Represent yourself well. BlogWorld should be fun, but this is also a professional event. No one wants to work with the guy who’s trashed and stumbling away from the party with a random hook-up on his arm and no one wants to be associated with the chick throwing up in the bathroom. Using “but my brand is edgy” isn’t an excuse. A lot of “edgy”-branded people go to BlogWorld parties and drink, but I’ve never seen Scott Stratten or Miss Destructo or anyone other a-lister get wasted when they should be networking.

Tip #6: Don’t give me your card until after our conversation.

At every BlogWorld, people seem to fall into three categories: those who have a stack of freshly-printed cards they’re actually holding in anticipation, those who have cards but rarely remember to give them out, and those who give cards when it makes sense. Be part of the last group. If we’ve barely met, I don’t want your card. Walking up to me and handing it out as you give your elevator pitch is not a good marketing plan. Talk to me. Get to know me. And then, if we connect and there’s a reason we might want to email one another in the future, give me a card before we part ways.

Tip #7: Don’t be a stalker.

One of the great things about BlogWorld is that tons of a-listers a attend and unlike many other events where they’re whisked away as soon as they’re done speaking, most actually stick around and talk to fans at BlogWorld. You’ll see many of them attending other sessions, perusing the expo floor, and hanging out at official parties, so there’s lots of time to say hello. Say it! They want to meet you (in my experiences). But don’t be a stalker. Just because you said hello to an a-lister (or anyone at BlogWorld for that matter), doesn’t mean that you’re now best friends. Give them some space. When you start popping up everywhere and monopolizing their time, it’s just…well…creepy and annoying.

Tip #8: Don’t forget to follow up.

As soon as you get home (or even back to the hotel room if you have time), follow up on the business cards you collected. Check out sites you promised to check out. Follow people on Twitter. Draft emails that you promised to send. Say thank you if someone helped you. If you let these tasks go, they’ll never get done. Two months later, you aren’t going to remember a lot of the people you met if you didn’t follow up with a relationship immediately after the event – and they certainly won’t remember you either.

Tip #9: Don’t forget to bring your camera.

And more importantly, don’t forget to use it! You may not see these people again until next year. And in reality, you may not see these people again EVER. Bring your camera to capture the fun moments. No one ever leaves and event thinking “man, I wish I wouldn’t have taken so many pictures” but all too often, we leave wishing we would have taken more.

And One Big, Fat Secret? Okay, are you ready for this. Here’s what I didn’t know coming into my first major event that has changed my outlook: Everybody is nervous about attending.


Last year, I let my nerves get the best of me on several occasions, and I thought I was totally alone. When I wrote about my experiences afterward, however, I found out that I wasn’t! Even people like Chris Garrett and Andy Hayes stopped by to comment about feeling similar at times. We all have insecurities. We all have “heroes” who we’re nervous to meet. We all get anxious when going to a party where we don’t know anyone else. We all worry about what other people thing. It’s human nature. Some of us are more anxious than others, but at BlogWorld, I’d say there are probably more introverts than extroverts. We spend all day blogging behind a computer screen. Meeting people in real life is scarey.

So don’t think you’re the only one who needs to retreat to the hotel for a few hours of alone time. Just don’t let fear paralyze you to the point where you stay there. We’re very nice people. I promise. 🙂

Seven Ways to Start Preparing for BlogWorld NOW


BlogWorld LA 2011 is happening in just a few months, and while it might be a bit too early to start packing (though I have started making a list…sad, I know!), that doesn’t mean you can’t start preparing. Here are the top ten things you can do right now to get ready for what is shaping up to be our best show yet:

1. Participate in #BWEchat.

Every Wednesday at 9 PM EST, we hold #BWEchat on Twitter. Deb and Lara are the hosts (follow @blogworldexpo) and every week we also have special guest co-hosts including speakers, track leaders, and keynoters. #BWEchat features topics relating to conferences like how to save money when traveling to a conference (this week’s topic), as well as other topics related to content creation and  new media. Not only will you have the chance to learn something and voice your opinion, but #BWEchat is also a great way to meet others who will be attending the event. Some weeks, we even give away tickets!

2. Follow the #BWELA hashtag.

People are already starting to talk about the event. By following the #BWELA hashtag, you can connect with others who are attending and get the latest BlogWorld news first. If you have a question about the event, it also makes sense to tweet using this hashtag, so you can be sure that we see your tweet and are able to help you (if someone from the community hasn’t done so first). As we get closer to the event itself, you can also use the hashtag to find dinner partners, friends for sharing taxis, and more.

3. Choose your shoes and start wearing them now.

Ladies, this one is for you – pick out the heels (or even flats) that you want to wear at BlogWorld and start wearing them now. If you want to keep the “fresh new shoes” look, at least wear them around the house. Your feet will thank you.

4. Check out our speakers as they’re announced.

A number of speakers have already been announced, and if you follow conference director @DebNg, you can read announcements of new speakers as they’re made public. You’re likely going to recognize a lot of those names, but we also love to feature new and up-and-coming talent in the new media world, so there are likely going to be names you don’t recognize as well. Check out their blogs, follow them on Twitter, and read their bios so that when it comes time to make your schedule, you can make the best possible decisions.

5. Tell your readers that you’ll be attending BlogWorld.

Connecting with your readers in person can really help solidify them as fans. BlogWorld has tons of attendees, so unless you make plans to meet people (or at least watch out for one another), you might not cross paths. Don’t attend BlogWorld only to find out when you get home that some of your most loyal readers were also there and had no idea you attended as well. Announce your plans to attend on your blog and social media or at least put a badge on your sidebar.

6. Become an affiliate.

If you become a BlogWorld affiliate, you’ll have the chance to earn a little money by encouraging others to attend the event. Put this money toward your trip and you could attend for free!

7. Tell us on Facebook that you’re attending.

Head to Facebook and check in on our events page, telling us all the you’re coming! As with announcing it on your blog and talking about it on Twitter, liking our Facebook page and confirming that you’re attending is a great way to connect with your current readers/fans/friends, as well as meet new people.

As the even gets closer, there are certainly other things you can do to prepare. Yes, you can jump on a plane and wing it, but there’s so much going on during every moment of BlogWorld that the more planning you o before the event, the more you’ll get out of your time there.

Have you been to BlogWorld before? If so, share your best planning tip!

How to be a Good Swag-Grabber


This weekend, the BlogWorld Expo team headed to San Diego for BlogHer, a blogging and social media conference for women featuring educational sessions, networking parties, and an expo hall full of sponsors. Before I ever left, veteran BlogHer attendees warned me to either pack an empty bag, bring some extra cash for shipping, or leave room in my suitcase for swag…and they were right. One of the ways BlogHer differs from other events is that their sponsors are there promoting everyday household items (like cleaning products and food), rather than just blogging tools and technology. It’s an awesome place to find new affiliate programs and connect with companies looking for reviewers.

With dozens of companies handing out swag that ranged from candy bars to pain relievers to sunglasses, it wasn’t long before I, like many of the other attendees, was carrying two bags overflowing with goodies. In fact, I took a picture of all the samples and promotional items I picked up on the first morning:

BlogHer 2011 swag

At BlogWorld Expo and other industry conferences, there isn’t nearly as much swag, but no matter where you go, you will find at least a few companies giving away free stuff. If you’re going to pick up some items to take home, here are a few tips you should keep in mind to help you be a better swag-grabber.

  • Actually talk to the company about their products.

Yes, it is time-consuming to talk to people at sponsor booths, but if you’re going to take some swag, it is polite to listen to their pitch. This isn’t just about being polite, though. Often, the samples companies give away are brand new products with special features, unlike the old products from the same company that you may have tried in the past. If you take a moment to learn about the company, you might also find out that they have an affiliate or review program that would work well for your blog.

  • Talk about the products you pick up.

Not every piece of swag available at a conference will be right for a review on your blog. If a company is giving out free samples of their breakfast sandwiches (like Jimmy Dean was at BlogWorld) and you primarily write about new media (like I do), there’s not much of a connection. That doesn’t mean that I can’t talk about the product, though. If you try a sample of something, the least you can do is mention it to a friend if you do (or do not) like that product. For items you really like or dislike, I also recommend sending a quick email to the company with your feedback. Most appreciate that nearly as much as they appreciate a post reviewing their products. better yet, if you like a product, buy it in the future!

  • Don’t be greedy.

Companies spend a lot of money on swag, and while they are happy to give you an item to try out, don’t be greedy. We all like free stuff, but walking past a table ten times to pick up items or worse, taking a whole handful under the guise “they’re for my friends” just isn’t cool. At the end of conferences, many companies have run out of items, so some bloggers might not get swag because you took more than your fair share. Only take more than one if you truly do have a friend who would use the item (and talk/blog about it), the item can be given away on your blog or otherwise account for more promotion for the company than if you had just taken one item, or the company representative invites you to take more. Pro tip: if you really want more of a certain item, go to the booth at the very end of the show, as the company is starting to pack up. They hate shipping home leftovers and are often happy to give you extra items at that point.

My suitcase was literally bursting at the seams from all the cool stuff I picked up at BlogHer – and I can’t wait to follow up on my connections and talk about some of the products I picked up. Feel free to share you swag-grabbing tips below with a comment!

Overheard on #BWEchat: Conference Sponsorship Advice


This week at #BWEchat we covered the topic of conference sponsorship with our guest Kelby Carr (@typeamom). The discussion covered topics that ranged from why to have a sponsor to how to approach potential sponsors. I loved all the great tweets from Kelby and other participants.

Let’s take a look at some of the awesome advice, first from Kelby, then from other people at #BWEchat.

Awesome Advice from Kelby

  • I think there is a mix of things bloggers do in exchange for sponsorships. Some of it probably depends on what cos request
  • Very important to check what is allowed, read any guidelines, ask conference organizers if in doubt.
  • I think the ideal situation is when an official sponsor also sponsors bloggers to help. Such a win-win.
  • There are so many ways a blogger can support an official sponsor: help in booth, host party, be liaison to community
  • I do think most bloggers would agree ideal situation they pay their own way, but not always the reality.
  • I think, too, that the pitch to a company should be very professional, and give them a reason why. Other bloggers pitching too
  • And that gets to a very important point. Yes we network and have fun at cons. But be professional. Sponsored or not really.
  • I think you have to go with brands who you see are active in social media AND who are a perfect fit.

Awesome Advice from #BWEchat Participants

  • @AngEngland: I think it’s a nice partnership with brands and bloggers can work together to better a blogger + promote a brand
  • @chilihead: An issue I see w/sponsors is that bloggers don’t always see it as how they can benefit the co. Instead it’s scholarship
  • Also from @chilihead: If it’s true partnership, your proposal is about what you can do for company, not them sending you to a conference to better self.
  • @kirstenwright: The only way I would want sponsorship for a conference would be if it was a brand I really cared about (like my computer or car!)
  • @centsiblelife:I see some bloggers being sponsored who work w/ brand long-term, seems like a win-win. Blogger gets education, brand gets presence.
  • @phollows:If clothing [wearing it in exchange for sponsorship] won’t work for you, make suggestion that will help sponsor get noticed, spread message
  • @Elizabeth_N:use 2 believe sponsorships did not show ROI-I was wrong-very wrong!When executed properly sponsorship is hands down amazing return
  • @cebsilver:I go after ones [sponsors] I care about, engage, then they see how awesome I am and can’t help themselves.

Were you at #BWEchat? If so, feel free to share some of your favorite tweets of the night! If you weren’t there, we’d love for you to weigh in with your opinions – have you ever had a conference sponsor? What do you see as the pros and cons?

Five Things to Keep in Mind When Planning a Tweet-Up


With BlogWorld New York right around the corner, you and your friends might want to consider meeting up. You can have a general tweet-up for anyone in your circle, you can have a tweet-up for people who participate in in a Twitter chat every week, or a Tweet-up for members of your blog community. Meeting old and new friends is one of my favorite parts of BlogWorld, and by taking charge of planning a meeting, you can make sure you actually cross paths with the people you want to see or meet.

If you’re going to plan something, though, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t compete with the event.

Of course, we here at BlogWorld want to see your cute little tushies in seats at sessions, but there’s a more practical reason I’m recommending that you plan tweet-ups when BlogWorld is not happening – people in your group might want to actually attend, and you’ll put them in an awkward situation if you try to plan something at the same time.

  • Choose a budget-friendly option.

You might want to check out that hot new steakhouse or go to a ritzy Manhattan bar for drinks, but be aware that some members of your group might not be able to afford expensive options. You don’t have to eat at McDonald’s, but look for a restaurant or bar that is budget-friendly or plan to meet at one of the office BlogWorld parties.

  • Be open to meeting new people.

You might look forward to seeing your friend from the other side of the world, but at BlogWorld, everyone is being pulled in multiple directions. Instead of insisting on one-on-one time or having an exclusive party, be accommodating. When you welcome friends of friends, you’ll only build a stronger network.

  • Have fun, but monitor your alcohol intake.

The alcohol flows at most conferences, and BlogWorld is no exception. Keep check of how much you drink, though. You don’t want to be hungover for the next day of activities or, worse, forget about all the wonderful conversations you had with other attendees. Have a good time, but pace yourself. If you’re planning a Tweet-up, you might actually want to plan something away from the bars to avoid problems with it.

  • Be safe.

It goes without saying that when you attend any kind of Tweet-up or party, make sure you’re safe – walk home with friends, be aware of your surroundings, etc. If you’re planning a Tweet-up, keep safety in mind. Plan it at a location that is in a safe, well-lit area, and make sure that every can get back to their hotel as easily as possible.

Last year, I attended Tweet-ups and planned them as well – and in both cases, it was a great experience. Networking is really at the core of this event, so I definitely recommend meeting as many people as possible, and don’t be afraid to plan your own to mini-event to ensure you see the people who are important to you!

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