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How Schedules Make BlogWorld Better

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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.

Why Advanced Attendees Can Benefit From Basic BlogWorld Sessions

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Scott Stratten's Epic Opening Keynote at BlogWorld 2010 in Las Vegas

At BlogWorld, I’m considered kind of a buzzkill. You see, I make it my mission to help stock our conference with such great content that it keeps attendees from hallway networking. Now, that isn’t to say I have something against this type of networking. In fact, at other conferences you’ll probably catch me chatting up others in the corridors as well. But as Conference Director, I like to see more butts in the seats. When you’re the person tasked with creating the educational experience, the best compliment you can receive is to have empty-ish hallways during the sessions.

“I already know this stuff”

So at BlogWorld ’10, I asked attendees why they were standing out in the hallways instead of listening to the speakers. I mostly asked this question to famous bloggers or the folks with several years of experience. Many told me the only sessions they attend are those where their friends are speaking or if the keynote looks interesting. They also told me that they feel that the sessions are too basic. Too few “advanced” sessions was a common criticism on the surveys we sent to all of our attendees as well.

Thus, a new mission was born. The BlogWorld team and track leaders are now tasked with ensuring at least one advanced session per track.  However, that’s not what this post was about. This post is about why you should attend sessions that may be beneath your realm of expertise as well…and it’s all Becky McCray’s fault. On Twitter yesterday, Becky brought my attention to a comment on her blog by Carl Natale that said:

Pay attention to the questions that people ask – especially in the sessions.

These questions are insights into what your market needs. This is why I often attend sessions that cover subjects I’m very familiar with. I want to know what other people don’t know.

That information helps me choose what to write about and what services to offer. It’s market research.

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

Basic Sessions Have Something to Offer Everyone

Here are some points to consider:

  • The people who are attending the basic sessions are there to learn. They’re possible blog topics, customers and clients. If you’re not in the room you won’t know who they are or why they’re there. If they’re asking questions, you have the ability to pinpoint their needs and follow up with them later.
  • By watching attendees you can learn of the topics that interest them the most. For example, watch the folks who have the gadgets out. At what times are they paying the most attention? When are they more focused on the gadgetry? Gauge the interest to figure out blog topics and educational needs.
  • Questions provide fodder for discussion later. Perhaps you’d like to network with someone but you’re shy or not sure how to approach that person. If he or she is asking questions after a presentation, you have a good starting point.
  • Perhaps the speaker didn’t touch on a very important point during his or her talk. This can be your opportunity to share your expertise. When it’s time to open the floor to the public, offer the audience another point of view. (Without being a know it all tool, please.) Now you’ve shared your expertise with others and you’re on their radar.
  • You may learn something new anyway. If the speaker truly knows his stuff, you’ll end up walking away with a new tip or point of view. Do you really know every tool, app and technique out there?

Even though a session may seem a little too basic, or you feel it covers a topic you already know, there are still benefits. You can walk away with new topics to write about or a new client. You might even have ideas for a presentation of your own.

What are some of the reasons you can think of to attend basic and intermediate sessions, when you’re an advanced attendee?

What Sessions Do You Want to See At BlogWorld?

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Last week, we did a little crowdsourcing and asked who you would like to see present at BlogWorld. We’re pleased to see that we’re pretty much on the same wavelength, but there were some names in there we weren’t familiar with and we will be looking into those speakers. Now that we have a good idea of who you’re interested in seeing, we’re going to reach out once again and ask about the content.

What types of sessions would you like to see at BlogWorld?

See, we know many of you come for the networking, and that’s fine. But if there’s a session that will bring you in from the halls, what would it be? Are there topics we’re not covering or not covering enough? Are there topics that are overkill?

From our surveys we know that many of you would like to see more advanced content, and we’re going to work to make sure there are advanced sessions available for our seasoned vets. If you have some suggestions for advanced topics, please share.

What would you like to learn about? Where do you think we’re missing the mark? Tell us in the comments!

Again, thanks for sharing. Your input is incredibly valuable and we take all recommendations seriously.

Tips for Proposing a Panel for BlogWorld 2011

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Believe it or not, we’re already experiencing a rash of inquiries as to when we’re going to open up BlogWorld ’11 for speaker proposals. We’re working on firming up the dates and getting all the little details in place so that we can give you all a chance to pitch a talk. In the meantime, many of you are also asking for tips for successfully submitting a proposal.

Many potential speakers prefer to submit proposals for panels for a variety of reasons.

The benefits of a panel include:

  • Newer speakers are more confident when others are contributing.
  • There’s no lag in the conversation.
  • Each panelist can present a different point of view.
  • The ability to learn from several different experts.

Of course, if the panel isn’t prepared or doesn’t have the right chemistry it can present a whole other set  of problems.

If you are hoping to pitch a panel when we open up for speaker proposals, these tips will help to put you in our good graces:

  • Make sure everyone on the panel is knowledgeable about the topic: Each and every person sitting on the panel should know what they’re talking about. Attendees pay good money to come to BlogWorld to learn. Those on a panel should be able to share and teach with confidence.
  • Make sure everyone on the panel agrees to being on the panel BEFORE you submit your proposal: Don’t mention a big name panelist in the hopes of getting your proposal accepted. If you pitch a panel and some or none of the panelists have any intention of coming to BlogWorld, we’ll probably not want to work with you again. Have panelist approval in writing before you pitch and tell us they’re onboard.
  • Don’t create a panel just to get your friends into BlogWorld: Don’t make up a panel of only friends, just so you can all get a free ticket to BlogWorld. We want experience and wisdom. Private jokes and conversations turn off attendees, and if your panelists don’t know their stuff they’ll quickly clear a room. Plus, after a year or two we start to wonder why you ask the same people to talk with you each year.
  • A balance of men and women would be nice: You don’t have to invite members of the opposite sex on to your panel, but we appreciate a balance of perspectives. Also, as mentioned in the past, we’re interested in good content more than anything else. However, we do like to see both men and women on panels. Besides, a diverse panel means a diverse audience.
  • Have an opposing point of view on the panel: A panel where everyone agrees is boring. When choosing your speakers, invite someone to play devil’s advocate. This way you’re presenting all sides of the issue and your audience will appreciate a fair and balanced representation.
  • A maximum of three panelists and one moderator: Too many panelists mean disorganization, people talking over each other, and a crowded dais. This year, BlogWorld is requesting that those pitching a panel include no more than three panelists and one moderator.
  • Make sure everyone will be able to prepare ahead of time: If a panel is unprepared and disorganized, we’re basically ripping off our attendees who came to learn. Unprepared speakers usually aren’t asked back again.

A panel, first and foremost, should contain an informative mix of expert opinions. It shouldn’t be an ego fest, a bunch of arguments or people trying to talk over each other.  Folks appreciate panels because of the different perspectives presented. However, if the wrong people are chosen for a panel, it can have the opposite effect. Please choose your topic and fellow panelists with care.

Do you have any questions or comments about submitting a speaker proposal  – for a panel? Please share in the comments.

4 Tips To Better Follow Up After a Conference

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When you go to a conference, often times it’s to learn and other times, well, all the time whether you see or not, it’s to network as well. Big events such as BlogWorld are an incredible place to network and establish some solid connections. Problem being, that’s usually where it stops and opportunity is flushed down the drain. Let’s fix that…

Mike Stenger is a Social Media specialist with a huge passion of the platforms around us. You can find him on his blog where he talks about Social Media Tips And Business Success.

The Coaching Doctor’s Advice for BlogWorld

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Earlier today, I posted some great lunch (Border Grill) and dinner (Tender) restaurant reviews if you’re looking for somewhere to eat while at BlogWorld Expo. Even at some of the best restaurants, there are a number of poor diet choices you can make, and add that to the flowing alcohol, lack of sleep, and little time for exercise – the convention can get out of control, health-wise, in a hurry.

Dr. Aamer Iqbal, otherwise known as The Coaching Doctor, helped me out with some advice for bloggers who want to remain health-conscious while still enjoying Las Vegas.

Healthy Eating

Unless you have a suite, you probably won’ t have any kind of kitchen equipment, so your choices are limited. Aamer’s suggestion is to choose smaller helpings if they’re available. Many restaurants have a half-portion or lunch menus available for guests who are interested, and there may also be Weight Watcher’s or low-carb menu options to help you make healthier choices.

Aamer also says, “Dress salads with vinegar or lemon juice and a wee bit of olive oil; or keep dressing on the side and dip your fork in it for flavor while having a salad. Sauces ending in -aise are usually packed with fat; pasta and cheese are packed with calories as well.”

Buffets can actually be some of the most healthy options available, since you can make your own choices. Try to make your plate 70 percent veggies, substitute lentils and beans for pasta. When it comes to dessert, go for sorbet or fruit instead of some kind of pastry.

Healthy Drinking

“Healthy drinking” is a bit of an oxymoron, but there are choices that are healthier than others. Says Aamer, “Alcohol has as many calories as fat: so watch out how much you drink at the bar. About a pint of beer or a couple of standard servings of other drinks should do. Sodas are also packed with sugar. I imagine just some tonic water, fresh lime soda or freshly squeezed fruit juice should be preferable over other stuff. And yes, keep yourself hydrated with at least 8 glasses of water. restrict tea or coffee to max 3 cups, and go easy on lattes. Green or herbal tea may be a better option.”

Of course, remember also to be safe if you drink. Even if you’re a guy, don’t go out partying alone!

Exercising at BlogWorld

Luckily, you’ll already be doing a lot of walking while in Las Vegas, so even if you don’ t have the time or energy to hit the hotel gym, you’re not completely killing your workout schedule. Some other things to consider:

  • If the hotel gym isn’t your thing, check out the pool. Swimming is great exercise.
  • Check out some dance clubs if you want to exercise, but have no time to do that and also enjoy Vegas nightlife. Dancing is great exercise.
  • Take the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator.

You can also do some lunges, jumping jacks, yoga, or other exercises in your room. Remember to stretch in the morning – you’ll be doing a lot of walking throughout the day, even if you’ll also be sitting at panels a lot.

Avoid the Conference Plague

After every conference, there’s a huge percentage of attendees who get the fly. That’s the price you pay to shake so many hands and be in such close quarters with others. Aamer has some awesome advice for bloggers to help you avoid the plague when you get home:

“Wash hands five times a day, as suggested by a US Navy study. Work up a lather over twenty seconds and wash your hands. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. If you have to cough or sneeze, do so onto a tissue or on your elbow or shoulder, never on your hand. This will help prevent spread to others.”

An my favorite avoid-the-flu advice:

“Don’t tire yourself; listen to your body; sleep when you are sleepy; eat when you are hungry.”

General BlogWorld Health Advice

Aamer had a last piece of advice for BlogWorld attendees to help you stay healthy while in Vegas:

“Importantly, a few days away from your diet does not cause significant damage, unless you make it a belief for yourself and give up on dieting. Go with the intention of staying healthy when attending the conference so that you can enjoy company, meet people, eat out and go for activities while staying on course for your own good health.”

Remember to say thank you for the tips and check out more about Aamer’s coaching program at his website, The Coaching Doctor.

How Will People Remember You?

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This may be my first year going to BlogWorld Expo, but if my experience at other conferences hold true, it’s going to fly by faster than anyone can keep up. Before you know it, we’ll all be writing wrap-up posts and connecting to people we’ve met via Twitter. Well, maybe. The sad fact is that most people will come home with dozens, even hundreds of business cards. Some may sit down and add everyone on Twitter, but others? Well, they’re only going to add and connect with people they remember.

Will people remember you?

BlogWorld will be a sea of people, most of which probably look similar to you. I’m hoping that people will remember my pink hair, but nothing about your looks is a guarantee that someone will remember you, at least enough to connect you to a name on your business card. It’s about your interaction. You might be well-prepared with a pen to write down information on the back of cards, but not everyone does that. So how do you make an impression?

  • Make eye contact when you say your name. Sometimes, that helps it click in someone’s mind later.
  • Have a conversation, not just a sales pitch. Yes, you want someone to visit your site, but there’s thousands of people who are pitching stuff. Have an actual conversation with the other person. It means you have less time to meet people overall, but I’ll take 10 strong connections over 100 weak connections any day. Your conversation doesn’t even have to be about blogging – personal (but professional) is good too.
  • Throw our some collaboration ideas. If someone has a similar site, it could be easy to exchange guest posts, or even if your sites are only slightly related, you might be able to combine efforts on a project. Give someone a reason to remember other than “their site sounds cool.”
  • Be prepared to reach out after BlogWorld. Take the first step in saying how nice it was to meet them, and avoid sending a form email if possible. Reference your conversation.
  • Take a picture. Post it on your blog, along with the person’s name and a link back to their site.

Above all, remember that not every impression is a good impression. I’ve heard horror stories of people getting drunk and hitting on (married! eek!) bloggers, trying to use a popular blogger to advance their own career without actually giving anything in return, trying to seek in without a badge, etc. You want people to remember you – but for the right reasons!

Finance Diva says use BlogWorld to Cut your Tax Bill

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Headers: Costs, Tax Deductions, Tracking Expenses

Conferences are expensive and generally held at beautiful hotels with lots of amenities. The plethora of amenities and super soft sheets usually translates to a higher rate per night and more expenses for exhibitors, attendees, sponsors, and organizers. More expenses translate to more money for the local economy and more tax deductions. How can more outlay cut your tax bill?

Costs

I estimate the average cost for attending Blog World 2010 with a full access pass is approximately $1600 – $2000 before calculating entertainment and paid meals while attending the conference. This only takes into account hotel, airfare, and a full access pass and I am assuming travel within the continental United States. This expense can actually save you money when thinking long-term. Bloggers everywhere are making money and transitioning into better jobs, better titles, higher tax brackets, and more opportunities as a direct result of the hard work put into their blogs. The majority of bloggers I interact with within the social media realm are blogging for extra income after their day job or a stay-at-home mom or dad who is using social media and blogging to get out of debt.

Tax Deductions

Regardless of the reason for monetizing your online experience; conferences used for business development are a deduction during tax time as long as you paid for the expenses and not reimbursed. Employees who attend a conference on behalf of their employer where the employer pays for expenses; even if that payment is in the form of reimbursement cannot write off reimbursed expenses. Bloggers who are self-employed and pay for their own way to a conference can write off the expenses as a legitimate business expense. Our tax code is full of loopholes and certain expenses are only partially deductible; such as food and entertainment. The IRS reasons that you have to eat and be entertained regardless of your physical location so, these types of expenses generally are deducted at fifty percent of the out of pocket expense.

What, your blog hasn’t made any money? That’s okay; a business can show a loss 3 out 5 years or 5 out of 8 years depending on the economy; this loss can be then be deducted from your taxable income from a mainstream job. What no mainstream job? But, the spouse has one. It can still decrease the amount of taxable income listed on your joint return. When you decrease your taxable income, tax liability decreases, and one of two things happen. Either the tax refund will increase or the amount of money owed to the IRS at the end of the year will decrease. Regardless, of your personal tax situation a decrease in taxable income will help your overall financial situation.

Tracking Expenses

How do you take advantage of these tax benefits? Simply save every receipt from Blog World starting when you head to the airport. When paying cash such as tips or shuttle fare; keep a small notebook and write down the time, location, and amount of cash for that transaction. If you are one of the lucky few sharing a hotel room in order to cut costs, there are two ways to handle this situation. Make two copies of the receipt and write a notation on it saying the deduction will be split or the person who paid the hotel directly can write and sign a receipt for the person reimbursing them for the costs. The goal is to create a papertrail that shows the deductions are both reasonable and necessary for the attendance of the conference.

Nicole aka Finance Diva loves numbers and writes at http://FinanceDiva.com. She
has been repairing credit and preparing taxes since 2003. Finance Diva is registered with both the IRS and State of New York as a paid tax preparer. She started the site to promote her financial services and to help consumers do more with less. You can follow her on Twitter @nickelnm

Bringing the SOCIAL to BlogWorld – Get and Give Help via #bwehelps

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… By Jeremy Wright (@jeremywright), CEO @BNOTIONS.ca, b5media Founder, BBQ Lover

Too often, Social Media is about the MEDIA: spreading the word, getting more followers, making money, growing your traffic, blah, blah, blah, #facepalm… Every once in awhile, though, it’s nice to do the SOCIAL side of the equation, which is what I’m proposing today!

This is the 4th BlogWorld I’ve been to. Each time there are lots of new faces, and every time they’re just a bit timid, bit scared, bit confused or just a bit… special (sorry @tedmurphy). And while I try my best to show people where session rooms are, to recommend hotels and find cheaper airfare, to publish lists of parties and to hand out my phone number should people need help (416 726 3602 by the way), as Darkwing Duck said: one duck can only do so much (or he should have said it if he didn’t).

So, let’s scale this helping people thing. Lots of BWE veterans like to help, and even if you’re new you probably know more than you think you do, so let’s use and follow a hashtag on Twitter (http://www.contentious.com/2009/03/08/hashtags-on-twitter-how-do-you-follow-them/”>): #bwehelps. If you have a question, ask it of the hashtag and I will be checking it. Who else will be checking it? Well if you have more than just your mom following you on Twitter (to be fair, my mom stopped following me years ago!) then you should be. Follow it on your mobile and Twitter client. Give back. Be helpful. Smile!

Let’s be a community. Let’s help. Let’s have some fun. No blogger left behind!

Photo by nicht mehr hier @Flickr

Cartoon: My card. Oh, no, wait…

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I’m as guilty of this as anyone. You meet someone at a conference, you find a real connection – be it personal or business-related – and you exchange cards.

But as you hand yours over, you yank it back. “Oh, sorry,” you say, and fumble for a pen – “I just changed cell numbers. Let me just write in the new one… Hmm, you can’t really read that, can you?” (Of course they can’t, because you’re trying to write it on a little card with a big thick Sharpie, the only thing you could find in your bag.) “Do you have a pen? Or just some pointed instrument I could use to draw some blood?”

So if your business cards are out of date, set aside some time today to get some new ones printed in time for BlogWorld. (I promise: I’m doing just that as soon as I finish writing this.)

And if you want to stand out a little, here are a few ideas for business cards that make sense in for a social media conference:

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