After toying back and forth with the idea of attending a major conference as a new blogger, I succumbed to curiosity and registered for #BlogHer17 in Orlando, FL. I had been following She Knows Media for quite some time and knew that they had a #BlogHer conference in Los Angeles in 2016. Since I was just starting my blogging journey, I didn’t feel that I was ready to take part in such a significant event.
Blog Her is one of the largest conferences for online creators and brands. This year, there were large and smaller named brands eager to meet with us;
Incredible keynotes were featured, as well as panel type breakout sessions that we could choose to attend based on what we needed for our businesses.
Since #Blogher17 was my first conference, I can’t make any other comparisons. I admit I was nervous going to a conference halfway across the country, by myself, and not quite knowing what to expect. We were encouraged to join the private Facebook group and engage in Twitter chats, to start networking and to keep abreast of the plethora of information that was given to help prepare us for the event. The information was a huge help and can seem overwhelming until you can use it.
Here are a few takeaways that I have as a newbie attendee.
Have a system in place for networking – We were encouraged to join the Blog Her attendees private Facebook Group and attend weekly Twitter chats. The group admin Melisa Wells posted daily updates, FAQ’s, and posts for us to add our blog information. These posts gave us the opportunity to find other bloggers to follow and research. The Twitter chats were fun. Each week, the topics were geared towards getting us ready for the big day.
We started following each other and began networking. There was also an app that we were able to download that helped us during the conference. I was able to connect with quite a few bloggers on the app, and we all tried to make plans to meet up while we were there. The problem is (again being a newbie) I didn’t realize that there were over 2000 attendees. After day two you are pretty much on auto pilot and may walk right past someone you had every intention of connecting with. I know for a fact this was the case for me. Next year, I will put more emphasis on networking ahead of time and try to set up mini meet ups so I can meet everyone I reached out to.
Arrive at breakout sessions early! Having the agenda available weeks ahead of time still did not prepare me for what I’d experience at these workshops. Some of the topics were more popular than others, and those were almost guaranteed to be standing room only. There were people in the door and hallways that were not able to fully benefit from what was discussed. Also, not all sessions had powerpoint slides that could be downloaded or distributed for later review. I was also hoping for more sessions that felt directly with topics that would help newer bloggers. Next year, I will make the conscious effort to get to all popular sessions early or buddy up with someone to take notes, so we aren’t missing out on information. I will also record the sessions, so I will have the material to refer to at a later time.
Keynotes – The keynote speakers this year were OUTSTANDING! Every week more and more speakers were added to the lineup. I was a total #fangirl! A few of the speakers were; Serena Williams, Luvvie Ajayi, Chelsea Clinton, Cat Cora, Carla Hall, Ana Navarro, and Joy Reid. During the interviews, there were just a few chairs and a beautiful backdrop. Your focus was purely on the speakers, and it was as if you were sitting in on a conversation with friends. Even though there were over 1000 people in the ballroom, the setting remained very intimate. Next year, I will make sure to get up close seats and network more with people at my table.
Expo Hall – The Expo Hall was bustling with people meeting and chatting with brand representatives. Some of the sponsors included; Poise, Bob Evans, WordPress, Olay, Blue Host, and Best Buy. The first night of the conference there was a host bar, and we were able to have beer and wine as we strolled through. I felt slightly intimidated by the hall as I figured that these brands wouldn’t be interested in a small time blogger. I made casual conversation with a few.
Poise was my favorite! They asked people to write a note about bladder leakage and put them on the Poise wall. I jotted a quick note on mine and walked away. A minute later one of the reps ran over to me and told me her boss loved my mantra, and they wanted to take a picture of me with it! That was so cool. Next year, I will not let my small following get in the way of pitching to brands, or obtaining information that could be used to contact them at a later time. Everyone no matter what their following or status should be able to talk to these representatives without hesitation!
Take a time out – When telling my friends about this experience, I likened it to being in a Vegas casino! You are so busy going to all of the sessions and running the hallways that you barely have time to BREATHE. The Hilton Bonnet Creek was the perfect venue. They had couches, chairs, benches, and tables all around that you could use to grab some quiet time. I took full advantage and actually met several people this way! I barely touched my phone during the conference, and it was so nice to have a break from social media. There was a point when I didn’t even remember what day or time it was. Now that’s what I call a vacation! Next year, repeat lol
Overall, BlogHer was a great experience! Now that all my “newbie” fears are behind me, I am ready to take #BlogHer18 by storm. Being surrounded by so many women was empowering! Everyone was there to make new friends, connections, and gain more insight and knowledge of the world of blogging. I was fortunate to meet a great group of women that I know I will have as lifelong friends. A week has passed and I m still meeting people in the Facebook group!
When I arrived at #Blogher17, I was a nervous, intimidated, newbie. When I left, I walked away with the sense of confidence, purpose, and invigoration. There are some changes on the horizon for both my blog and podcast. I owe it all to this experience and taking that leap of faith! Check out my other post with a few of my pictures from the conference
Until next time…..