by, Kristin Wheeler
I just returned from BlogHer 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. While this was my first BlogHer and first large social media conference, I attended the more community-oriented SoFabCon and the more intimate Bloggy Boot Camp. Despite the differences between the conferences, I noticed commonalities that I believe represent reasons you should consider attending a social media or professional blogger conference of any size.
1) Networking with People and Brands in Person
Successful bloggers have large social networks, and you can grow your network by meeting PR reps and brands face-to-face at a conference! You might get to “know” PR reps through emails and social media, but seeing them in person is a whole new story. You put faces to names, you can speak more directly and you create stronger relationships. Companies send their brand representatives to conferences, and these reps have just as much fun meeting you in person as you do meeting them and other bloggers. You have the chance to see if your personality fits with the brands, which is why it’s important to be professional, have business cards to pass out, and approach brands you find interesting. At BlogHer, you have the chance to meet and interact with brand representatives in the Expo Hall. It literally took me both conference days to get through them all. You can speak with brand representatives, sign-up to work with them, and even enter giveaways!
2) Attending Sessions and Keynote Speakers
Another great reason to attend a conference is to learn! We all want to learn more about what can make us more successful as bloggers. While you have numerous sessions you choose to attend, I particularly found the session entitled, “Learning to Build Your Email Subscribers” informative. I learned about email subscriptions and how to get people to subscribe via email. Who knew you could have four places above the fold to subscribe without it even looking like you are doing that? I always enjoy attending the the keynote speeches at conferences. I found Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg’s keynote address very inspirational. She spoke about the value of women in the workplace and how our voices can change brands and organizations. She spoke about the need for women to stand up for equal pay in the workplace, which, of course, was received very well among conference attendees!
3) Seeing New Products Before They Are Released
I admit I got excited when I could see new products in person before the general public could! At some off site events you could even take samples and get some cool swag. The Expo Hall had so many new products to check out that it was like seeing the future. My kids loved that I came back with information about toys that haven’t hit the market yet. I received samples from The Zelfs, and I told my kids all about the new Skylanders coming out in October. So exciting to be in the know!
4) Connecting Personally with Blogging Friends
I loved meeting my blogging friends in person! We hung out after hours, ate pizza, shared life experiences, laughed at jokes and made new memories together. Meeting PR and brand reps helps to improve your career opportunities, but converting your online friends into personal friends is an amazing experience. Just think of how fun it will be now conversing in Facebook groups remembering when you hung out in your hotel rooms and went to blogging parties together. It takes blogging to a whole new engaging level. Knowing bloggers and interacting with them will help you both personally and professionally.
5) Attending Special Events for Bloggers
Although frowned upon by conference organizers, many companies host off-site parties for bloggers to help increase brand awareness of certain products or services. Bloggers receive personal invites from companies prior to the start of the conference. If you receive an invite, you have great opportunities to network, get swag and have fun! Attend them if you can! Be respectful though and don’t overbook. I heard stories about bloggers doing that even though they knew they couldn’t attend the events. I think it’s better and more professional to commit to the events you can attend and give those sponsors your full attention. If you want respect as a blogger, you need to earn it by being respectful as well.
To sum up, I think you will find a lot of value in attending social media conferences, so if you have the funds it’s a great thing to help further yourself as a blogger. You can find many conferences to choose from at many different rates to attend. Find one you can afford and go for it! You will bring back knowledge, friendships, contacts and of course swag!