Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How Not to Attend a Conference

Melissa here, reporting to you from the un-Pretty front lines of flu stricken / teething / Daylight Savings Time  - addled toddler. I'm crossing myself with infant Tylenol in one hand and a bottle of pinot in the other, hopeful that this grim, whiny fate is not what the Mayans predicted for 2012. I barely roused myself from the Betty Draper Fainting Couch of Doom to type this to you, and unless you're sending reinforcement smelling salts (Xanax), I can't say when I'll return.

(I wonder how the Mayans felt about slight exaggerations & mom martyrs? Ahem.)

Anywhoo, last weekend I was all excited to attend my very first blog conference, convinced as I was that I'd meet fabulous people and learn Everything There Is to Know About Good Blogging. Some of that happened, but that aforementioned sick kid and my own ineptitude conspired to make it quite a bit different than I'd expected.

I ended up only being able to attend one day of the conference, alas, but I made enough blunders in that day to share here so you can avoid my fate. Turns out a blog conference is a lot like any old other conference I've been to, past stuffy lawyer get-togethers included, and I should have approached this in the way I would have back in ye olden days of law & much boredom.

Tips for How Not to Attend a Conference

Don't Practice Networking

This may sound silly to the extroverts in the audience, but this recovering introvert learned that my small talk skillz need frequent exercise lest they abandon me when most needed, like, uh, last Saturday. I'll never be a schmoozing star, but in the past PK ("pre-kid") I did enough professional and social events to feel more comfortable in a room full of people I don't know.

There's a lot of down time at a conference, not to mention opportunities to interact one-on-one with some of the expert speakers - or would be, that is, if one weren't busy pretending to send a text message because one is too shy to approach anyone in a room full of strangers. You know the "one". Um.

Don't Have a Game Plan

I signed up for this conference because it sounded fun and was near-literally in my backyard - that's well and good, but I missed the chance to get some good mentoring and connect with fellow attendees by not having a clearer goal for what I hoped to accomplish there.

I don't mean anything douchetacular here like "building my BRAND" (unless narcissism + too much time at Nordstrom = "brand"), but was I looking to connect with sponsors? Figure out how I feel about sponsored stuff to begin with? Look into freelance writing opportunities? Meet fellow bloggers? Hone my craft? Yes. No. Maybe? I dunno.

This mattered when I got the chance to interact with some magazine / site editor types - I quickly lost their interest when I couldn't sum what my writing is about and what my goals were in attending this shindig. On a social level, I couldn't connect as well with other bloggers because, absent whipping out my iPad and shouting, "Here, read this!", I don't have a good answer to what my writing drivel is about.

(For anyone attending one of these, here's a helpful post about how to get your game plan together - which I read after attending this, of course. Of course).

Don't Take Photos

. . . after promising my legions of fans - all three of you - that I would faithfully document the event, that is. Between the sick toddler and the terror of being in a room of style bloggers - I've not experienced that level of head-to-toe once over we women do since junior high - I got seriously camera shy, with a few exceptions:

Recognize anyone here? I was thrilled to meet this group of lovelies- and these costumes. (Photo credit and copyright to Airstream Photobooth)

While it's better to live an event than spend your entire time documenting it, I'm the girl who attended a freaking social media conference and then forgot to social media it. Oy.

Three Things I Accidentally Got Right

Start Small

I'm happy I went to something this close to home for my first blog outing & first schmoozing in a long while. I was able to pick and choose events to attend because I could just go home in between sessions, which helped me not feel too overwhelmed (or would have, had Master P not fallen ill).

That being said, the next time I will venture further afield and to a blog conference more in my writing area - I have neither the talent nor the Chanel bag budget to keep up with true fashion bloggers, for starters. In keeping with my recovering introvert status, I actually get more out of a conference when I'm forced into attending all of the events - with repeat exposure I can wear people down into pretending to like me.

Connect with One or Two People Meaningfully (thanks, Ms. Privilege, for this tip)

See that photo above? I was fan-girl levels of thrilled to meet some of my favorite bloggers at this thing and shamelessly tag along with them. That was worth the price of admittance alone.

Business Cards

It's a minor point but, yes, business cards - even though the only "business" I've really done here to date is the business of talking, shopping, and whining too much. I'm glad I overcame my suspicions about this one, because these things were being exchanged like candy at this event. I'm happy I indulged my inner paper snob and sprung for a good design and paper weight too, since it wasn't only my shoes getting the Side Eye at this event.


Any questions on how you too can totally hose up a conference Pretty style? Offers to send me restorative martinis?


Jessica Hudson said...

Love your honesty in this post. I'm so afraid I'd end up blacked out from too much wine to compensate for introvertedness (not a word I realize) at one of these things. Hope you survive the sickies. We're in the same boat - only I can't drink.

Carly Anne said...

Oh. Shudder. This flashes me back to my serious PR days. (As opposed to my current, much more relaxed--and lesser paid--days.) Kudos for even dipping your pretty toes in the water.

Lilly said...

I am trying the dip-the-toe thing in September with the Bloggy Boot Camp they are doing in Dallas. It is just one Saturday and it's more the nuts and bolts of sponsorship, monetizing etc. since that is what I know the least about to even know if I would be interested one day. I love your business cards! Would you be willing to share who made them for you?

Haley @ Cardigan Junkie said...

I loved the honesty of this post! I had a great time at the conference, and got a lot of great advice from it, but wasn't the high flying social butterfly I hoped to be. I made friends, for sure, but not like everyone else appeared to be doing.

I wish there had been a little more structure around some of the events, given the size of the group involved. I'm sad we didn't meet, though. Maybe next time!

Adrienne said...

Thanks for the tips! If I ever make it to a conference, I will surely reference these :)

Everyday Adventures said...

It was so nice meeting you on Saturday at the mentor speed session! I can definitly relate your feelings. As a lifestyle blogger, it was hard to connect with those mentors and seeing the vision of this conference was more about being yourself then growing you blog via sponsors and ads. My goals were to gain knowledge of blog design which I really didnt and learn more about getting more blog traffic which I kind of did but the sponsor/monetizing aspect I did not, but I am not discouraged. Anyway sorry for the comment but just wanted to let you know that you aren't alone:)

Kappa Prep said...

I had SO much fun meeting you and it was the highlight for our Dallas group! I am glad I went to TXSC, but will be the first to admit I did not spend much time at the actual events. Next time we can both make a game plan together!]

Hope the little mister is feeling better!

ms. mindless said...

I am so afraid to go to a blogger conference for the same reasons! I am sure it was so much better than you thought!

The Mrs. said...

Can you believe I have never been to one? They scare me!!!!

Amy @ Forever 29 said...

Wow, I thought these blog conferences were more fun and taking notes than actual "work." I would have been really overwhelmed! Cheers to you for seeing the bright spots and sharing a few points for us to think about in regards to our own blog pitching!

AEOT said...

Well, you are 8,000 steps ahead of me b/c I would never, ever in a million years even sign up for a blog event. I can think of WAY too many reasons not to go, and I would be frightened out of my mind. It's super easy to comment on other's posts and "think" that I have minor computer friendships with them but meeting people IRL and having to brand my (very simple, not very exciting) blog? Yowzers. I pretty much could only do something like that if all the kiddos were invited and it were at a play place where we all could just sit around and talk about how cute our kids are. Trust me, there are many bloggers I would love, love, love to meet- if it were at my house, with kids, and I got to bake for days in advance preparing. Otherwise, I'd be way too far out of my comfort zone. Funny b/c most people would consider me such an extrovert. Ha! I have them fooled. I'm really just a homebody at best :)

I hope Master P starts to feel better. Sick babies are the worst. I'll say a quick prayer tonight that he's on the mend and pray for a great glass of wine tomorrow night for his momma too!!

Ideas Coordinator said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
International Woman of Mystery said...

thank you for the inspiration to have a little self-summary or pitch ready at these things. i have one of those bloody events in 2 weeks (conference, though not blog related) and i actually need to network to get a job so can't just attend and snark. time to hoick up my big-girl garder straps and wade into the melay. with vodka, i think.

Sondra Primeaux said...

Ha! I shared with you those exact 'don'ts' this past weekend. I was the one that looked like a flower...on a wall!

[darci @ the good life] said...

Kudos to you for going and thankfully you learned a few things from it! Like you, I don't really know what my blog is primarily about. I mean yes, I'm a mom now and that is the majority of what I "talk" about, but that's not all. Not to mention that I don't update mine frequently enough to really say that anyone is in love with it or notices if I don't post daily.

However, I'd love to go to a blog conference???? I'm glad you posted this because I think I'll reference it if I ever take the plunge and sign up for one. Let's be honest though. I primarily want to go just to have a girls weekend sans baby and hubby. Is that wrong?! Hmmm. Maybe!

Hope y'all are having a good week!

And do tell.... where did you get your business cards? Oh, and do you have "mom" cards / "play date" cards? I so want them because I'm a paper snob, but I'm worried it screams "I'm uppity" and take my stay-at-home mommyhood wayyyyyy too seriously. But then I want them because they're badass. Thoughts?

undomestic chica said...

Where did you get your cards? And, at least you went and learned about yourself, right? I hope le toddler feels better soon.

Legallyblondemel said...

Thank you all for the kind words - the business cards were designed by my genius blog designer, Penny Lane Designs!

misss_e said...

Very helpful advice! Should I ever find myself at a conf. this is all the prep I plan to do.

Kate said...

The business card thing is so true! Every event I have attended people exchange them and I am glad I have mine! Looks like the day you did spend at the conference was fun!

I HATE daylight savings (love it for me, hate it as a nanny ;) At least this week H's grandma is here so it's actually good that everything moved an hour (he's not so off schedule). I am so type A crazy. Yikes!

LPC said...

Heck, I'm just happy you LISTENED to me! My ineptitude has saved someone else!

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