Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Attending a Social Media Conference (What I Wore)

I'd like to have returned from my Bloggy Boot Camp experience chock full of sage advice about how you should navigate these things and why this conference is a great one for anyone considering their first - I'll get to that in a second - but let me start off by saying by addressing what you're all really worried about . . .

. . . outfits aren't that big of a deal at these. I KNOW. I'm posting what I wore anyways - must keep our focus on what truly matters, after all - but . . .

conference chic
(click on photo or link below for outfit details)

Here I was, all worried about meeting a new group of women and, given that this was a gaggle of women, what they'd think of my shoes - or I would have been, had Big Life Event stuff not hijacked my month and forced me to mellow out and have a little perspective.

Turns out that was a good (if accidental) move - thanks, sucky life events! - since this conference crowd was a mellow, generally friendly bunch of social media types. Before I get to What I Wore - what, just because it wasn't a big deal you think I wouldn't share that vital information? - here's a few tips . . .

[Apologies in advance for the lack of in-person photos, but - bad blogger, bad! - I got caught up in socializing and completely forgot to snap pictures. Yes, at a social media conference. I'll *never* have a New York Times bestselling, nearly true memoir at this rate.]

If you're attending a social media conference, consider . . . 

This One Had Mimosas: For reals. Somehow I knew I was in the right place.

Why You're Going: To meet people? Learn tips about how to grow your readership? How to break into paid work or ads? Excuse to drink wine and escape home for a bit?

I went to my first conference last spring with no sense of why I was there, aside from . . . that it was in my hometown? I dunno. It sounded cheap and fun (*insert joke here*). As a result, I felt pretty lost when it came to the network-y, meeting new people time, blowing the chance to connect with other bloggers and other market-y sorts that might have led to some cool writing opportunities had I done my personal homework.

This time I wanted to meaningfully connect with at least 1-2 people in my corner of the social media sandbox (hi, Chas! hi, Lilly!) and learn a little more about the "maybe I want to be paid to write about this stuff" aspect of things; this conference is excellent for both, by the way. Knowing what I was there for really helped me get more out of the speakers and not be overwhelmed by the "OMG meeting new people!"-ness of it all.

What Size Conference / Type is Right for You: The BBC conferences are intentionally small - this one was around 170 people - which really helped shy me to not feel overwhelmed. If you're a first timer, I definitely recommend starting off small; I feel much better equipped to attend the bigger Blissdom (holla!) next year having first tackled this.

Also, not to get all "WHAT'S YOUR BRAND???" about things, but consider that social media sandbox thing - for example, I felt much more at home, and therefore a lot more comfortable approaching people, at this mixed bag of bloggers - some style, some lifestyle, some foodies, etc. - vs. the strictly "style blog" conference I'd previously attended. I didn't feel like I was drowning in a sea of statement hipster glasses and Chanel bags at this one, for starters - though Nordstrom knows if I were to perish in an ocean, I'd prefer to be surrounded by Chanel in my last moments.

No One is as Big a Deal / Small a Deal As You Think: You know those people whose blogs or Twitter feeds you read only to think to yourself, "She is so shiny and perfect, OMG!" You sit back in amazement and, let's face it, a little a lot of envy at her splendor, as do her legion of fangirl followers.

Guess what? To a blogger in another circle of influence, that person isn't the internet's prom queen. Both conferences I've attended nicely leveled the playing field as far as my perspective, with speakers who were Big Deal Prom Queens in their areas of influence - but not mine necessarily.

It's easy to build someone up when they're a figment of the internet vs. a real life person, and I like that conferences put real-life faces to names, be those names "big" or brand new.The internet is a big place, friends, and we're all just people, whether we have one follower or one million.

Also, meeting someone who's just starting off in blogging, the cool person not many people have heard of yet? It's really fun getting to meet those types (maybe you?) - and who knows? Maybe that person is the next Pioneer Woman, and you will have the smug indie band glow of having known her before She Got Huge.

Most People Are Just as Intimidated About the Whole Thing as You: Yes, really.

Yes, You Need Business Cards; Laptop Optional: Even if the only business you're in is obsessively tracking K. Middy's every fashion move. Ahem.

You will trade cards like candy at these things, you'll have fun homework checking out everyone's pages & feeds when you get home, and you will have serious envy at other people's cards. For my next conference I'm bringing a proper business card case so I can keep both mine & others organized in one place (vs. current plan of floating around in my purse along with the toddler detrius.)

It's up to you how online you stay; I brought my computer but found my smartphone + handwritten notes more than sufficient. If you're one that can type notes and update Twitter *and* pay attention to speakers while playing nice with others, please do - then teach me how.

Look Up the Speakers Beforehand: . . . lest you be seated next to one of them and have no idea with whom you're chatting. Oops. Follow 'em on Twitter, at the very least. Next time . . .

Dress Comfortably / For Cold Hotel A/C: after last spring's conference, I was prepared for another urban chic onslaught; this conference was another beast entirely, with many people dressed very casually (think non-fancy tees and jeans).

Given last week's suckitude, I didn't have much time for wardrobe worry, so as you can see above, I dressed just as I would for a daytime girls' outing + typical indoor conference hotel A/C frigidity + needing to be on my feet chatting for much of the day; I added a few details to remember for next time, like that spiffy card case.


Much to my dismay, I had to leave this conference both early - I'm now two-for-two on Life Events popping up during these things; I'm half-afraid loved ones will just start dropping off during Blissdom - but I left it brimming with sparkly new ideas. Not a bad way to spend a weekend, eh?

How about you - have you been to one of these? Any advice for us conference goers?


[dianegatorfan] said...

I love your conference outfit and your outlook on the (albeit short) weekend. Thanks for the insight and advice! Maybe now you will be more relaxed going into Blissdom. I'm sure there were lots of gals who were so excited to meet you - I know I would be!!

[dianegatorfan] said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katie Clooney said...

Thank you so much for doing such a great job at depicting what it is like to go to one of these conferences. I'm a new blogger and not ready to take the plunge into a new situation like that. I really appreciate your words and taking the time to tell the rest of us who didn't attend. Loved your cute outfit by the way.

Amanda Cobb said...

This sounds more up my alley than that style-focused one, too. Glad you had fun, and cute dress!

Amy @ Forever 29 said...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure this solidifies my decision that Blissdom is not right for me just yet. Still on the fence about the Type A Parent conference that will be in Atlanta next Sept. Keeping an eye out for any other ATL or nearby conferences.

Amy @ Forever 29 said...

BUT, I love your outfit and glad you got to get a bit of info and blogger meeting.

CHAS said...

Perfect recap. And perfect outfit, too!

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