Blog World Expo (aff) is approaching and I’m getting really excited about heading to Vegas for the third year running to do some teaching, meet some amazing bloggers, and learn from some of the best in the business.
Last week, while on a Ustream Live Chat, I was bombarded with questions by first-time BWE attendees who wanted to know how to get the most out of the conference. I thought it might be helpful to jot down a few tips for the first-time BWE attendees among us.
1. Create a Twitter list of people going to BWE
I did this earlier in the year for SXSW and it was very helpful. Simply identify people in your current network—and out of it—who are going to BWE, and compile them into a Twitter list (it need not be public).
The benefit of doing this is two-fold:
- You’ll be able to get to know people who will be attending before you get there. Perhaps this is just something that appeals to me as a shy guy, but having some sort of connection with people before you rock up does make the real-life interactions you’ll have a lot easier.
- You’ll be able to find people a little more easily once you’re there. There are times where BWE can be a little overwhelming: hundreds of faces, and no idea where to go or what to do. Being able to dip into your Twitter list at these moments can help you get a sense of where your people are and what they’re doing.
Your Twitter list is also handy after the event, to keep in touch with those you meet. If you do this, make sure you add @problogger which is the ID I’ll be tweeting under at BWE this year.
2. Follow the #bwe10 hashtag
This has similar benefits to the point above. Dipping into this tweet stream gives you a snapshot of what’s going on at any moment of BWE, but in the lead-up, it also gives you a sense of who else is going—perhaps you’ll want to get to know them before you get there.
3. Take your business cards
It might seem a little strange that people going to a conference that’s focused on virtual relationships would still use business cards, but they do.
You need not spend a fortune on business cards. Even a simple business card with your contact details gives you something to hand to those you meet. If it leads to just one fruitful relationship at the conference, the expense of having them printed could easily be covered.
If you’re feeling creative, try a card that’s a little different. As I look back on the last few conferences I’ve been to, it’s often those with creative cards that stand out to me. I’m not sure whether it’s just me, but a card that makes me look twice usually helps to cement an interaction in my mind.
Having said that, one of the cards I remember from last year was a photocopied card with a guy’s story and photo on it. It was very low-budget and basic, but the story made me laugh and got my attention.
Oh, and try to include Twitter (or other relevant social media) handles on your card. Also get in the habit of following people as soon as you can after meeting them. I generally go through cards at the end of the night and do a mass follow of those I meet to reinforce the relationships.
4. Consider why you’re attending
Blog World is many things for many different people. Some attend to network, some to learn, some to build their profile, some to be seen, some to show off a product…
Think about why you’re attending before you get there. What are your goals for the event?
Time flies at BWE, so knowing what your goals are will shape the way you use your time. Not being clear on your goals could mean that you go home having achieved little.
Your goals will lead you to attend certain teaching sessions. They could help you to identify which people you want to meet, and what meetups and events you’ll want to hang out at.
If you goal is to go to BWE to learn something, come up with a list of things you want to discover before you go. I did this two years back, and it helped me to find sessions that were relevant to me, and gave me good questions to ask in those sessions. It also helped me in conversations to learn from others there.
5. Think about how you’ll introduce yourself
This one comes from the “shy guy” tip archive. Something that has always helped me at these kinds of events is to do a little thinking about how I’ll introduce myself. How will I take that opportunity that often comes at the start of a conversation when people ask what I do?
Some might call it an elevator pitch, but having a sense of what you want to communicate to people before you even get to BWE can be helpful. As a blogger, it may be that you want to get word out about your blog, for instance. Having a sentence or two that explains what your blog is, and what problem it solves, could be useful.
6. Organize your first meetup
This is another shy-guy technique that I’ve used a lot over the years. The anxiety of showing up at an event like this and not knowing anyone can really get to some people. What I learned is that if I tee up a couple of face-to-face catch-ups early in the conference, I more quickly find myself getting involved in the event.
So take your research into who else is attending, and attempt to hook up for a quick coffee with someone that you want to meet on the first day. You might even come clean with them and tell them that you don’t know anyone and would love to meet them.
If there’s a group of people in a niche that know each other online, but have never met, you might try to organize a group meetup on the first morning. In doing so you could just become the “go-to” person in the group.
I find that if I get organized like this before I go, I’m much more likely to find people to hang out with for the rest of the conference.
7. Choose some sessions to attend
I hate to admit this, but last year at BWE I found it very hard to get to sessions because I was rushed off my feet speaking and meeting with people. However the year before I got a lot more out of the teaching, because I put some time aside to organize the session side of things before I went. The BWE scheduler lets you create a personal schedule pretty quickly. Use it.
Keep in mind that some sessions are quite heavily focused on the beginner. So you might want to try to assess the level of each session before you go, and consider going to sessions on topics that you know nothing about. Sometimes it’s the off-topic sessions that are the most interesting.
Don’t forget that this year I’m running a full day of ProBlogger training (with Chris Garrett) on the Thursday of BWE. If you’re coming please do mark it on your schedule to let us know you’ll be there.
8. Decide how to capture it
Two years ago I left home for BWE with a very heavy bag of gear: a DSLR, extra lens, flash, backup compact digital camera, iPhone, video camera, laptop, notebook (plus all the chargers for all the devices)… I had dreams of taking loads of photos and video that I could use on my blog when I got home.
I could also barely walk.
The reality was that I used little of the gear.
I can’t tell you what to bring, but would suggest that you try to pack light and think carefully about what you need. It’ll depend a little on your goals and workflow, but you’ll probably need something to write with, something to take pictures with, and, if you use video, something basic to record that.
BWE is a great place to create content. There are so many people from so many niches that it’s great to do interviews with people and tweet or blog live. But if you’re like me, you may find that you don’t use half of the gear you bring.
9. Preschedule your blog with content
The great thing about Blog World is that while you’re there you’re going to be connecting with a lot of other bloggers. You’ll talk about your blog and people will want to check it out.
I know one blogger last year who told me that they got their biggest days of traffic while at BWE because those attending would visit it and were linking up to it.
As a result, it’s an opportune time to have some good, fresh content up on your blog. So don’t just let your blog sit dormant while you’re at BWE—try to have a few posts scheduled to publish.
Also try to stay active on Twitter while you’re there. Lots of BWE attendees tweet during the event and it’s a great way to reinforce your relationships with people.
10. Dress for comfort
I often get asked, “What should I wear to BWE?” I remember asking it myself—and stressing about it quite a bit, too. On reflection, I don’t really remember what anyone was wearing. My only real impression was that it was pretty relaxed.
As I look back on some of the photos I took, I see there was a wide range of levels of dress. A few people dressed up, but most people were pretty casual.
I’d probably suggest throwing in something a little smarter for the evening parties, but unless you’re speaking or have a booth you can probably get away with jeans and a T-shirt or a simple shirt. I tend to stick with jeans and a button-up shirt and have never felt out of place.
11. Create a list of action items
One of the problems with attending conferences is that you can learn some amazing things in both sessions and conversation, but then go home and do nothing. It can be a lot of fun and very informing, but unless it impacts what you do, it’s kind of empty.
As a result I recommend that you take some time out each day (or at numerous times during the day) to create a list of action items that you’re going to work through when you get home.
Last year, I created this list on my iPhone, and three or four times per day would jot down points that really hit me as I listened to other people—ideas that I wanted to put in place for myself.
Items included the people I wanted to follow up on, posts I wanted to write, tweaks to my designs, topics I wanted to learn more about, and so on.
At the end of the conference I went through the list, prioritized it, and got the tasks done.
12. Be present
A challenge that many people find at social media events is to actually be present at them. We spend all this time and money getting to the events, but then spend a lot of our time on Twitter, creating videos, live blogging… In the end, we don’t really stop and just be an attendee.
As a result, we can miss a lot of the good stuff that’s said in sessions. We can also be so distracted that our conversations don’t go to the depth that they could, so we don’t make the connections with those around us that we should.
13. Mix big groups, small groups, one-on-one, and me time
Mix up the type of interactions you have at Blog World.
At BWE, there are some great bigger gatherings. The keynote sessions and parties can be quite inspiring, although some do find them overwhelming, as you realize that you’re a part of a movement that’s bigger than yourself—something I find it’s good to be reminded of as a guy who spends most of his time alone typing on his computer!
However, if you only spend time in the big groups at BWE, you could be missing out on the opportunities to connect a little deeper in smaller group interactions.
Earlier in the year I had one fantastic afternoon and evening where I had almost the perfect mix of interactions:
- it all started with a nap in my room (as an introvert, I need my cave time).
- Then I caught up with a group of ten bloggers in someone’s house for a few drinks and some relaxed chatting about life, blogging, and the niches we were in.
- Dinner was with a group of about 25 people—it was more of a networking opportunity.
- After dinner we attended one of the big big parties that happens at SXSW. I met loads of people but didn’t really get too deep with anyone.
I got home that night and felt it’d be a great combination of activities—there were lots of opportunities for deeper conversations and relationship building, and while the party wasn’t overly relational, it was good to get around and meet lots of people. I was even able to catch up with some of them again the next day.
I know some people prefer to only do the small group thing, while others are more drawn to the big events, but I find a combination of both (with some me time to keep me sane) helps me achieve the most.
Also keep in mind that while the sessions at BWE can be great, a lot of the networking happens in the corridors between sessions, on the Expo Floor, in the Blogger room, and in the evenings at parties.
14. Get out of your comfort zone
Let me finish with one last piece of advice: make the most of the few days you have at BWE and get a little out of your comfort zone.
BWE is an awesome opportunity on many fronts. Where else in the world are you sharing an experience with thousands of online publishers and influencers?
The potential that relationships and learnings from BWE can open up for you is quite massive, so whether you’re a natural conference goer or not, resolve to make the most of the time you have there, and get out and meet as many people as you can.
I’ve always found people to be very approachable at BWE. Speakers aren’t whisked away at the end of sessions, and most don’t mind being stopped in the hall to chat. Even better than that, some of the most interesting people are probably sitting next to you in sessions.
They might not all have big names or be Internet celebrities, but among your fellow attendees are some amazing people who you could learn a lot from, and who you may end up having a fruitful relationships and friendship with.
So push yourself a little this BWE to meet some people who you might not meet unless you bite the bullet and say hi to somebody new!
15. Take tips from fellow BWE attendees
Lets finish with some tips from your fellow attendees—some people you might want to put on your BWE twitter list. I asked on Twitter a few days back what tips my followers would give for BWE and here are some of the responses:
Don’t try and meet everyone. Find the people you connect with and get to know them well!—@CatherineCaine
Ooh, and plan beforehand on how you’re going to use the info and business cards you get!—@CatherineCaine
Based on ur objectives, create a plan of action for the 3 days like which sessions/events to attend & who to meet—@rabeidoh
Have an idea of what you want to do ahead of time but mostly, have fun & don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to new people—@LaraKulpa
stay out of conference room. mingle in the streets. seek out the conversation destinations. that’s where the real talk happens—@SimplyOptimal
if waffling between going to a panel or connecting 1:1 with someone, go for the personal connection. Better long term—@ahockley
my tip for #bwe10 is to make your own crowd—@tedmurphy
Have specific objectives b4 you arrive. Network, network, network. Follow up with a personal note when you return home—@altmarketing
carry your phone charger with you AT ALL TIMES! (If you can, an extra charger) It’s good for you & you’ll make new friends.—@Ribeezie
I’m really looking forward to Blog World Expo this year and hope to catch up with you there. If you’re still not booked in, grab your ticket today. If you’re coming, please do drop by one of my sessions and/or the ProBlogger booth on the exhibitor floor, where I’ll be spending more time this year!