After five IFBcons, a couple of SXSWs and as of last week, my third Lucky FABB, I might be a bit of a conference veteran. If you've ever attended one, you know the feeling of overwhelming exhaustion that can hit you like a tidal wave post-conference. A few days of keeping your a-game up and spirits high while networking, listening to panel after panel, and floating between pre-parties and afterparties can leave you with nothing but the need to sleep for days.
On the other side, you’re at the conference to learn, meet people and most of all, be inspired to pursue new ideas that take your blog to greener pastures. I’ve made the mistake of going to conference without much preparation or expectation in mind, only to be filled with regret and a whole list of things to add to my already full to-do list. With some careful thought into how you approach a conference – before you arrive, during it, and after you leave – you can avoid that sense of regret. You’ll probably even get more out of the conference than you’d ever imagined!
I don’t just mean your outfits, ladies. Set your goals and priorities for the conference as you would for any other project. Check the agenda and highlight the topics or speakers that appeal to you, and then create a schedule from there. Confirm your RSVP to the parties you want to attend. Make a list of people you’d like to meet or catch up with at the conference. When you have a solid plan of what you want to get out of the conference written down, it’s hard not to try and knock off everything you want to accomplish while you’re there.
Be in the moment
This might sound weird, but with the prevalence of smart devices, it's hard to just ‘be in the moment.' Remember that you're at a conference to experience it. I challenge you to stay off of your phone and away from social media to just absorb the sights, sounds and knowledge bombs being shared right in front of you. Don't worry about live tweeting a session either – you can bet the rest of the room is doing that for you.
Blogger and tech conferences are giant games of scavenger hunt, and the grand prize is an outlet in which to plug our devices into. Bring your chargers and fill your batteries up overnight, but definitely invest in a portable battery for your phone or laptop. I have a Boostcase; Mophie, Energizer, Zagg Sparq and Trent are just a few other options for you out there. I also like to bring a good old notebook and pen to take session notes with, and save that precious battery power for tweeting and Instagramming.
Follow up quickly
One of my worst habits at conferences is meeting people, collecting their business card, then not following up. Make a habit of emailing or tweeting the people you meet within the 24 hours after you meet them. It only takes a few seconds, but is so crucial in keeping the connection fresh.
Don’t lose yourself
The grind at conferences can easily have you throwing your normal routine out the window in favor of bad food, too much drinking, no working out and probably not enough sleep. Do your best to bring a little bit of your routine with you on the road, and you’ll feel so much better for it. Find 10-15 minutes to get some quick cardio in. Write in your journal at night. I like to bring my water bottle to make sure I drink enough, and some Amazing Grass superfood powder packets to get my daily greens in!
After a conference, your mind is chock-full of new ideas, connections and tools to explore. What now? Take some time to brainstorm how you can use what you’ve learned from the conference to make your blog that much better. The plans you make after the conference are just as important as the ones you make for it. Use the plane ride home, or set aside time for yourself the day after the conference to jot down your to-do list of things to read and do, and people to follow up with. Add those new blog post ideas and update your editorial calendar.
Don’t let the hustle and bustle of your next conference consume you. Take control and make it a success!
[Image credit: Dustin Fenstermacher]