In fewer than two weeks, pet bloggers will convene in Myrtle Beach for BlogPaws 2017! Yipes, did time fly or what?! Take a deep breath because you still have time to make connections and make plans to meet those with whom you’ve connected once you arrive on site. Believe me, it’s not easy to make connections when you’re on site at a conference if you haven’t made specific plans beforehand.
When you’ve made the decision to invest in yourself and in your business, you want to make certain you get a return on investment (ROI). In this three-part series we explore:
- Planning BEFORE you get to the conference
- Maximizing your time DURING the conference (with a touch more pre-planning tossed in)
- Following up and following through AFTER the conference is over
You’ve arrived! Now what?! Sure, you can hang out in the bar or coffee shop and talk with other attendees. You can go off site and do some sightseeing and explore a new locale. Will either of those activities help you get ROI on the money you spent for travel, conference fees and hotel room costs? Not likely.
There is nothing wrong with hanging out in the lobby or the bar with friends – after all, a conference is a chance to connect and re-connect BUT if you go home and think, “Wow, I didn’t make a single business connection… that conference was a waste of money!” You need to take a good, long look at your activities while you were on site.
It’s easy to get swept up in the fun and excitement of being away from home and feeling like you’re on vacation, but remember if you are at a conference to help build your business, you need to work it, baby!Kathleen Gage, 2017 Keynote, at the 2016 BlogPaws Conference
What To Do During A Conference To Get A Return On Investment
Ride the social media wave
If the conference you’re attending is using a hashtag to promote its onsite activities, make sure you’re using the hashtag in all of your tweets, blog posts and other social media updates.
What are your goals and objectives for attending BlogPaws 2017? If it’s to connect with brands, find new blogging opportunities or sell your product, use your social media updates and blog posts to share those objectives. For example: The #BlogPaws Conference is amazing. I met Jane Doe from Brand XYZ. Can’t wait to build that relationship! (Make sure you @ the brand, and the person you met and use the conference hashtag on Twitter.) Or: Talked with Jane Doe at #BlogPaws about marketing, so happy we connected! (Again, @ the person you spoke with.)
Like and follow the conference speakers
Look at the agenda and speaker lineup for the conference and reach out and connect with them before you get on site. I have had a huge professional “crush” on Chris Brogan for… well… ever. The first time I attended Social Media Marketing World, I connected with him on social, used the hashtag and was able to actually meet him at the conference and have a conversation with him. My conference ROI was realized!
Build a conference Twitter List as a way to assure you’re keeping up with what the speakers and conference attendees with whom you have connected are doing pre-conference and onsite.
There is nothing so wonderful as live blogging to share with the world where you are, what you’re doing and what you’re learning. While you’re live blogging, you should be live Tweeting and sharing on other social (don’t forget the hashtag!). Leave room on your editorial calendar to accommodate the blog posts you’re writing onsite.
When it comes to live blogging, you can do it while you’re sitting in the actual session, or you can write your notes and then write the blog later that day. Live blogging offers you the potential to get more eyes on your website and post. Imagine that you’re live blogging, sharing the post with the conference hashtag and tagging the conference speaker and you are providing a valuable service to those who might not have been able to attend that session.
Live blogging also lets people know you are representing your business at a conference and that amps up your blogging and business authenticity.
Keynotes are key
Sit in the front row so you can capture great photos of the keynotes. Grab your notebook and take copious notes of the information the keynote speaker is sharing. Break down the points of the presentation and share it while you’re live blogging.
If you have the email address of the speaker, send him or her a link to your post once it’s live. They may want to share it with their followers, and that could get you in front of an entirely new audience.
Plan a blogging interview series
If you don’t have time to connect with everyone onsite, make sure you schedule a time to interview individuals you met at the conference. Understand that brands, speakers and other bloggers with whom you want to connect are busy and have their own conference agendas. They will understand, and likely be flattered though, that you want to connect and interview them following the conference.
NOTE: I do urge you to ask them to take a photo with you so you have that when you go home. You can also take a photo of them in their booth or elsewhere at the conference site. If you’re more of a vlogger, ask them for two minutes to do a brief one-question interview onsite then delve into a longer interview once the conference is over. Have your camera ready, grab that two minute (or even one minute if they’re swamped) sound bite that you can embed on your site along with the full interview.
Make your education key
Know your “Why” before you attend any conference. If you haven’t spent time prior to the conference planning for it, you will likely miss out on key learning experience and ways to grow your expertise.
- What do you want to learn?
- From whom do you want to learn it?
- WHY do you want to learn it?
- What will you do with the knowledge you’re gaining?
- In what way will you utilize the knowledge? (Growing an email list, learning how to take better photos, making more money?)
If you want to be a speaker at some point, make note of how the speakers make their presentation. What kind of A/V do they use? Are there handouts? Are they presenting information in a way you would? How would you do it differently? All of this introspection can help you craft a speaker’s presentation if that’s something in your business plan.
NOTE: Check the BlogPaws 2017 schedule here and make your plan so you get the most of the speaker sessions.
Make new friends
When you’re in a session, or when you’re sitting in the lobby, don’t bury your head in your phone. Make eye contact. Strike up a conversation, “Wow, I can’t wait to hear what Kathleen Gage is going to talk about in her keynote…” or “This session sounds great, what are you hoping to learn?” or “Hi, I’m Robbi…” Break the ice. Start a conversation. You never know who you might meet.
Know yourself and your limits
As an ambivert, I will be so much more talkative in the morning and early afternoon than I will be as the afternoon wears on. By early evening – we’re talking 6 pm – I will want to crawl into my shell and recharge my emotional batteries. I will be drained, but I will still make eye contact and reach out to strangers. It’s more likely – at the end of the day – that I will say, “I’d love to connect. Can we set up a time to talk tomorrow morning or afternoon?”
Just because I am wiped out doesn’t mean I will miss an opportunity to connect, but I prefer to do it when I am at my best. I can handle being around throngs of people for a while because I know I will soon be back in my home office with no one to interact with other than the cats, dogs and lizards.
Curate great conference content
Just as you may be live blogging, so too may other conference attendees. Look for the conference hashtag and share the content of others on your social media.
SPEAKER ROI TIP: Get people buzzing about you
If you’re a speaker, you should take the time to connect with conference attendees. If there is a group set up for attendees to get to know one another prior to the conference jump in and say, “Hey, I’ll be speaking on XYZ at the conference. What’s your biggest challenge in that arena?” If you learn what people want to hear when you speak, you can better meet their needs, right?
Promote yourself on your social. “Hey, I’ll be speaking at XYZ Conference!” Use the conference hashtag and connect with the conference itself. When you’re promoting yourself and your speaking engagement and the conference you are making the conference organizers very happy!
What is your WHY for BlogPaws 2017? What will you do to make it happen?
Robbi Hess is an award-winning author, full-time writer, newspaper columnist, writing coach and time-management guru. She works with bloggers and solopreneurs and blogs at All Words Matter. I will be speaking at BlogPaws 2017 as part of the Cat Writers’ Association. My topic is: “Overworked & Overwhelmed? The Four-Step Process for Reinventing Your Writing” Synopsis: Whether you’re writing full time, blogging, in the midst of a multi-book project or just starting out, this session will help you lose the feeling of being overworked and overwhelmed. You’ll learn a four-step process to beat procrastination, use time blocking to help you get more done, claim your writing time and bump up your creativity and some in-the-trenches writing tips, hacks and advice. There will be giveaways, handouts and time for questions! Hope to see you there!