Whether you’re attending BlogPaws for the first time or, like me, you know you lost opportunities and connections because you were not as organized or prepared as you could have been at past conferences, here are some tips for making the most of your BlogPaws experience.
Pre Conference Preparation
- Do a little spring cleaning on your website. Use the BlogPaws guide for getting your site ready and make sure your site is running properly before heading to the conference. Install analytics, check for broken links (internal and external), consider performing a SWOT analysis and generate a list of the changes you would like to make when you are able.
- Make a media kit and load it to your site. While you certainly can print your media kit to hand out, remember that the brand reps will be just as overwhelmed as you are, and I believe it makes more sense to grab the brand contact’s business card and follow up with an email after the conference with a link to your media page.
If you are a new blogger, do not stress about this. Not only will Bryn, from A Dog Walks into a Bar, and I touch on this during our “Know What You’re Worth in 2017 & How to Make Brands Believe It!” presentation at the BlogPaws conference in May, but until you are sure that you have your site in order, you have decent analytics to report and some brand testimonials, a media kit may not be the best representation of what you have to offer a brand.
- Download my handy Conference Contact Manager spreadsheet to print and bring to the conference.
- Bring business cards. Your website is your online calling card, but since you won’t be able to show your site to every blogger or brand at the conference, your business card needs to serve as a substitute. If you already have cards, make sure you have enough for the conference. If you don’t have cards, get these ordered in advance! Keep it simple and affordable. Pop your logo or a picture of you on the card and make sure all of the pertinent information is included. There are plenty of affordable online options and free business card templates. Consider highlighting something unique about your blog. For example, I run a Healthy Dog, Healthy You challenge series so I mention that on the back of my card.Optional: Consider purchasing a business card folder for the cards you collect. I brought mine home in a Ziploc baggy last year–not remotely professional or organized and, as a result, I missed out on some brand opportunities and lost touch with people I had enjoyed connecting with during the conference. You can purchase a business card organizer notebook for organizing collected business cards or check out this super quick, affordable DIY business card organizer project and customize your own.
- Research sponsors and exhibitors. Review the list of brands attending the conference and do a little research. Bring your notes so you can reference them in preparation for walking through the exhibit hall. Prioritize the brands that are most closely aligned with your blog’s mission and make sure that you have enough time to stop by their booths during the conference. It will be hard to meet with everyone in a meaningful way and, frankly, it’s unlikely that every single brand in attendance is going to be a perfect match for your blog. For example, my blog is a healthy lifestyle dog blog. So, as much as I love cats, I don’t currently have one in the family, and I don’t really write about cats, so I am going to want to focus my time on meeting with the brands that carry products or offer services that are aligned with my blog’s focus.
- Pick up an accordion file that you can bring to the conference. This will really help keep you organized and prepared.
- Complete and schedule a post or two. The conference will be busy and so much non-stop fun! Especially if you are first timer, it will also be overwhelming and you may be hard-pressed to find the time or energy to focus on writing a post. Make sure your blog isn’t neglected while you’re away. Write up a post or two and schedule them to post while you are at BlogPaws.
- Clean your workspace before you head to Myrtle Beach. This may seem silly (or obvious to those of you who are likely much neater than I) but clear the clutter and prep your workspace for your return so you can hit the ground running when you get back. You will be excited and pumped up–and pretty tired–after the conference so set yourself up for success with a clean workspace so you can keep the momentum going.
- Prepare for the swag-fest! Bring an extra empty suitcase and clear a space in advance for all the amazing you will pick up at BlogPaws. I can’t emphasize this enough–you will come back with so much incredible stuff. Like, “bring an extra large empty suitcase” amounts of stuff.
During the Conference
- Use the Conference Contact Manager Spreadsheet. Take a few minutes at the end each day of the conference to enter information on your contact manager so that you don’t miss out on opportunities to connect with fellow attendees or brands after the conference. Be as detailed as possible so when you get home from the conference, you can refresh your memory and start building relationships. If you brought a business card organizer, insert business cards as you get them and put a sticky note with pertinent information that can be loaded into your spreadsheet later in the day or even on the plane ride home. Also, take notes and jot down ideas when they come to you so that you don’t lose a brilliant thought in the excitement of the conference.
- Self Care for You and Your Pet. Stay hydrated, take breaks when you need them, and make sure that if you bring your pet you are paying attention to signs of stress or overwhelm. This kind of situation is not for every pet so be really clear about your pet’s limitations and needs. Also, if you are a first-timer, you may want to attend the conference without your pet or bring a friend or spouse who can retreat to the room with your pet if needed so you don’t miss anything. Remember: You are responsible for your pet.
- Divide and conquer. Speaking of missing things, it is impossible to be in two places at the same time. Unfortunately, this lack of time travel capabilities means that if two presentations you want to attend are happening at the same time, you will have to make some tough choices or, better yet, coordinate with other folks and agree to take notes for one another of the various presentations.
- Breathe and recover! Take a day to breathe and snuggle your pets. Then get ready to follow up like a pro!
- Begin your follow up. Within two days of arriving home, block some time to go through your Contact Manager spreadsheet and notes and prioritize the brands and bloggers you need to connect with first. Complete your first follow-up contacts. Most likely, this will be a well-worded and personalized email, unless it was suggested that you call. Remind the person of your initial contact and mention something specific you talked about. If you promised to send a link to a resource or the contact information for someone, make sure to include that in the email. If you utilized your contact manager spreadsheet and took good notes, you will know exactly what you need to do for each contact.
- Set goals and create accountability. You will leave BlogPaws with so much valuable information and so many ideas that you won’t know where to start. Go through your notes and set some immediate, mid-range and long-term goals for taking your blog to the next level.
One last tip: One of the best steps I took after the conference was establishing a mastermind group with six fellow bloggers. We have been meeting bi-weekly via videoconference since returning from Phoenix last year. As a result, I have had incredible support and necessary accountability in achieving the goals I had set for implementing much of what I learned at BlogPaws. If you are so inclined, find a group of like-minded folks and create a mastermind group to keep up the momentum.
Are you new to BlogPaws? Or are you a veteran with advice to share? Join us in the BlogPaws Community to discuss all things conference, share tips, find roommates, and more! Click on Courses, then select the 2017 Conference Newbies course to dive into the discussion!
Sarcastic Dog is a healthy lifestyle and dog blog that focuses on healthy living for dogs and their humans. The blog focuses on Alison Reder and her three high-energy, life-loving dogs, Zora, Simon & Piper, with an emphasis on outdoor activities, getting healthy with our dogs (ask about our highly successful and engaging Healthy Dog, Healthy You Challenge Series), health and wellness, product & book reviews, and, most importantly, educating and advocating on behalf of bully breeds, animal welfare and rescue.
Alison will speak at the 2017 BlogPaws Conference on working with brands. Her day job is designing beautiful, effective and user-friendly WordPress websites.
Images: Silver Paw Studio, press kit courtesy of the author, swag courtesy of Denise Yoder-Gruzensky/Denise’s Dog Dish