This guest post is by Ceri Usmar of Enduracom.
I know what you’re thinking… Who has time for a conference? You do!
You can and should carve out the time for some professional development, and conferences are a great opportunity to combine work and play.
I headed off to the SheCon Expo new media conference in Disneyworld, Orlando, with my business partner, Susan, this past Memorial Day weekend. We went fully prepared to combine business and a break, and from our mindsets to our wardrobes, we were ready for anything!
In its second year, SheCon is still a relatively small conference (compared with, say, the fall BlogHer conference in New York), but regardless of the size of a conference, the reasons for going don’t change.
Here are my five favorite reasons you should put a conference on your blogging calendar.
I start with fun because my credo is, “If it’s not fun I’m not doing it.” Susan is the embodiment of fun. She had some cute, cool, crazy ideas for SheCon that really upped the ante for an enjoyable time.
We matched our nail color to the corporate blue of our “transparent” business cards, which added panache to passing them out (even guys noticed) and worked as a conversation catalyst. We had shirts made that got people talking to us about who-we-are-what-we-do, and we made movies of literally everything. It’s always fun meeting people and even funner making movies with them, and posting them to boost their brands (and ours!)
Aside from our own endeavors, conference sponsors and attendees almost always build fun events into their schedules. We made the most of sponsored events like the party meet up thrown by Wine Sisterhood (who wouldn’t go to something sponsored by a wine company?) and gifting suites with massages and makeovers (what’s not to love about that?).
Exhibitors at conferences also show up with gadgets and gimmicks to go viral: they film you, photograph you, and record you interacting with their brand, and you can post all that online. They create buzz around their booths, and run contests and sweepstakes with cool prizes in exchange for your tweets and blogs—flat-out fun in my book!
2. Free stuff
I have to put in a disclaimer here: not all conferences give great freebies, and not all conferences give any at all. Blogging conferences tend to because brands want to tap into your influence—but it should go without saying that you are not obligated to blog about everything you get (and neither should you.)
Select the items that fit your audience and brand, and keep the rest as gifts or treats. At SheCon, mom bloggers were enamored of the kid stuff: Elmo toys, Cuddleuppets (my daughter’s fave), Justin Bieber Guitar Hero. Swag bags with tech toys and toiletries caught my fancy.
Expo exhibitors threw in their promos too: “green” shopping bags, high end hair care products, food and beverages—yummo! The cool thing about free stuff is that if it’s a fit for your blog or following, it’s also fuel for fresh and effortless content.
3. Finding friends and followers
If you’re looking for a targeted affiliate, a consultant, a strategic partner, or a few like-minded bloggers, you can find them at a conference. Introverted? You might have to dig deep or even fake it till you get comfortable networking (or you could always go to the wine-sponsored event, and courteously taste their wares until you’re loosened up enough to get it done!).
Aside from connecting at the water cooler or conversing over lunch, Twitter parties and other virtual meet-ups are all the rage at conferences now, and you can fortify your following right on the spot.
4. Footsteps to follow
There’s nowhere better than a conference to learn live from the pros. Any session—even those that don’t look useful to you—has merit, so don’t judge a session by its title: nine times out of ten I can take away a tidbit that tweaks what I’m doing for the better even from an apparently dud session.
Following in the footsteps of the experts in your field gives you a leg-up so you can stand on the shoulders of the giants, short-circuit your learning curve, and streamline your path to (greater) success.
5. Financial gain
Let’s be honest, attending a blogging conference is ultimately about making money, and I have never attended a one that does not have at least one session devoted to monetizing your blog.
Be sure to make up your mind beforehand to focus on free stuff, fun, and friends that will bolster your bottom line: keeping this in mind will keep the quality and balance in your conference activities and ensure that you can build your business through the contacts you make and the information you take from the event.
Of course, there are more than five reasons to carve out a few days for a conference. I double-dare you to go on and Google blogging conferences that might be up your alley. And then go to one.
If you’ve been to a conference, share what you got out of it in the comments.
Ceri Usmar is from Enduracom and Maximizeyourvisibility.com. Enduracom maximizes your visibility by maintaining, updating, and optimizing your online presence. Our social media and writing pros generate content, articles, and blogs to take your social engagement to the next level.