What I Wish I Knew Before my First BlogHer

Last year’s BlogHer conference was the first blogging conference I’d EVER attended. After freaking the frack out for weeks (ahem…months) before the event, it went by in a blur. This year I’ll be going to the conference again – this time in Chicago – and I feel like I’m MUCH more prepared. And maybe even much more excited, if that’s possible.

If you want to catch up on my thoughts before/during/after last year’s conference, check out these posts:

Did I mention that I made out with Zac Efron at last year’s BlogHer?

Freaking out before the conference
On my way
Was it worth it?
My Swag breakdown

I will be meeting up with some bloggy friends at BlogHer this year and have been pretending to be a BlogHer Guru to answer their questions. Since over 5,000 ladies attended last year’s conference, I’m sure that there are other people with questions on what to expect. If you’re anything like me, I scoured the internet for BlogHer tips for WEEKS before the event last year!

So here you go, the Pocketful of Joules list of what I wish I knew before my first BlogHer:

The Learning Part
There are a ton of really cool sessions at BlogHer. I mean, one of the main reasons to go is to LEARN, right?

There are keynote speakers each day (in the morning and at lunch) and my personal opinion is that they are usually AWESOME so you should definitely attend each of those sessions. Since almost everyone comes to the keynote presentations, it is a good idea to show up a little early so you can grab your food and get a good seat before the room fills.

The breakout sessions are organized by tracks, such as Marketing & Monetization, Tools & Technology, Interest & Identity and more. If you’d like, you can stick with one track… or you can switch it up and pick a little from each offering. Since there are so many sessions offered, I usually like to write down my choices before I go and include an alternate in case the room is overcrowded.

Take a notebook and scribble down lots of notes. Your first time attending (and probably your second time, I’ll let you know) will be incredibly overwhelming so it’s nice to be able to revisit your thoughts/session tips weeks and months after the conference. Even if they didn’t spark anything at the time, a few months later that information might be exactly what you need to hear!

Bad Networking: I didn’t even get this blogger’s name. I was being a pretty princess though, so that’s obviously very important.

The Networking Part
Did I mention that there were over 5,000 ladies at last year’s conference? Yeah, I’ve got no shame in my game to admit that I was a little intimidated. Okay, a lot intimidated. The kind of intimidated where you want to hide in your hotel room and only come out for a session and then return back into your secure little space.

So what helped me feel less scared? Well, first, reach out to your fellow bloggers BEFORE the conference. If you read other blogs and someone mentions that they’re going, leave them a comment that you’ll be there too and would love to meet up. Go on twitter and checkout the #blogher13 hashtag to see what your twitter friends are saying about the conference.

On the first day of the conference there is a BlogHer Newbie Breakfast. GO! I know its butt-early in the morning and you’d rather sleep in a little extra and grab a coffee on the way… go anyway. Everyone in that room will be new like you. Which means it a little easier to introduce yourself, right?

Also very important: if you find someone you like GET THEIR BLOG BUSINESS CARD! Scribble a little note on the back of it to remind you who they are and what you talked about. That way, when you get home you can start following their blog and maybe you’ll become best bloggy buddies!

The Expo Hall & Swag
Last year there were a few different Expo Halls with trade show tables set up with tons of different companies. Once again, it can be a bit overwhelming when you walk in and there are dozens of ladies crowded around each table.

This is the swag I brought home last year… AFTER I gave back what I didn’t want. Holy Swag Batman!

If I remember correctly, you get a map of vendors in your conference packet. This makes it easy to determine who you MUST visit. I also find it helpful to do a big loop of each room to see what’s there before deciding who to approach. Many companies are giving away free items and coupons. Other times you’ll see a representative that is looking to make blogger connections. Decide what you want out of the experience before jumping in.

If you like free stuff, you can literally FILL your bags with an absolute TON of stuff. However, before shoving three bottles of cleaning solution in your tote think about whether you actually want to deal with lugging it home. Before picking up your sixth cheepo t-shirt with a huge logo on the front… decide if you’d ever actually WEAR it before adding it to your collection. One really cool thing that I took advantage of last year was the BlogHer room where you can trade stuff – you drop off what you don’t want and take what you do want. So if you find yourself in a swag frenzy, you can offload a bit of it before going home.

Packing Tips
Okay there are full posts on what clothing to pack and what shoes to wear, because when you get a bunch of ladies together we like to dress up all pretty. Here’s the dirty secret though, you can really wear whatever you want. It’s true – sure there were some fashion bloggers dressed like they just stomped off a runway, but there were also plenty of people in shorts.

I wore a mix of everything last year, from a cute maxi dress to a pair of jean shorts. However, I felt most comfortable when I was a teensy bit dressed up. This year I will be bringing a couple dresses for the sessions (with a sweater because conference rooms tend to be kinda chilly) because I FEEL like I look better in dresses. Also, people tend to take a crap-ton of pictures and if I’m going to be photo-bombing a stranger and end up on their blog… I want to look cute, darn it!

For the evenings, it depends on your plans. If you plan to do a bunch of exploring, pack shorts and comfy walking shoes. If you’re going to a sponsor party, something business casual would probably be a good idea. If you plan to shake your tail feather at any of the dancing/drinking parties, add some sparkle or something ridiculous… like a tutu. Or jeans are fine too; if that is what you are most comfortable wearing.

biz cards
Love my updated business cards!

Another MUST HAVE to pack is some blog business cards. You’re going to be making a lot of contacts and EVERYONE will ask you for your card. You can make them super cheap online or even take advantage of this amazing deal from Moo for 100 free mini cards. I did!

Don’t Worry, They Feed You
One of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten is whether any food is provided at the conference. What can I say; my bloggy friends and I get along really well and will definitely not go hungry.

Breakfast is provided each day of the conference. On the first day you can choose to attend the regular breakfast or the newbie breakfast. Last year there was a huge buffet with typical breakfast food: scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, bagels, etc. And yes, there is coffee. The second day has a keynote presentation interview with Sheryl Sandberg (the author of Lean In) during breakfast. So there will most likely be another buffet for you to load up on before settling down for the talk.

On both Thursday and Friday there are scheduled lunch events with keynote speakers. So before entering the room for the presentation, there will be huge buffet stations with lots of lunch options. Last year there was salads, sandwiches, a bunch of sides and cute little desserts. They also make sure you are caffeinated with soda available for everyone. I’m sure there was water too, but when I’m sitting in presentations all day I need something with a little more kick to keep me going.

Other Food
I honestly can’t remember if there were snacks offered between sessions, but I assume that there was probably something. Conference organizers like to feed you and keep your energy up! Some of the evening parties also have appetizer-type food, but you are on your own for your actual dinner. Believe me, you will WANT to get dinner on your own so that you can have something other than conference food when visiting Chicago.

So there you go, everything I wish I would have known last summer before I dived into BlogHer for the very first time. I feel a bit more prepared this year and am going to force myself to actually go to some of the evening parties to shake my groove thing. I’ve also been invited to special VIP party sponsored by Hasbro, so I’m pretty excited about that!

How about you – are you going to BlogHer this year? Are you jealous of my Zac Efron smooch? Is there a question/concern you have that I haven’t answered?

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10 thoughts on “What I Wish I Knew Before my First BlogHer”

  1. Thanks so much for this post & links to your posts from last year! I am a newbie and just decided to sign up yesterday, and wasn’t sure what the heck to expect. I know it will be fun & probably a little overwhelming with all the people & sessions, but I am super excited to learn & network. Your insight definitely helps alleviate some of my anxieties. Now, off to make those business cards…great idea (duh). 🙂

  2. Your suggestions are GREAT! All recorded in my brain. I will be attending this year, as a newbie, and hope to meet you. Your a favorite blogger after all. Yippie!

  3. You should also include in your packing tips that it is not cool to accidentally only pack one tee shirt that says the name of the city you are in on it. Because I did not feel cool walking around NYC wearing a shirt with “NEW YORK!” emblazoned all over it and you probably were not pleased to be seen with me and I do not blame you for that.

    1. Oh gosh, I totally forgot about that! Now I feel like I MUST bring my Chicago shirt to wear in Chicago…

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