Planning for a blog conference always seems to inspire a little anxiety, or even panic, in the best of us, especially if it’s our first conference, our first trip away from our kids, or our first professional blogging event. There aren’t just fashion decisions that must be made and then stuffed into the appropriate luggage (carry on or full suitcase?), but what kind of tech should you take and how many business cards do you need (and are they really necessary?). This article will highlight the 5 essential items you should bring to a blog conference to make sure your have a smooth first experience.
1. Phone, charger, portable battery charger.
If you only bring one piece of tech, bring your smartphone. You’ll need it to:
- Use the conference’s app to plan your schedule or find sponsors and friends.
- Easily take notes during sessions without lugging around a laptop (take photos of presenters’ slides; use the Notes app on iPhone).
- Snap photos of business cards when someone is down to her last or you don’t want to carry a wad of cards home (or swap them with apps like LinkedIn’s CardMunch, Evernote’s Business Card Camera, or Google’s Beam).
- Take photos of products or friends and share them to your social media platforms (many contests are tied to social media activity at the conference).
- Change, confirm, or check in for your flight (check in with your browser then take a screenshot of your ticket so you don’t have to worry about a spotty Internet connection when you go to retrieve your electronic ticket in the airport security line).
- Use it as a safety net when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or lonely.
Make sure you remember both your plug in charger and a portable charger. All the social media app activity will drain your phone’s life quickly and you don’t want to be stuck with a dead phone at a crucial moment.
Plenty of people like to bring their laptops or tablets so they can work while they are at the conference. In my experience, lugging around that extra tech slows you down and means you have to worry about it when you are socializing at a cocktail party, navigating a crowded restroom, or trying to balance a swag bag, your purse, and your laptop. I prefer to leave my computer in my hotel room and travel light during the conference.
Do you really need to take business cards with you to the conference? Yes, you do. You will need them to:
- Enter contests (by plunking your business card into a fishbowl the old fashioned way).
- Exchange information with a brand rep.
- Swap with fellow bloggers (for the most part, other bloggers do carry business cards).
Depending on the size and type of conference, 100 cards is a safe number of cards to bring with you. At some conferences, you will exchange a mere 15-20 cards, but at others, you’ll find you go through 50 or more. If you come home with extra cards, you can always use them later, so it’s easier to simply relieve your anxiety and bring more than you think you need.
Conferences are notorious for bad food and not enough of it. You will also be faced with a lot of calorie-dense appetizers and opportunities to have a drink with your fellow bloggers on an empty stomach. Save yourself from starving between meals and make better food choices by bringing healthy snacks to get you through the days. Even if you are naturally a high-energy extrovert, you will find that the constant socializing and networking with your “A” game on can be taxing.
Try low sugar, low glycemic options that will burn evenly throughout the day:
- Nut and fruit bars (Kind Bars and Evolution Harvest Bars are two tasty options)
- Single-serving nut butters
- Trail Mix
To stay awake during sessions, bring gum or mints and your favorite chocolate or candy.
I have known people to even smuggle in their own favorite diet soda. Conferences can be a bit of a marathon, so do what works best for you.
4. Comfortable Shoes
It pays to wear comfortable shoes or at least bring them as a backup in your bag. There might be a lot of walking between expo halls or to sessions held in a large convention center at the conference you attend. Check out the conference layout before you pack. Even if you attend a smaller conference, you will be doing a fair amount of walking during the day and standing at evening cocktail parties or nighttime events.
5. A Pitch.
One of the most common icebreaker questions between bloggers getting to know each other and also asked by brand reps is:
What do you blog about?
Some of us have this down pat, but if you don’t, it will be worth your while to come up with one or two lines about you and your blog. Having a pitch gives you:
- Context for your conversation with a brand rep (“Hi, I’m a craft blogger focused on home decor and DIY. I’d love to learn more about your paint products and how you work with bloggers).
- A way to find other bloggers in your niche for building your tribe.
- A framework for your entire experience (forcing yourself to define what you do will help you focus on why you are attending the conference and refine your session schedules, networking opportunities, and takeaways).
What’s your number one must have item at a blog conference? Share it with us in the comments below.
Up Next In This Series:
- Blog Life: How to Pack for a Blog Conference
- Blog Life: Top Five Blog Conference Tips
- Blog Life: Which Blog Conference is Right for Me?
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