What Do You Bring to a Blog Conference?

Filed as Editorial, Features on March 21, 2008 11:21 am

I’m getting ready to speak at three conferences in a row about blogging and WordPress, and something Rachelle Chase said at a conference we spoke at recently keeps popping up in my head. She spoke about techniques for making yourself memorable that she uses when she meets people who can help her with her business and blog.

Rachelle Chase JewelryShe contracted with a local artist to create autographed unique artwork in the form of a necklace and travel mirror. Decorated with text from her books and quotes about her books and blog, she sells them on her blog, but also gives them away to journalists and interview subjects as “reminders” of who she is and what she does. They are unusual and memorable, and say a lot about her, her work, and her blog.

I’ve attended a lot of conferences over the years and the most memorable fellow attendees have been those that I connected with in an immediately, almost soul-mate level of commonality, and those with cool goodies they handed out to people they meet.

I don’t remember the pretty business cards, stickers, pens, notepads, or other office paraphernalia passed around by the non-sponsors. I do remember the first CD and DVD handed to me by a website owner with slick videos and screenshots of his site and products, but I don’t remember the 40 or 50 that followed.

A blogger who wanted to connect with the child in all of us had Pez dispenser toys imprinted with his blog name to give away. One clever fellow gave away packages of gum printed with his site logo, but the memorable thing was listening to all the gum popping and smacking from the audience during the speakers’ presentations. Can’t say I remember the blogger, though.

I will remember chiropractor and blogger David Klein of Body ABCs from last year’s WordCamp in San Francisco. He hired cartoonist, Orie Roberts of La Jolla, California, to create caricatures of attendees, including me. That was novel.

I have a small collection of interesting bracelets (hand-tied for men and women), hats, scarves, handkerchiefs, flashlights, can openers, pocket knives, penlights, bookmarks, and extension cords from so many events over the years. Do I remember who handed these out?

No.

But I remember the company name if not the individual, which is the point of such items. Branding. Brand visibility. But blogging is personal, and I don’t remember the people behind the gadget.

It isn’t the things that make people memorable at these conferences. It’s the people that make themselves memorable.

Instead of just bringing stuff to the conference, though stuff is always welcome, why not bring yourself? Your real self. The one we want to know. Not the sales person or pitch. But the person behind the blog.

Truthfully, the most memorable moments of these events comes from the meeting of the minds with attendees and fellow speakers.

Sometimes, these memorable meetings just happen. While leaving a huge conference after all had gone home, I heard a noise above me in the empty lobby. I looked up the escalator to find one of the “famous speakers” coming down the moving staircase. As she descended, looking more exhausted than me and not eager to confront another fan, she was shocked when I fell the floor in the worship position, shouting, “Oh, hail, great one!” She couldn’t stop laughing, and we’ve been friends ever since.

Another woman and I were stuck in the line for the bathroom, with only two stalls for 250 women at the conference. The men had four stalls and two urinals. How do I know? Sick of waiting in the long line, we led the charge to take over the men’s room. That shared act of courage kept us talking long into the night, and twenty years later, we still keep in touch.

You never know where that moment for connection will come. I met my husband at a conference I produced. One man in the crowd who changed my life.

Connecting with those you’ve known for a long time online is even more fun. Liz Strauss of Successful Blog and I met online as mutual fans, ending up on Skype and the phone at all hours of the day and night, talking blogging and business. Meeting her in person, I felt like I’d found a lost sister. Working with her on Successful and Outstanding Bloggers Conference is a dream partnership as we tend to read each other’s minds and push and pull each other through our shared weaknesses and strengths.

How do you make a positive and memorable impression with everyone you meet at a blog conference?

I recommend that when you attend a blog conference, you bring yourself, the real you, and a lot of business cards. Then bring:

  • A smile.
  • A hug or good handshake.
  • An eager ear to listen and learn.
  • A collection of questions you’re eager to have answered.
  • A quick summary of your blog’s content, subject, and purpose.
  • Familiarity with the expertise of the speakers.
  • Familiarity with other attendees and their blogs and expertise.
  • A basic list of your top five blog goals, just in case someone asks what you want to do with your blog.
  • Laughter and an open mind for a reason to create a laughter moment.
  • Confidence.
  • A sincere thank you.

As the old adage goes, in order to get friends you have to be a friend first.

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  1. By Jeffro2pt0 posted on March 21, 2008 at 3:55 pm
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    Thanks for writing this up Lorelle. This WordCamp will be my first conference I’ve ever attended so this information coming from someone with a ton of experience more than me should benefit me immensely.

    Reply

  2. By Jacob Santos posted on March 21, 2008 at 4:51 pm
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    Well, it will be my first conference also, as well as my first experience speaking in front of over a hundred people. Please forgive me if I feel a little bit faint. However, I look forward to meaning everyone that goes and meeting a few people that have impressed me with their involvement in the WordPress community.

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  3. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on March 21, 2008 at 11:31 pm
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    @Jacob Santos:

    Don’t worry about being nervous. It’s just a bunch of WordPress nuts. :D

    We’re going to have a great time. WordPress folks make friends fast, so it will be just like talking to your friends and family.

    Reply

  4. By Todd Jordan posted on March 22, 2008 at 9:59 pm
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    Lorelle,
    I really enjoyed this share. It makes me feel much better about not having things to bring to the conference but myself and the laptop. :)
    SOBCon08 will be my first blogging conference, and making the best of it is my #1 goal.

    Relationships is one of the prize takeaways I desire. Those will stand me in stead much longer the blogging itself I hope.

    Can’t wait to meet you personally, but I’m looking forward to the other bloggers I’ll meet as well.

    Cheers, and see you in May.

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  5. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on March 23, 2008 at 4:54 pm
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    @Todd Jordan:

    I’m so looking forward to SOBCon. It’s my favorite event of the year. I think mostly because the audience makes the program. Usually it is the speakers, but with SOBCon, it is definitely the attendees that bring the magic.

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  6. By CJ posted on April 28, 2008 at 10:36 pm
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    When you attend one of these do the go over any additional security measures you can take to keep your blog from being hacked…I had some bad luck with my wordpress 2.5. I had someone who injected frame code into all php and html files in the root folder.

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  7. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on April 29, 2008 at 8:44 am
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    @CJ:

    Security issues are a hot topic lately everywhere, as I recently posted on my my blog. Sorry about your incident. Unfortunately, while some of these attacks maybe WordPress specific (upgrade!), there are often other ways attackers are getting in, which makes it frustrating for everyone, because anyone is at risk, not just the “popular” bloggers.

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