CatsHolidays

Packing It All In: Blog Conference Tips

Blogger conference tips

Blog conference tips by Layla Morgan Wilde.

Blogger conference tips

With digital devices, bloggers can and do work from everywhere these days; from a bedroom in Chicago, a subway in New York, a beach in Miami or a cafe in L.A.. Bloggers hide behind a screen most days and it’s easy to forget our fellow bloggers and online pals are real. A conference like BlogPaws offers an opportunity to meet many of your friends and others you’d like to meet all under one roof. It’s like a family reunion, working holiday and adventure all rolled into one. It’s exciting, fun and informative but can be exhausting and daunting if you’re not prepared. These are my tips gleaned from years of attending a variety of conferences. More than one of these tips may save your bacon if not your life.

1)  It’s an equal playing field

Whether you’re a first-timer, a veteran, a blogging star or newbie, you all have something in common: a love of pets and a love of sharing your passion online. Everyone has something to learn and something of value to share. No blogger is an island. It can be overwhelming or intimidating to be with hundreds of fellow bloggers but guess what, we’re all part of the same tribe or family. Many of us are shy about meeting new people and if that’s you, focus on the other person and the pets. Animals are the world’s best icebreakers and one of the reasons the vibe at pet conferences are friendlier. Afraid to walk up to the biggest bloggers? Don’t be. It’s in their best interest to be nice. Go on, ask them questions, Instagram a selfie, but don’t hog all their time. It’s an intense environment. Don’t take any reaction personally.

connection-communication-cell phone-cat-humor-quote-catnip

  • Chances are you already belong to niche blogger group i.e. cat bloggers, dog bloggers, rescue bloggers who have may have a private or public Facebook group or G+ Hangout. Find out in advance who is going and where they’ll be meeting for breakfast, drinks or a private party.
  • All the brand reps at the exhibit booth are super friendly and eager to meet you. It’s their job to share what’s great about their brand and make you interested.
  • Seeing someone wear a silly or fun t-shirt is easy way to make conversation especially it’s a blog or brand you know.

2) Plug-in or UnPlug?

stop-smell-flowers-unplug-cat-cute-cell phone

Most conferences are digitally-based so everyone is plugged in. Use the op of being there to live tweet who you just saw, met or having lunch with. That said, don’t be so busy with your head in the digital cloud that you miss an exchange with a real person. The biggest takeaway for any conference is the value of one-on-one connections. Enjoy the memorable moments, the laughter and heart-to-heart talks. Bring a portable charger and a power strip is nice for sharing. Ditto, sharing mints or chocolate.

Warning: You may need ear plugs. When bloggers who are friendly online finally meet in person, there is very loud squealing and shrieking of excitement with hugs and happy dances 🙂

conference packing tips

3) Packing: Luggage and bags.

Conferences are usually 2 to 4 days which means you won’t need a ton of clothes but you will likely bring back lots of swag and product samples. You have two choices if flying. 1) Pack a large enough suitcase to hold your clothes and anything you might bring back. 2) Pack a carry on with a large tote bag for swag and on the return flight check the bag. Not checking luggage saves time and money. Most airlines have an extra fee for even for one checked bag.

  • Be sure to check with your airline for their carry-on sizes, policies and limitations.
  • On the off chance that your checked luggage gets lost, pack your must-have essentials: digital devices, favorite cosmetics, meds and toiletries in travel-size (up to 2 oz. for liquids.) in your carry-on bag.
  • Airlines allow one handbag/tote/computer bag. Choose a bag big enough to use during the conference to lug digital devices, notebooks and incidentals.
  • I like to be as hands-free as possible and prefer either a tote bag with shoulder straps or a knapsack style bag. If you have tote with your own brand’s logo/tagline/image, it can be a great icebreaker or way to connect your brand with conference attendees. A pin, t-shirt or bag with your city/state/alma mater or favorite pet is a good conversation starter.

Motek Hadas hall-cat fashion-Israel

4) Wardrobe Tips

They say clothes make the man (or woman) but they also brand a blogger. Appearances do count. You can blog in a dirty t-shirt or pajamas at home but think about how you want to perceived by your peers. You are your brand. No matter how casual the destination, you’ll never see me wear blue jeans, gaudy jewelry (okay, maybe cat ears) or sport cleavage at a conference. You can be comfortable, casual but professional. My brand is all about cats, so I would never wear a t-shirt with a dog or other animal. It doesn’t mean you have to buy a new wardrobe but pick through your closet carefully.

  • Try on everything you’re thinking of packing at least a few days in advance. Check if it’s clean, in good repair: no snags, stains, rips or moth holes and most importantly, fits. A long mirror in a brightly lit room is your best friend.
  • There are wrinkle-resistant fabrics but I do two things as soon as I check into a hotel. I immediately unpack and anything wrinkled is either ironed or hung on hangers and placed on the curtain rod and steamed to release wrinkles. Close the bathroom door and run a steamy, hot shower. Hang clothing hangers outside the shower curtain. Hop in yourself. It feels good to have a hot shower after travelling. Leave the clothing to hang in the steamy room for an hour or longer. Then hang in the closet.
  • I prefer hanging all ironed garments in the closet instead folded in drawers and usually request extra hangers when checking-in.
  • Pack according to the season and destination. Most conferences strike a balance of casual during the day and dressier in the evening. If the conference is in a location with hot weather, it will be air-conditioned and can get chilly. Airplanes can get chilly too and I always bring a pashmina to double as a wrap/scarf/blankie. They can be rolled up and squished into corner of a bag without wrinkling. Layering a scarf, cardigan over a top or long sleeved top under under t-shirt all work. Choose colors that mix and match easily. All neutrals can be mixed but don’t be afraid of a pop of color, if that’s your style.
  • You’ll be sitting, standing and walking in a jam-packed schedule; a conference if not the time to break in a new pair of shoes or to find out a dress is too tight because you gained weight and forgot to try it on before packing (I’ve been there, done that creating unnecessary stress).

cat lovers valentine giveaway-bowtie collar -Rileywear

Accessories and extras:

  • Conferences have dinners, cocktail parties and perhaps an awards banquet, women should bring a small evening bag. It’s a nice break from lugging a big bag around all day.
  • I suggest packing
    two pairs of comfortable shoes and one pair of dressy shoes. Check for scuffs, dirt and condition before packing. If you don’t have shoe bags, use tissue or plastic bags to avoid dirt or shoe polish staining clothes.
  • If you’re planning to workout in a gym or go for a swim, bring trainers, workout gear, headband or hair bands, bobby pins, flip flops, a swimsuit and cover-up or sarong.
  • Bring enough undies, socks, tights or pantyhose as needed and a plastic bag to stuff a wet swimsuit or used lingerie before returning home. If wearing sandals or heels on a plane, I like to give my feet a rest and pack a pair of cozy socks on board.
  • If you’re bringing pricey jewelry (I don’t recommend it) remember to lock it in the safe.
  • Cat bloggers: If you like wearing cat ears, bring a pair or more to share.
  • If you can’t bring Fifi or Fido, consider bringing a flat pet, a large photo cutout of your pet.
  • A travel sewing kit and mini first aid kit is handy.
  • Lint brush. There are mini-travel versions but in a pinch pack a strip of masking or painters tape.
  • If you have blog branded t-shirt wear it; it’s an instant calling card.
  • Conferences are hyper-stimulating and exhausting. If you are prone to nervousness or insomnia, pack over-the counter calming aids i.e.homeopathic Rescue Remedy or prescription meds and remedies for headaches, upset stomach in travel-size packs.

The OCD Worry Wart Checklist

Cat on computer-typewriter

If you worry about forgetting to pack something important, remember most items can be found at your hotel or obtained nearby. Ask the concierge or front desk. I prefer to be prepared. Call it detail-oriented or neurotic, it will make your experience easier and more rewarding. Remember to bring small bills for tips for cabs, doormen and housekeeping.

  • I keep a standard  8.5 x 11 (hard copy) list of toiletries and misc. items from earplugs, sunglasses to umbrellas and check if off as I’m packing with a colored marker.
  • For clothes, shoes and accessories I make a infographic checklist. You don’t need to know how to draw and it really works! It acts as a wardrobe planner to save time when you’re frazzled after a long day. You can make one online but it’s quicker to do a rough sketch by hand. I take a standard blank sheet of paper and sketch with pencil (erasable) every item to pack by category and description i.e. t-shirt graphic (white T, gray T with cat, black tank with logo etc). It creates an instant virtual “closet” to easily see what goes with what. One look and you may realize you don’t really need to pack five sweaters.
  • Edit your final choices. Note what outfit is worn on each day with choice of shoes and accessories. Use colored markers to highlight categories. Check off every item packed. Repeat at the hotel before check-out so you don’t forget anything at the hotel. But also do an idiot check in drawers, behind furniture and doors anyway.

5) BUSINESS CARDS and other means of contact

  • Before attending any conference, you’ll want to make sure your business cards have up to date contact info and reflect your blog’s core message. Make them as visually pleasing and professional as possible. You’ll be handing out lots to other bloggers, conf. attendees, brand reps, PR peeps and perhaps strangers on a plane. Be prepared. It’s better to have too many than not enough. You don’t want to be the person who says, ‘I don’t have any cards left”.
  • I keep my cards in a small box and transfer a dozen to a small card holder in an easy to access location in a bag. I also keep a couple handy in a pocket ( I choose conference clothing with pockets if possible) at all times because you just never know when you might meet someone, like in an elevator. You don’t want to be fumbling deep in a handbag when opportunity strikes. I learned my lesson the hard way. Many years ago, I was assisting a film shoot on the tarmac of the Westchester County Airport. A world renowned designer stepped off his private jet and walked over to me, asked what we were doing and asked if I had a card. I rifled through my bag and wallet to no avail feeling like an idiot. Needless to say, I never did that again.
  • You’ll be collecting plenty of business cards. Place them into their own card holder or even an envelope or ziploc baggie will do. After meeting dozens if not hundreds of people, it’s hard to remember who was who. I like to jot down a note on the card after saying good-bye to the person to jog my memory of the connection. It may remind me to call them, Google their website, connect them to another person, a small detail about them like the name of their pet. Cards come in all kinds of finishes. Glossy ones are hard to write on so I carry pencils, pens, markers and highlighters for writing on.
  • If you have a media kit, you could print out a few one pagers to hand out to brands but it’s not mandatory. If you don’t, at least have all your contact info up to date including any press or awards or latest accolades on your blog/website.

6) Prepare in advance for the #1 question: What do you do or what’s your blog about?

Keep it short and succinct. Think elevator pitch. You should be able to sum it up in a sentence or two. i.e. it’s a lifestyle blog about special need cats with a focus on nutrition. We’re all about senior dog wellness with a baby boomer demographic and a California flavor. X is an offshoot of my work as an X and my pets act as their advocates with weekly adoption spotlights.

  • Share how your blog is unique. Let your passion speak. Only you are you!

Odin-CAT-ATTENTION

7) Keep Your Eyes, Ears and Heart Open

Why are you really going to the conference? Be honest. Do you want to connect with other bloggers? Grow your platform? Have an mini-vacation? Learn about monetization? Get inspired? Improve your social media skills? Or maybe to figure out what’s the next step in your blogging career? Everyone has different goals at a blog conference. Make sure you know what your goals and intentions are before you get there. It might mean Googling some of the bloggers, speakers or sponsors in advance. Perhaps follow them on social or LinkedIn. Note what they look like so you’ll recognize them in person.

Plan your schedule but be open to Plan B. I always sneak way for a swim or quiet drink with a friend away from the madding crowd. My most fortuitous connections usually happen spontaneously and sometimes in unexpected places. Stay open to your intuition.

kitty-cat-swimming pool

Listen to your body. Drink extra water to stay hydrated. If you’re feeling headachy or unwell, skip a session and head outdoors for some fresh air or to your room for a quick nap.

8. GIVE YOURSELF EXTRA TIME

When planning your travel arrangements, it never hurts to arrive early or leave a little late. This might mean staying an extra night. Spend some time browsing the conference hashtag on Twitter or on the Facebook group that most conferences open in the months leading up to the event, to find out who is going, when they’re arriving or departing. Arrange to share a cab to the airport. Use your extra time to connect with your fellow bloggers and brands. It is nice to be able say yes to an impromptu dinner or breakfast without having to worry about rushing to catch your plane.

Cat on computer-

9. TAKE NOTES AND THEN — — — USE THEM

  • Take notes during every session you attend. The act of taking notes will help you to stay more engaged with the material the speaker is offering. This is very important by the time you reach the last session of the day and you have already learned so many things your brain might explode from TMI.
  • Even if you take notes digitally, have a back-up. I like taking notes old school style: pen/pencil in a notebook or a legal pad. I like doodling and often get ideas while listening to a speaker that has nothing to do with what they’re speaking about. Bring extra pens. They always seem to disappear. If they have your brand logo all the better.

I usually sort through cards and make notes during the flight home. Once when you get home, open up a blank document on your computer, and start organizing your notes into categories. This will help you decide what things you are going to do right away, and what ideas will take a little more planning or preparation.

10. Follow-up with thank-you’s, queries and emails within a few days. 

Remember to bring homes some treats for your pets who will be missing you. Sort through your swag and freebies and only bring home what you really want. Give the rest to another blogger or leave at the swap table.

cat-travel-luggage-humor-odin-suitcaseEnjoy and pat yourself on the back for making the decision to attend a conference. Congratulations! It means you’re serious about blogging and ready to be a better blogger.

Share, download and/or print this article.

Did I forget something? Please leave your suggestions in the comments.

Don't miss our Latest updates

No spam guarantee.

37 thoughts on “Packing It All In: Blog Conference Tips

  1. Did I hear that someone is having a blogoversary today? HAPPY BLOGOVERSARY!!! And may you have many, many more wonderful years of blogging to come.

    Purrs,
    Seville

    PS. I know this isn’t your most recent post upon which to leave this comment but it seemed like the most appropriate one for a Blogoversary comment. purrs

  2. I like to throw a Minimergency Kit in my handbag or carry one. It holds everything from band aids to extra earring backs to a sewing kit. The little case fits in the palm of my hand and imeets TSA rules. It also makes a great gift for a new traveler. I find my at Sephora. They come in several cute little cosmetic bags and I’ve found that someone always needs something in my little wonder bag. Have a wonderful time.

  3. Thank you for sharing. My business cards aren’t as up-to-date as I’d like them because they are what I made up last year when I couldn’t go, but they will have to do. I will be a little more casual than business casual, but I will be presentable and comfortable. I’ll start packing this weekend and look forward to meeting and seeing everyone.

  4. This is a great post. TW’s worst nightmare is forgetting the one med she takes since she can’t pack them until the last moment. Well, actually she can since she knows how many she’ll need. TW has no idea what she’ll wear except her stunningkeisha.com t-shirt. She does have purple hair now and since my brand is kinda off the wall, it works.

  5. Wow these are really great tips! You covered everything Layla. Im always amazed how many newbies do not bring business cards even if they are new. I follow them immediately if they have a card.

    Yes I always arrive early to sightsee and share the city’s culture as part of my experience. Last year at Vegas Lake I went kayaking and took photos of other bloggers paddle surfing with their expert dogs!!! I also took in a Vegas show as I felt to visit a city and stay within the walls of hotel is a loss.

    The EARPLUGS suggestion, while in jest is actually great idea. Newbies are going to be shocked when they see us squealing when reuniting. You would think there were pet pigs at the conference.

    Layla I look forward to catching up!

    AND FOR NEWBIES–If you feel alone or lost, feel free to ask for me! I’ll make you feel right at home like you’ve been part of the clan for long time. We want you to feel encouraged so you can ask questions and get the guidance and motivation to start or continue your blogging efforts!

  6. Great post, Layla. Now that the conference is getting close, I’m getting more nervous, especially about the social situations and such. I’m starting to make piles of things to pack and lists. So much to remember! Looking forward to seeing you.
    Dawn

  7. Wonderful tips! Our mom, who attends writing conventions several times a year, writes up what to wear every day before going to save time on those rushed mornings before a panel. And she truly believes in keeping an open mind and heart, as well as eyes and ears. All great advice!

  8. Great tips and advice. We do like the inclusion thing. We try to talk to anyone that seems to be a bit “lost” no mattter where or what we are doing. I am shy and a bit introverted myself although most people would never know it.
    We hope everyone that gets to go to Blog Paws has a furbulous time and a safe trip to and from.
    We can’t wait to hear all about it!
    Luvs
    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang + Twig & Peanut & Romeo >^..^<

  9. The mom says thanks for all this good info. While she’s been thinking about what to wear and bring to BlogPaws, she hasn’t started to pack anything. Though she does have our new business cards!

  10. Interesting and informative post. I need to remember your packing tips next time we travel. Wish I were going to Blog Paws to meet the kind, creative, dedicated, and quirky bloggers I follow!
    xxoo

  11. Those are purrfect list of blog conference tips!
    Haha, good point about ear plugs. I’m sure there will be many squealing of joy and excitement when meeting online friends in person 🙂

  12. odin….dood…trip IZ a four letter werd….rite a long with diet, bath & burd….hope yur mom haza fun fun fun time anda safe journee there home & everee wear in bee tween ♥♥♥

  13. What a WHOLE lot of super advice Layla……I know everyone who is going can benefit from SOME part of this post even if they’re an “old hatter” or even a “newbie” ! I do wish I could make it to a Blogpaws conference one day……but in the meantime I’ll enjoy it through the eyes (and blogs) of all of you who are going!

    Have fun…….
    Pam (and Sam)

  14. Wish I could give a standing ovation for this post, because if I could, I would. This was SUPERB!! One of the BEST that I have read. So comprehensive. So true!!!!! But….I am sorry my dear friend, you WILL see me in jeans…(but clean ones lol), and a few T-shirts and possibly some “tacky jewelry”…why? Because that’s how I ROLL!!! lol. In all seriousness, you are right, but I am a “jeans girl” all the way………I did pack a few nice tops though but if someone were to see me dressed TOO nicely (except for Saturday night where I will be gorgeous…kidding!!), they wouldn’t know me.

    I would like to add one thing to your fabulous first paragraph: …encourage and ACCEPT others and WARMLY WELCOME them and try to include them in your activities. Going out to eat in a group? Invite others too, tell your friends to invite anyone and everyone (there is ALWAYS room for one more, if there has to be two tables, so be it!!)….see someone who is alone? Walk up to them and greet them, ask them to join you. Yes, we are all a “family” and NO ONE likes feeling left out. A welcoming smile or gesture can mean the world to someone who might be feeling left out and alone.

    As outgoing as I can be (and God knows I often am), I have a HUGE introspective and insecure side…I know how it feels to not feel welcome or included and it hurts….let’s all make it a point to NOT make someone feel this way.

    1. Excellent comment Caren. This will be my first BlogPaws, but I was very lucky to meet many of you at the CWA conference in Atlanta. I will also be in jeans (clean) and some t-shirts and will definitely have some bling somewhere because that’s my style. I do plan on dressing up Saturday night.

  15. Oh that was as I would travel to blogpaws too, thanks for this post, I hope once I can go and I will remember your tips…
    I must laugh as I read about the pj and the dirty shirt…mine is currently decorated with pizza :o)

  16. What a great roundup of the to-dos! The head peep has been working on a packing list for two weeks already, and she has three columns of 8 1/2×11 notes… and will probably still forget something.

    That’s why we think the #1 tip you offered was to make a note on someone’s business card about what you discussed. Holy cats, if she didn’t do that, she would just be bringing home pretty pieces of paper.

  17. We are NOWHERE near ready for BlogPaws! My human needs more business cards (MINE, however, are ready!), and she has no idea what she’s going to wear – in fact, she’s not even sure which harnesses she’s going to bring for me!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.