Every year I see several pre-BlogHer Conference posts with helpful tips for first-timers. It occurred to me that I may have something to offer along those lines, seeing as I've been going to BlogHer ever since it began. Thus, here's my take on the subject, in no particular order:
- Just say "hi." If I have a cardinal rule for BlogHer Conference interactions, this would be it. You're going to see people you recognize from your blog reading and Twitter icons. Do not EVER think to yourself that so-and-so is "too famous" to want to talk to you. Just go up, introduce yourself, gush a bit if you can't help yourself, and say hello. What have you got to lose? This doesn't just apply to people you recognize. Say "hi" to anyone you run into. The very first person I met at the first BlogHer Conference in 2005 was Liz Rizzo, and we've been buds ever since.
- Bring business cards. Trust me, you will kick yourself if you don't have cards to trade. I can tell you that from experience because I forgot mine one year. Some people will have elaborate cards or other logo-branded giveaway items, but don't feel pressured to go crazy with yours. I use the Avery laser printable cards and they're perfectly fine. If you order soon, you can get something fancier from Moo, Vista Print (warning: Vista Print has no boundaries when it comes to marketing to you after you've ordered!) or another online custom print shop.
- Wear whatever you want. There is absolutely no such thing as a BlogHer dress code. I always dress for comfort. Other people dress up a little bit or a lot. If you're like me and don't post your photo on your blog or Twitter profile, you may want to consider getting a t-shirt with your blog logo or graphics on it to help people recognize you. I generally wear my Average Jane t-shirt on the first day of the conference and switch to something else after that.
- You're not obligated to spend all day in sessions. Feel worn out or overwhelmed? Go back to your room and take a nap. Just not into any of the sessions coming up next? Go sit in the lobby and chat with other conference-goers until the next session starts. I've done both of those things at various times during BlogHer. The last time it was in Chicago, I walked down Navy Pier and rode the Ferris Wheel after lunch. Individualize your conference experience in whatever way works best for you.
- Consider leaving your laptop at home, or at least in your room. Sacrilege, I know! But...how are you going to interact with your fellow BlogHers if you're hiding behind a laptop the whole time? Unless you've been appointed to liveblog, try to spend as much time in face-to-face interaction as you can. That's why you're there, right?
- Don't feel bad about missing things. You can't go to every session on every track. You're going to hear about parties that you didn't know about/weren't invited to/can't find. You'll see some people with awesome swag from mystery sources. There's a LOT going on at the BlogHer Conference itself and there's a whole 'nother level of unofficial parties, swag suites and attendee-organized events beyond anything you could anticipate. If you ask around a bit, sometimes you can get enough information to be able to crash. If not, don't worry - you'll find something else fun to do.
- Pack light. You are going to end up with so much free merchandise and literature, it'll make your head spin. Even if you drop off the stuff you don't want in the recycle room, you'll still be flirting with the airlines' luggage weight limits. Coordinate with your roomie(s) re: hair care appliances, etc. and resist the urge to pack quite so many extra clothes and shoes.
- Relax. Yes, a gathering of 1,200+ bloggers is rather overwhelming. With that many people in one place, believe me, nobody is looking at you, judging you, thinking about how your hair looks, trying to gauge your Technorati rankings, etc. We're all there to learn things, meet people and have fun. You're going to love it!
Note: Yes, I attended the pre-BlogHer Meetup in St. Louis this weekend and had a great time. I fully intend to do a post on it, but I spent most of the afternoon napping on Sunday and haven't even downloaded my photos yet. Plus, Angela was the only person who made a list of everyone who was there, so I'm kind of waiting to steal it from her, assuming she posts it!