As you may have seen on my social media, this past weekend I was in Charleston for The Blog Societies‘ annual conference. I missed the conference last year (since I was having a baby the same week!) so I was very excited to be able to go again this year.
Right before I left, my dad sent me an article that was basically a guide to getting the most out of conferences. It is a good thing he did because to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t really taken a moment to think about what I wanted to get out of the weekend. I was too busy thinking about what I wanted to wear, where I wanted to go, and what all William & Charles would need while I was away.
The little article TOTALLY shifted my mindset going into the conference as it reminded me of some things I kind of already knew but just needed a refresher on.
I decided to write my own version of what you need to do to really get the most out of a conference since it’s super fresh on my mind!!
To sum things up, no matter how wonderful a conference is, (and #TBScon is seriously amazing), it is still up to you to put in some work to really get the most out of it.
You must do these TWO THINGS to get the most out of a conference.
ONE. Connect. Cliche I know, but stick with me here. I remember my first conference (it was #IFBcon which doesn’t even exist anymore) – I was thinking so much about the fact that I paid this money to come, so I really just want to hear every speaker, take notes, and get all the info I could. Some girls invited me to skip a panel and go get coffee, and I said no. (So silly!) There is nothing wrong with going this route, but honestly, you can learn just as much or more sometimes from your peers. You can build future collaborations with them. You can share funny stories about your experiences, which makes your solo entrepreneurship seem less solo. You can share contacts or secrets about your experiences working with different companies or brands. The list goes on and on. A good conference will make it easy to find your tribe and connect with them, and #TBScon most certainly always does an OUTSTANDING job in this area. So if you’re reading this and you’re about to attend a conference, remember this: go on that coffee date with the girls and skip a panel if you have to. Enjoy yourself. Ask your new friends about their businesses and what their goals are. Plan some dinners. Stay out late. Talk about things other than blogging or business. While I imagine that you probably have a wonderful support system at home from your friends, spouse, family, etc., it is impossible for them to really understand all the challenges & goals with your business. That is why having a biz bestie (whether you’re a photographer, graphic artist, blogger, or really any type of creative entrepreneur) is SOOOOO important. Make sure to share your own business goals with your tribe so they hold you accountable, because when you work by yourself, who else will? Cheer each other on, and celebrate everyone’s successes.
Also, never say “networking.” WOOF.
And side note: You don’t have to be BFF with every person at a conference or any event for that matter. In fact, that sounds exhausting and probably super inauthentic. Get to know just a handful of people. These will be people that you naturally gravitate towards. Forming real relationships with a handful of people is always better than casually meeting 100 people, in life and in business, right? If you really want to do your legwork, it is 100% imperative that you reach out to future biz besties before the event so you can go ahead and start making connections and ya know, dinner reservations! Plus it will help ease the whole awkwardness of being in a big conference room full of people you don’t know. Important: Note how tired my eyes look in the photo above. Note the lack of lipstick. Note the slightly wrinkled blouse. Note the second-day hair. Note the dull skin. The night before I had the B-E-S-T time with some new and old blogger BFFs, and we seriously exchanged some hilarious stories and quite simply had a ball. We’re already working on a future collab, but that evening it was all about having fun. And girrrrrl we did. You can rally for the last day of the conference – that’s literally what coffee & dry shampoo IS FOR. Which brings me to …
image via me
TWO. Implement: Remember how I skipped the coffee date at my first conference because I was so intent on listening to the panel and taking notes? Can you guess where those notes ended up? Somewhere in a notebook that never got opened after the conference I’m sure. Guess how many changes I made? Zero. Conferences can be amazing at getting you all worked up, inspired, and excited for your business, but sometimes it can be hard to know where or how to implement all your new-found knowledge. So you end up making almost no real changes, and after a couple of weeks the creative juices have worn off too and you’re back to square one. So here is what you do: at the beginning of the conference, title the first page of notes “3 ACTIONABLE MUST-DO ITEMS.” Then over the course of the event, choose at least 3 concrete items that you can implement directly, and then do them ASAP. These should be things that jumped out to you because you realized it’s something you’re not doing, or something you really need to fix, etc. Preferably do these things before you even leave the room (even if it’s just sending yourself a reminder email), or definitely before you leave the conference. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOU GET HOME. In my case I ended up coming up with 11 total actionable items because I couldn’t stop at just 3. (Ok so I didn’t get around to doing all 11 while I was there but I’m knocking them out TODAY.) Some of them were things like using a certain program to manage my calendar, or installing a certain plugin on my site. In general they seem like mostly kind of little small things, but when you total up those things, the changes can be pretty big! Keep things that are vague and more goal-oriented like “get more page views” on a goals list or something if you have to – not on your “actionable items” list.
When you get home, you’ll have real concrete proof that you’ve improved your business already, and that feels pretty AWESOME.
That wasn’t so hard right? There are tons of other ways to get a lot out of conferences, but I think these are honestly two of the biggest ways to get the best experience. I’m SO PUMPED that I came back from Charleston Saturday night with a list of super actionable to-dos, and a new group of amazing girls that can keep me accountable for reaching my goals and vice versa.
PS – how pretty are these photos I took around this neighborhood? WHY ARE YOU SO PRETTY CHARLESTON! Also if you’d like to read the original post that inspired this post, it is here.
PPS – Wait. I just thought of one more big thing. We can make this one a bonus. Here we go, this one is big: ASK QUESTIONS. Seriously. When else will you get an expert to give you major feedback custom to your situation? If you hate raising your hand in front of everyone (like me), just ask the workshop host right afterwards. But don’t feel bad about your question being just particular to you, because chances are there is someone else who was wondering the same thing.
Ok seriously longest post! What do you think are the best ways to get the most out of a conference? Did you make it this far? Please comment and let me know! xo
Photo of me via Molly in our awesome photography workshop!! Thank you Molly! #MultitaskingAtItsFinest All other photos by me.