If you want to bring your blog business to the next level, you’ll have to forge partnerships and look for opportunities wherever they might exist. Chances are, that’s not going to happen only from your desk. Thankfully, there are plenty of events that bring together the best and the brightest in the industry. You can take advantage of these events and help grow your blog and business to new heights.
As mentioned in that above-linked post, conferences and conventions represent wonderful opportunities for bloggers and marketers to get together and help each other improve. Yet attending a conference can be an intimidating and expensive endeavor. Here are a few tips for planning your conference trip and getting the most out of it.
Two expenses will trump all others when attending a conference: the price of admission, and your accommodations. To the first, there’s not much you can do. If you want to attend you have to pay the admission fee, plain and simple. Where you can save is on accommodations. But it’s not as simple as you might think.
You can find cheap flights on travel sites such as Cheap Tickets, Travelocity, Expedia, and others. These will search all available flights given your parameters, meaning you should have no trouble finding a reasonably priced one. It’s when you get to the hotels part that things get dicey.
You might find a cheaper hotel further away from the conference site, and it might be tempting to book that one. But you might end up paying more in the end. Cabs can run quite expensive, and your cab fare might end up costing more than a hotel closer to the conference site. Where you might win out is with a car rental, since many travel sites offer steep discounts when you add a rental car to your accommodations. But that brings hindrances of its own.
Just remember: find the cheapest flight, even if it’s at an inconvenient time. Spend your money on a hotel near the conference, since that will bring you many advantages. It’s worth the cost, and it might even work out to be cheaper in the end.
Find a core of people you know
Even if you don’t know anyone at a conference, you probably “know” them through online social media such as Twitter or Facebook. Make solid plans with these people to meet up early in the conference. That’s made all the easier if they don’t know anyone, either. If they do, all the better. Perhaps they can introduce you to a few people to help break the ice.
If you’re planning far enough in advance, you can arrange to “know” some people before the conference starts. Email people you know are attending. Leave comments on their blogs. Reply to them on Twitter and keep the conversation going. If they have a public and active Facebook, add them as a friend and participate. All of these things can make you more comfortable with a handful of people, which will make you a bit more comfortable from the start.
List people you want to meet
If you’re going to a conference, your first aim should be to create connections with people in the industry. While you can learn plenty at panels and keynotes, the real value is in the people. As such, you should know whom you want to meet. Make that list, and then devise a plan so that you can meet them all. It’s quite easier than you think.
Again, social media gives us a leg up. Many people tweet from conferences, so it’s easy to find out where they’re stationed. They might even talk about it beforehand, at which time you can reply and make casual conversation. It’s not advisable to try to make plans with someone you don’t really know in advance. Stick to the people you’re familiar with for that. Chances are, the people you don’t know only have a few minutes to meet people who they don’t know.
Still, having a plan of people you want to meet is pretty essential. It’s essentially your game plan. You wouldn’t go into battle without a strategy. Similarly, don’t go to a conference without a plan of attack. Whom are you going to meet? When might they be free? How are you going to introduce yourself? What would you say given just 45 seconds? These are vital questions that need snappy answers.
Put it into action
You’ve just spend more than a thousand dollars on a conference, and have dedicated a few days of your life to it. Those are time and resources that you could have spent actively improving your business. As such, you must take what you’ve learned at the conference and put it into action. That’s how you create value, so that you earn back the money you invested. Without a ROI, attending a conference is pretty pointless.
Note all the business cards you received. Think back to the conversations you had. Ponder the opportunities you have created by meeting the right people. And then put it all together into a concise action plan. What are you going to do when you return? What’s your time frame? How are you going to act on each item? Answering these important questions will make sure that you get the most out of your conference experience.
Attending a conference or convention can be a timely and expensive experience. But with some savvy and a lot of hard work, you can turn those expenses into investments, with potentially huge returns. It’s all about having a plan and then executing. Without one, you might want to reconsider your attendance.