I know I’m only a week out from attending my first ever BlogHer conference and already I’m ready to dole out advice like a seasoned veteran. Hear me out though. I feel like my time in New York City was a complete success. I did the things I wanted to do, I met the people I wanted to meet (and more) and I came home happy and inspired and motivated. Below I’m going to share the ten things I feel led to that feeling of success. Be mindful though that these are not hard and fast rules and what works for me may not work for you.
- Get directions. As Vicki and I learned about ten minutes into our visit of NYC specific addresses and directions are a must. Googling “Hilton Times Square” isn’t reliable…that’s how we ended up at the Hilton on 42nd Street and not the Hilton on 54th Street. Google also screwed us when Kailee and I typed in “Four Seasons” and it gave us an outdated address that was three blocks away from where we were supposed to be. This makes me wonder what else Google is lying about. The lesson to be learned is to get the exact address of the location you’re going to and even some landmarks.
- Stay organized. BlogHer is a whirlwind of activity that starts basically the moment you step foot into the hotel. Take a few minutes when you get to your room to settle in, unpack your clothing and toiletries, put away your luggage and shoes. You’ll appreciate it when you’re not stumbling over a suitcase at 1 a.m. and your clothes aren’t wrinkled when you’re trying to race out the door in the morning. The best thing I did every night was sit down with the business cards I collected during the day and write little notes on them about the person and how/where we met. This really helped me remember who they were and when I write them an email or tweet I can remind them of our meeting or conversation. Be sure to sort through your swag on a daily basis as well. I made sure to create a “recycling” pile of things I did not want or need and gave my roommates first crack at it. By Sunday night all my swag was neatly contained to two bags and was easily placed into my suitcase. The only reason I stayed up to 1:30 a.m. on Sunday was to help my roommates sort through their swag.
- Say “hi” often. I met so many people just by saying “hi” and asking the person about where they were from or what they blogged about. I said “hi” to someone in an elevator, in line for a private party, and at a sex toy shop and they all resulted in connections that lasted the entire week and have no end in sight.
- Don’t overwhelm your schedule. The weeks leading up to BlogHer’12 I kept adding parties and sessions and meetups to my calendar sure that I was capable of handling it all with some caffeine and an energetic spirit. (Um, when have any of you known me to be energetic from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. the following day??) I ended up scrapping a few sessions on Saturday and taking a very long nap and then just meandering around the city with a few friends. It felt great and I can watch the sessions I missed online once they’re published. I know people had three and four parties and meetings overlap during the same time period and had to hop from one event to another. I just can’t imagine how they had the energy to do that, got anything of value out of the events, and enjoyed themselves.
- Eat the food that’s offered. It may not be the most desirable food out there (BlogHer officials, you really need to work on this next year) but you paid for it so make sure you eat it. Many people passed up on the meals because the lines were so long but know that the food is available for almost two hours so don’t feel like it’s a now or never situation. For lunch on Friday, the group of women I was with sat down at a table and went back up for food about 30 minutes later. The lines were non-existent and the food was still plentiful. On the same topic of free food…drink the free drinks. You only get seven drink tickets with your BlogHer pass. Many of the private parties have open bars…enjoy the driks there (if that’s your thing) and you won’t worry about having to ration your drink tickets or worse pay $13 for a mixed drink at the hotel (true price!).
- Make it rain with your business card. I took 250 business cards with me to BlogHer’12. I came home with about half and I’m happy with that number. I made sure every person I came into contact with got a card. I ended every conversation with a handshake and a business card. A few of the hotel floors had credenzas in the elevator vestibules and people were smart enough to leave their business cards there. Any time I saw that I made sure to drop my card.
- Take pictures. This seems obvious but I had to remind myself to pull out my camera or my cell phone and snap pictures not only so I could remember the great times I was having but also so I could share them in the blog later.
- Mind your manners. This seems so trite but I witnessed a lot of people either get so wrapped up in having fun and learning their brains had to shut down the politeness function in order to converse power or they just had the largest sense of entitlement on the planet. Sure the hotel staff is there to cater to your needs but that doesn’t mean you should be downright rude to them. Same goes to the representatives working the Expo Hall, the conference employees or conference attendees. It takes no time at all to say “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me” but it goes a long way. Our hotel room was always stocked with fresh towels and practically spotless (minus the explosion of swag) and we made sure to thank the house keeping team every chance we got.
- Get home on Sunday at a reasonable time. I understand that this isn’t possible for everyone given flight times and weather disasters like the ones experienced last Sunday but if you can make it work I highly suggest it. I got home at 3:30 on Sunday afternoon and I felt that maybe 1 or 2 p.m. would have been better. I would have liked to sit down, reconnect with Tim and Sophia for longer, unpack everything, and then get to bed at a decent hour (read: right after Sophia went to bed).
- Live in the moment. As bloggers we’re constantly thinking about the next post we’re going to write and I’m sure many of us are “type A” people so we think about the next party and the next session and tomorrow. When you’re at BlogHer and you’re talking with someone new or you’re listening to a panelist speak just be in the moment. Don’t worry about how you’ll blog about this and don’t worry what’s next on your schedule. Sure there is an annual BlogHer conference but the people and opportunities and experiences are unique to the one you are currently attending. Enjoy and savor those experiences…you’ll have more to blog about when you come home, I guarantee.
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