What to do if You Can’t Make it to Blogger Conferences

First off, I’m there with you. This time of year, many bloggers are scheduling their travels and I’m just reading about it. Budget restraints, family situations, new jobs..there are a lot of reasons people can’t go. Valid reasons to not attend blogger conferences, but they still make me a little pouty. Agreed?

There’s always next year, right? Until then though, what do we do to stay in the loop on what’s going on in the world of social media, blogging, writing, photography, PR, marketing..the list goes on.

Lots of options. Tons. Yes, not nearly as fun as attending conferences where you can meet your blogger friends in person, chat it up, network, develop relationships with companies, eat yummy food, learn A LOT, then learn more, but not being able to go doesn’t mean you need to throw in the towel and give up.

Join online networking communities. Facebook, LinkedIn, G+, they all offer numerous opportunities to communicate with others in the field or with similar interests. Hangouts now offer the ability for us to see people in person and podcasts or web conferences are almost as good as being there…okay, they’re sort of like being there, but the pros are also that you don’t have to travel and it takes a lot less time, so you can fit a lot more of them in. It’s all in how you spin it, baby.

Take online classes. Many are free and while some do cost, you may find discounts if you look well in advance. A lot of places give away discount codes or even freebies.

Talk. Talk. And talk more. Ask your questions. Bloggers are generally a pretty giving bunch when it comes to helping each other. Have a question? Ask. You may run into someone that hands you a rate sheet, but it’s rare; if you do, ask someone else. I repeat: we’re normally a very giving bunch and someone out there will help you, as long as you’re willing to help yourself and learn. I took graphic arts in college and learned a lot more from my jobs, but there’s always more to learn so we have to get over the fear of looking silly by asking. Honestly, we risk more by making a big public mistake than we do by asking a private question. (But also, on the flip side, be kind. Acknowledge that whomever you’re asking may have paid for school to learn it or spent tons of hours online and aren’t there to save you the hassle of looking stuff up yourself that they looked up. Yes, it happens. All the time.)

Books. I favor Amazon and have a Prime membership I’ll likely never give up, even though I have my own pet peeve with the ever-increasing number of items becoming “Add-ons.” Amazon not only offers free movies and shows (in addition to the paid ones) but you can borrow one book per month for your Kindle. Being able to order one book at a time, without shipping, also allows you to learn things quickly when you need them without the wait or extra expense of ordering extra things just to get free shipping. (Been there, done that, even if it doesn’t always make sense.)

Local events. Don’t forget to see what’s happening at your rec center, craft stores, food hangouts — whatever topics you blog about, seek out meet-and-greets or other similar events. Like them on Facebook and/or follow them on Twitter. I’ve found some great opportunities this way! I went to a fashion event one night, early on in my blogging career, before I’d ever covered anything fashion-related. (If you know me, you know style takes some effort so I’ll take help where I can get it.) I ended up meeting other people in PR and getting my name out there, even though I didn’t really partake in the workshops as I’d signed up too late.

A few weeks ago, I got bored one late night and searched the word “blog” on my uVerse TV guide. Lo and behold, there were a few shows on bloggers/blogging! One was positively ridiculous but another was interesting. I since make it a point to do that every couple of weeks, and I search words like “web” and “marketing” and “public relations,” too.

Google Alerts are awesome. You can choose your words and it will send you alerts any time that word/phrase is mentioned. Great way to learn about things without having to search.

Visit social media sites daily. Four times a day. All day. Okay, that may be a bit much, but if you have a smartphone and a data plan and you wait in line anywhere, there’s your time to peruse the sites quickly and bookmark what you want to go back to later. Articles, white papers, op ed pieces, even debates about social media policy, etiquette, strategy, morals, you name it..it’s all out there, and it’s worth the read just so you know what’s going on.

Blogging is a lot more work than people realize. Don’t let that discourage you but to be good at it, and social media in particular, you are going to have to invest time beyond content preparation, curation and site design. It pays off. Conference fees are money well-spent but you’re part of a large group if you’re unable to go to any, despite seeing the mass amounts of bloggers talking about going. I know one day I’ll be able to go, just not now, so until then, I’m doing overtime making sure it doesn’t deter me in any way from making the connections I need, growing my site and becoming a better blogger/social media manager. (It’s also my day job.) I may miss out on some cool stuff that you can’t replicate at home — sometimes you get invaluable tours, interviews and oh, the food..the food..sigh — but that’s just the inspiration to be able to go in the future.

One blogger I know had the budget set aside but had to convince her husband that it was a worthy expense and a good reason to leave him home “alone” over the weekend. He reportedly said something like “Why do you need to go to a conference? I don’t go to any.” I may have told her to tell him that maybe he should go to a conference on being supportive and Blogger 101 and why it’s really important to meet other bloggers, make friends, make connections and learn what you can’t learn just by sitting at your computer and that blogging is in essence a job so we can’t make the big bucks and get ‘the fun stuff’ without investing time and money into it. Does that conference exist? She is interested if so… πŸ˜‰ Maybe that’s my niche, creating that conference.

I digress.

One suggestion is to start small. Pick one conference. Save for it. Register early for low rates, or apply for a scholarship. If you can, pick a local one that doesn’t require travel expenses beyond gas and lunch costs. Get it on your family’s radar. Try it out and see what you think. I know a few bloggers who have tried attending conferences and will never go again. Some have had bad experiences and others find that it’s just not their thing, that they’re better at doing it all via email and phone. To each their own, but until you try, you won’t know. Each conference is different, too, so choose what you think most will apply. Traveling every week or even every month just isn’t realistic for me and my family situation, but I do plan on attending a couple per year, though for now, they’ll need to be local-ish. There are so many, that shouldn’t be a problem.

And if that’s not even do-able right now — again, I’m right there with you — join me in doing it all alternative-style. It’s not a demotion or even ‘less,’ it’s just another approach. And if bloggers aren’t unique and varied, who is??

 

 

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8 Comments

  1. There are a few online conferences as well that you can attend. I love technology because you can host meetings and classes online fairly easily. Voiceboks.com did a small conference for bloggers, it was successful. I am sure next year will be even bigger.

    I am part of groups that host conferences: BloggyMoms.com, MomBloggersClub.com, Blogher.com are a few. I hope this helps your readers, especially, a new blogger who sees this post.

  2. Thanks, Christy! Very cool about online conferences — and I’m glad you reminded me! I don’t want to leave anything out, and I’d forgotten that option. I did attend one in the summer. I remember it well, I was on a limited hotspot in the RV and told my husband it was worth the data usage as I’d learned so much. (And the people I met — total bonus!) It wasn’t that long ago that I was a new blogger myself, so I want to put any option out there. I’ve talked with several over the last couple of months who were concerned they would be ‘left in the dust,’ to quote one (she won’t care that I share, lol) if they didn’t attend anything to put in their media kit or on their bio, so I’m trying to be encouraging to anyone else that may feel that way. (I was actually at a conference with Blogher quite a few years ago, though I went in a different capacity and not a blogger. It was a blast!) My hope is that new bloggers will aspire to attend conferences but not feel they’re not doing ‘enough’ if they don’t attend, and hopefully people will also understand that those of us that don’t go may have reasons far beyond being shy or feeling they don’t need the help. All that said, I have no idea which my first choice is yet! SO many cool ones to choose from, but I have a while to decide, not going to happen for me for at least another six months.

  3. Great post!! I am finally going to BlogHer for the first time this year after years of following online (which is not even close to being there). I just could not justify it when I started blogging. Of course now there are oodles of conferences. More than I could go to, not only becuase of finances, but because of the time it would take away from my daytime job. I have done Online Blog Conference for two years in a row – super inexpensive and I have learned so much! I am happily going to a SITS conference again this year too. So true about the blogger groups. Many are willing to help which is one of the great benefits of blogging.

    1. Raquel, that’s how it is for me — budget restraints (after this last year, I can’t complain) and no time for travel with the new job, but again, can’t complain about that either! (I have to work from home at least 90% of the time, unless it’s very local, and I didn’t pick the best location for this line of work.) I need to look online, I still have to watch the budget but SITS would be great! I used to work with Blogher via my last job and enjoyed it. I think I need to pay more attention in coming months to discounts and opps to make it to at least one!

  4. I have been trying to figure out how to make our Blogging Concentrated events more virtual. This year I think we’re going to be doing a couple sessions with a live Spreecast feed. We’re already doing short interviews on Hang w/.

    Virtual is great for sure.

  5. I know the earmark of a professional business vs. a hobby (as how the IRS might look at it) is that you go to conferences for professional development. So YES, attending conferences are a big deal! Another good way to save on conference fees is by volunteering or entering to win a conference ticket. But it’s really the travel expenses that amount to a lot more than the tickets and there are so many ways to save costs, from going to local conferences to sharing rooms and rides.

    1. Anne-Marie, good point! I’d not thought about it from that perspective. I wonder if any social media orgs I belong to would help in that regard? I have much to learn! πŸ˜‰ I’d have no problem volunteering, but you’re right, travel expenses are the killer right now and then there’s no vacation time yet. It’ll all come together, and I’m fortunate to live in SoCal where at least travel isn’t too bad and there are a lot of conferences.

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