On Facebook today, I saw a response of a travel blogger on a question by someone asking if anyone was going to this particular blogging conference.
She replied (I rephrased a little): ‘I’m probably not going… the last couple of conferences I went to weren’t that inspiring. You meet a lot of other bloggers, but they all have about the same speakers on the same subjects. I’m still looking for a conference with more in -depth information, focusing on professional bloggers”.
Another blogger added: “I agree…travel blogging conferences aren’t very inspiring other than just parties and chatting”.
My soul broke a little when I read this. Here’s why:
If you’re not sure what blogging conferences are, then in short: it’s an event where bloggers get a ticket for and where they listen to presentations, do workshops and network with others in order to teach them skills and help them grow as a business. There are many social events involved, and some of them organise pre- and post tours to see something of the destination the conference is in.
You have several of them in the travel-sphere: Traverse, TBEX, STS and this year TravelCon, then there are trade shows with blogger sections such as WTM and ITB and a couple of summits/conventions which I won’t all list, but such as: Adventure Travel Summit, Outdoor Content Creators Summit, Women in Travel Summit… and that’s just -a few- in travel alone. There are conferences on social media, affiliates, every niche you can think of. Hundreds and hundreds of them. Do a little Google there if you want.
I’ve been to over 30 of these kinds of conferences in the last 5 years (there is a whole series about that going on on the blog right now) and you know what?
No matter to how many of these conferences you go to…
…There will never be a single conference that’s going to tell you step-by-step what to do to ‘make it’ in blogging. There will never be a single conference that’s going to take you by the hand and help your business grow. There will NEVER be a single conference that’s going to let you in on the ‘secret sauce’ that the top bloggers use to get so good at what they do. EVER.
Because here’s the deal: there is no secret sauce. there is no ONE WAY to run your blog business. there is no specific moment where we’ve all made it, because that moment is different for everyone.
In the end it’s all about what YOU actively do to get out of these conferences that’s going to make the difference in your business. And honestly, you can get something useful out of EVERY SINGLE CONFERENCE ON THIS PLANET.
1. SET A GOAL
Before you buy a ticket to ‘yet another blogging conference’, ask yourself: what do I want to get out of this conference? What skill do I want to learn? What questions do I have? What people do I want to meet? Which brands do I want to connect with? Which destination would I like to write content about?
Make it really clear for yourself what the main reason is for you attending this conference. And no, ‘meeting other bloggers’ is not a good goal. ‘meeting other outdoor travel bloggers’ is already better. ‘meeting blogger x from the outdoor adventure blog x’ is getting there and ‘meeting blogger x from outdoor adventure blog x and ask to write a guest post for her’…. you see what I mean here?
Same goes for presentations. ‘go to the talk about affiliates’ is not a good goal. ‘go to the talk about affiliates and find out what the best strategy is to implement links is’, is getting there and ‘go to the talk about affiliates, find out the best strategy on implementing links and afterwards optimise 10 top blog posts with links’.. yup.
Catharina Fischer at MATKA / The Nordic Bloggers’ Experience
2. ASK QUESTIONS
Going a bit deeper into what I said in the previous part, asking questions when you meet bloggers, brands or go to presentations is SO IMPORTANT! (yet often when a presenter is finished there is nothing but crickets in the audience…)
There will never be a presentation that’s going to answer all the questions you have, because the audience is always going to be so mixed that the presenter has to choose a common ground to talk about. Sure, some conferences tell you the session is for beginner or more advanced bloggers, but in my experience… they are all pretty basic in the end, UNLESS YOU ASK A RELEVANT IN-DEPTH QUESTION.
Now, remember there is a whole audience with their own questions, so don’t just make the Q&A part only about you (worst thing in conferences when that happens), but ask your most important question at the end of the talk that’s probably also useful for others and then MEET THE PRESENTER AFTERWARDS to ask further. That’s why they are there!
I know, it can be scary asking a question in a room full of other bloggers, but remember that they probably have the same question as you do. And walking up to the presenter? Eep! But hey – psst – they are also HUMAN and also started where you are now, so compliment them on their talk (they like that) and then ask your question. Or walk up to them at the social event when there aren’t so many other people with questions around and take a minute of their time. It will be worth it, trust me!
Nick Westergaard at the Social Travel Summit
3. LEAVE THE GODDAMN SHRIMPS ALONE
Unless you’re a food blogger with a blog focusing on shrimps at networking events, stop filling your face with food and drinks at social events – just for the sake of filling your face with food and drinks at social events. You can eat, of course, but hear me out.
Full disclaimer, I am a TOTAL INTROVERT myself. I get you’d rather stay in the hotel room by yourself with a good book instead of forcing yourself into a room with loud music and hundreds of people you barely know. I GET IT. Yet at the same time, the social events at blogging conferences have been the NUMBER ONE spot where I made connections with other bloggers and people from PR companies and brands that I’ve later worked with.
Because the setting is so casual, everyone can relax and be themselves, you have honest conversations about things you have in common, such as.. uh… TRAVEL and there is an important opportunity here to make connections with people that will help you later in so many ways, both professionally (referrals by other bloggers, invitations to events and trips, actual paying work -whaaat?) as personally (because, well, friends and finding a community of people that know what you’re talking about besides your dad who still thinks you’re working at The Facebook).
I can honestly say that from all the work I got in the past 5 years, about 90% of that came directly from connections made at blogging conferences and networking events:
- I got my first press trip invitation after my first ever conference because I spend time listening to someone explain what he knew about ships at the Maritime Museum (where the social event was), together with another blogger who already had a connection with the person organising the press trip -and he suggested me.
- I got my first freelance writing gig with a food tour company after getting a contact from another blogger already writing for them.
- I got my first PAID trip after a night of clubbing with some bloggers and casually answering the question if I could ski (not really, seemed it was the right answer)
- I got many more paid trips through recommendation of blogging friends and even took some bigger blogger’s spot in a campaign he couldn’t go on himself, so he decided to send me.
- I got my first mastermind group with three other bloggers I kept meeting at the same blogger events around the world and we learned so much from each other.
- I got my first speaking gig because another blogger kept calling me ‘The Pinterest Queen’ to others and even on stage at a conference, then other bloggers started doing the same and somehow the name stuck with the organiser of this event, so he thought of me.
- I got declined access to a pro-blogging conference in their first year, but invited to SPEAK at the same conference 2 years later, because I made a name for myself and got to know most of the people organising the conference by then.
- I got ALL my Pinterest clients through either meeting the bloggers in person or getting recommend via others.
- I got my job at Space Nation through a recommendation of a blogger friend I made 5 YEARS AGO.
- I am now at the point where people start coming up to ME at networking events, because they know me via my Mappin Monday Pinterest group or one of my talks…. TALK ABOUT FULL CIRCLE HERE.
I can proudly say that no shrimps were harmed during any of my time spend at networking events. Wine, on the other hand… But that’s a story for later.
Right, I believe this rant is long enough now and I think you have the gist of what I meant to say to you. The whole point of blogging conferences and networking events is that you PUT EFFORT into making them good. You put effort in making meaningful connections and you should have a clear intention on what you want to get out of the experience to begin with.
Now the number one question of today is: What is meaningful to YOU?
I suggest you start writing a list of things you want to learn, want to ask, people you want to meet, brands you’d like to work with, destinations you’d like to visit and anything else you can think of. Then look at the next conference that’s coming up and see which of those goals you can put into action.
In the end, blogging as a business is HARD WORK and by sitting at home behind your computer or standing in the corner of a networking event with a plate of food, you will never get all the information and the connections you need to get any further than you are now.
And THAT is how you become a professional blogger, by behaving like one and being proactive. Not by hoping yet another presentation is going to give you all the answers you need.
I will let some of my blogging friends end this post with some great lessons:
Take responsibility if your aim is to be a professional.
– Kash Bhattacharya
If you don’t treat it as a business, it will never be one.
– Leyla Giray Alynak
What is it that sets the successful bloggers apart from the unsuccessful bloggers? What makes you so special? Are you a businessman/woman? No? Then Houston, we have a problem.
– Terry Lee
Blogging is a human exercise.
– Daniel Noll & Audrey Scott
Team up and your voice will carry further.
– Angelika Schwaff
More amazing quotes and practical blogging tips in my 10-part series “Blogging as a Business“
Anything to add? Comment below!
This post is also available in: Dutch