Last year was my first year and I couldn't get enough Blogher tips / what to expect posts. I like to know as much as I can about new situations so I can get my head on straight, it helps curb my anxiety a bit. What follows is my two cents based on Blogher '11 San Diego, for anyone else who loves to read these things and get a better idea of what's ahead.
(Obviously if you don't care about Blogher, you don't care about this. That's okay, and it's long even after I slashed and burned. Onward my friends, may the force be with you. Please forgive my once-a-year vacation excitement.)
100% true: No one will notice what you're wearing, or care how you look when you get there. But– YOU'LL notice, and YOU care. I know it annoys some that so much of the pre-Blogher talk is about clothes and shoes and spanx, but it's just a very real, physical way for people to work through the pre-conference jitters. Forgive us our vices.
My number one goal this year is to be comfortable. Not sweatpants comfortable, but battle-tested tried and true comfortable. I don't want to be hiking up my pants all day or adjusting my dress every time I stand up, there's so much to do that I don't want to waste space in my brain second guessing wardrobe choices.
What you (really I mean me) most want to avoid: You didn't know the liner of the new dress you bought would flip inside out and make it look like your bra was constantly showing at Sparklecorn. Heeyyyyyy.
Best tip for being photo-ready: Wear a little bit more makeup than you're used to.
Makeup photographs a few shades lighter than it looks, compensate accordingly. (Within reason. No party-clownface necessary.) I don't normally wear much makeup but each day of the conference I made sure I put on a little extra blush/bronzer and lipstick. Bloggers take pictures of everything. You've been warned.
Hitting the basics:
• Define your goal(s). Learning, friends, brands, whatever. Cut anything from your plans that doesn't help you meet that goal.
• Make a schedule for each day. Ignore it. The best things that happen at Blogher are accidental.
• Always carry: Ibuprofen/tylenol, bandaids, your phone charger, business cards
• Have an "elevator pitch." You need something better than, "I write about my kids/dog/house and stuff." Even if you don't care about brands people will ask, and you'll feel stupid if you don't have something prepared. (Not that that is exactly what I said last year and felt like a moron multiple times or anything. Ahem.)
• Twitter/email/facebook aren't a reliable way to communicate. The conference gets so busy that sometimes the network goes down, twitter crashes, etc. If you want to connect with someone get their phone number, preferably in advance.
• Blogher is huge. The circle of people you may read and the friends you know are just a teeny tiny tenth of a hair of a fraction of the crowd. CROWD.
• People look different in person. Maybe their twitter avatar is from five years ago, or maybe they only post pictures of themselves from the perfect angle, or maybe we just all look different when our faces are moving around and not static pictures of gators wearing sunglasses eating our heads.
• This is why everyone will be straining to stare at your boobs ie, nametag.
• You are not going to see everyone you want to see. It sucks.
• You are not going to do everything there is to do. Accept it.
Kicking ass and taking names:
We're bloggers. We're nervous awkward internet nerds. Be reassured that no matter what you will not be the most uncomfortable socially inept terrified person in the room. (Now find that person and go shake their hand.) Blogher is a safe space to be the dork you always knew you could be.
It's tempting to only hang out with "your people" and that's part of the reason we all go, but don't get trapped in a bubble. Step outside your comfort zone. Whether you know just a few people or lots, go off by yourself, meet a new group of faces, and sit down with someone who is alone.
Don't be offended if someone you meet seems grouchy or distracted. Everyone is tired/lost their luggage/got locked out of their room/misses their kid. I generally give people with stank-face the benefit of the doubt that I just caught them at the wrong moment.
Be fucking nice. At the very least be polite. Don't cut in line, don't push, don't demand stuff from sponsors, and don't talk about how important you are/aren't. You'd think this would be common sense for adults but sadly, it's not.
Be prepared for highs and lows. One minute you'll be on top of the world feeling suuupa cool meeting new people, the next you'll be sitting on a bench alone with a killer headache wondering what the hell you're even doing here. This is completely normal.
EAT. For god's sake, make sure you remember to eat something besides free cupcakes and drink something besides wine. I mean, still do both those things, but mix some normal stuff in for good measure.
Take control of your experience
I see this tip often, listed as "you get what you put into it." It sounds like bullshit, but I experienced this first hand last year and now I'm a total believer worshiping at the altar Hallmark threw up all over. My first day I scheduled a few networking events (solo) because I thought that's what everyone did. Brand networking wasn't one of my goals, but I forced myself to do it anyway. I was miserable.
Day two I scrapped my schedule and focused on what I was really there for: meeting all the good people I love. I did stuff by myself, even though I normally have terrible social anxiety. It was FINE. I met some great new people and ran into friends it felt like I had known forever. But things got better because I actively worked at it, not because I waited for someone or something else to change it for me.