If you are new to blogging and you would like to attend a blogging conference, but feel intimidated by the very thought, this post is to encourage you to make the leap and go for it! I learned that blogging conferences are for bloggers both big and small, and it’s a safe and welcoming space for all of us to learn.
I would like to share my experiences from the 2018 Haven Conference in Charleston with you (along with some helpful tips and tricks) so that you can attend your first blogging conference and feel like a rockstar!
We are going to start with the nitty-gritty how-to and then get down to the fun stuff later. 🙂
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How to prepare for a blogging conference
Preparation for blogging conferences start months in advance.
Here are some questions you need to ask yourself before you even leave home:
- Does this conference fit into my schedule?
- Can I afford to attend this conference?
- How will I get to this conference?
- How will I travel around once I reach the conference?
- Will I room by myself or with roommates?
- If I want to share a room, who will I share it with?
Let’s look at these questions in a little more detail.
Does this conference fit into my schedule?
Make sure you know the dates of the conference and that it fits into your schedule.
Haven conference check-in began on a Thursday, so most bloggers arrived the day before or that morning.
If you have children, you will have to coordinate with your spouse or someone else to care for them while you are away (unless you make it a family trip). It can be inconvenient for people who don’t have a lot of family support, so plan ahead.
If you work outside of blogging, make sure you have enough vacation time and that you put in ample notice to your boss in order to reserve the dates in advance.
Can I afford to attend this blogging conference?
Blogging conferences can get expensive!
Here are some of the costs you can expect to incur while attending a blogging conference.
- Conference ticket purchase
- Airplane ticket purchase
- Luggage check-in
- Car rental/Uber/Lyft
- Meals and tips
- Fun money for tourist attractions
- Business cards
I was shocked by how much money I was racking up in Charleston…and I didn’t even sightsee!
Make sure you plan ahead and have plenty of money saved to put towards the conference.
Another piece of advice is to save all your receipts!
Those are tax deductible for your blogging business. 🙂
(If you want to attend a blogging conference but you are short on cash, find out how I funded my entire trip with a side hustle that has made me 15k+.)
How will I get to this conference and travel around once I get there?
You will either need to drive yourself by car or fly by plane (unless you are within walking distance, haha).
Both options have pros and cons.
If you drive, you have to worry about parking, breaking down, gas, etc.
If you fly you might fight with delays or other problems. You will also be dependent on others to get you to and from the airport and around town, be it riding with friends or reserving a taxi/Uber/Lyft.
Weigh your options.
Should I share a room or room by myself?
Again, both options have pros and cons.
Share a room
- Pros: save money, make new friends, learn more from other bloggers, etc
- Cons: sleep issues, no private space to decompress, scheduling around bathroom use, etc
- Pros: better sleep, have privacy, no problem scheduling shower/toilet time
- Cons: expensive, can be isolating, may miss out on social experiences
I decided to share a room with my blogging BFF, Julie from My Wee Abode.
This was partially because I am
cheap frugal and partially because the rooms were selling out so fast!
Lucky for me, Julie had scheduled a room months in advance.
Rooming with them was one of the best decisions I made.
We ended up setting up a chat group and dubbed ourselves “Haven’s Angels”, a spoofing off the 70’s show, Charlie’s Angels.
We had SO MUCH FUN!!!
Here is a picture of us doing our best Charlie’s Angels pose.
Rita looks confused…maybe Canada doesn’t have Charlie’s Angels? 😉
These crazy gals kept me up until midnight with all our silliness and giggling. I feel bad for whoever was rooming beside us!
(Just kidding girls, I love you all.)
How to pack for a blogging conference.
If you plan ahead, you shouldn’t run into any issues about forgetting important items (make a list!) or not having enough space.
Obviously you are going to need to bring clothes, shoes, your phone, the usual stuff that you would take when traveling anywhere else!
Here are some additional items to bring:
I only met one person the entire time who didn’t have a business card!
Everyone one else had amazing business cards…most of them self-designed and simply stunning.
If you are looking to connect with brands, having an impressive business card with all your social media handles is very important!
I ordered my business cards from Moo and was SO IMPRESSED by both their quality and their services.
I had an issue with my cards (my fault, not theirs) and needed new cards.
A week before Haven. On a Thursday. While they were closed for the Fourth of July.
I called them after the Fourth of July and not only did they make suggestions on how to fix the issue — they also shipped the cards overnight, and I received them less than 24 hours later.
Seriously, use Moo…they are the ONLY place I will ever use for business cards! Their customer service is phenomenal.
It might also be worth noting that their cards are really thick and high-quality!
During a prize drawing while picking business cards from a box, the speaker noted that her fingers were constantly drawing the thicker, heavier cards!
(My order was exactly this: Standard Size Soft Touch Super Business Cards x 100.)
Portable phone charger
You are not going to have very much time to go back to your room and sit around, waiting for your phone to charge!
I got this portable phone charger and whenever my battery was low, I simply connected it to my phone and it charged in my purse while I mingled.
(Do yourself a favor and get the wall charging plug as well. I didn’t realize that by using only the USB cord it comes with, it will take whopping 12 hours to charge! You will cut your charging time to 4 hours if you get the plug.)
For you as much as for other people.
Keep your germs to yourself and keep things clean.
Your camera and camera bag
If you plan on taking your photography skills to the next level with one of their excellent photography classes, it helps if you bring your big camera.
I took the photography class with Rachel from Maison de Pax and learned a ton!
(I was the salt…but I wasn’t salty about it. 😉 )
(FYI, you don’t need to spend hundreds to get an awesome camera bag. Just check out my hack to turn any bag into a camera bag and save major bucks!)
A lightweight cardigan
Those classrooms can get COLD!
Make sure you pack a nice, lightweight cardigan that matches your clothing selection.
(I bought this one in slate blue specifically for Haven, but ended up forgetting it at home. Luckily, I had a spare….oh well, I still love my slate cardigan!)
Pack light and bring an extra bag for swag.
On the way there, I was able to bring my luggage with me on the flight and saved $25 by not checking my luggage.
If you pack light, you can save money!
Plan out your clothing day-by-day and don’t bring extras (I didn’t need a bathing suit, really).
You get A LOT of free stuff at blogging conferences…it’s called swag.
As an aspiring minimalist, I gave a lot of my stuff away to my roomies.
Here is all the stuff I ended up keeping: my fan, FrogTape painter’s tape, Gorilla Glue mini glue gun and sticks, a $15 Starbucks gift card, two cellphone grips, a Fiskar’s comfort detail knife, and a jar of orange paint from the Amy Howard Maker’s Studio.
How to get the most out of a blogging conference
“Drink from the firehose.”
Those were some of the first words words of wisdom uttered to me by an experienced blogger that I met upon arriving, the wonderful (and shockingly tireless) Yvonne Pratt, from the blog Stonegable.
It turned out to be great advice!
Attending a blogging conference can make you feel like your heart is hooked up to jumper cables attached to a Boeing 747!
It’s like being electrified, like an endless bungee jump, like the first day of school 24/7 for three days straight.
Like Yvonne said, just open up to all of it and go full speed! (Thanks Yvonne, I owe you lunch!)
Meet all the people you can, don’t be afraid to go up to your blogging idols and introduce yourself!
Make sure you ask for their business card (and offer yours in return 😉 ).
Go a step further and ask for a picture with them! (This is one thing I forgot to do, and was kicking myself later for.)
(I think what I really need is for her to teach me some makeup tips…why am I so washed-out in every single pic?)
How to do all the things at a blogging conference
Haven and other blogging conferences offer a lot of great information and experiences to bloggers.
Here are some activities you can expect:
- Meet and greets
- Hands-on workshops
- Meeting brands
Meet and greets
After registration, there was a lovely cocktail meet and greet party. Everyone got one drink ticket and mingled in the hot Charleston evening.
It was tons of fun to see all my favorite bloggers IRL just hanging out.
They also had some fun competitions – with prizes offered and a Haven Balloon banner for taking pictures.
One great experience that Haven offers to attendees is mentoring. Attendees are divided and grouped under the mentorship of an experienced blogger.
My mentor was Lauren, from the blog Bless’er House and I was so excited it was her!
Because my niche isn’t so much home decor as it is frugal living, I was worried about connecting with home decor bloggers. However, I did feel an instant connection with Lauren, who blogs about such topics as living in smaller spaces, budget decor, thrifting, and all the things that make me squiggly with joy.
The mentees met with their mentor once every day to check in and ask questions. It was a great experience!
I wish we would have gotten a picture with all of us together…make sure you do that yourself if you go to a blogging conference! 😉
In addition to the regular classes, there are lots of hands-on experiences that you can participate in at blogging conferences.
Painting workshops, crafting workshops, how to carve with Dremel tools, etc.
One of my favorite workshops was for photographing flat lays.
I walked up and complimented the flat lay coach on her fabulous skirt and then asked her name (she was not wearing a name tag).
I almost died when she put it on and I realized she was Aniko from Place of My Taste! I LOVE her blog!
She had some great tips on how to take amazing flat lays, such as making sure your phone is perfectly flat and using white space creatively!
(That’s another funny thing about blogging conferences, you see these people on your phone in tiny images and then don’t recognize them in real life! When you also have facial recognition problems like me, it makes it even harder. I talked to one blogger for 15 minutes before realizing I had mistaken her for someone else! Luckily, everyone was really friendly about it.)
Blogging conferences are great places to get your foot in the door and begin networking with brands that you love.
Before you even go to the conference, I would encourage you to find what brands will have booths at the conference and pick five that you would love to work with.
After picking your target brands, brainstorm at least one idea you could pitch to them.
Make sure you describe how your blog’s audience is a good fit for their product and why they NEED to work with you.
Let them know what you bring to the table.
And make sure to exchange business cards!
Don’t forget to have fun
After all the day’s activities are finished, it’s time to go out and get dinner and see the local sights.
Try and eat local specialties…for us, it was all about that good Southern BBQ (definitely check out Smoke on the historic King’s Street if you are in Charleston visiting).
I hope that this MASSIVE post helps you feel prepared if you are planning to attend a blogging conference, especially if it is your first!
Let me know your favorite thing about blogging conferences or if you are planning to attend one in the comment section below.