I got back from BlogHer ’13 on Sunday and my head is still spinning with all of the experiences. So many wonderful things happened while I was there. I met amazing women and men who are so passionate about what they do. I interacted with some incredible brands. And I just had a ton of fun. But one thing that has really stuck with me these last few days is how much more confident I was this year than when I attended BlogHer in 2011.
My mental health and state of mind is so much stronger. Not perfect. It will never be perfect…for anyone. But I am so proud of how far I’ve come.
For a very long time I’ve had social anxiety. And too much stress–even good stress–makes me shut down. Have you ever felt that way? But for some reason, at this year’s event, I felt a lot more in charge of myself. I didn’t give in to my fears. And when I needed breaks, I took them.
I’ve been trying to think about what I did that really helped me this year. I want to share it with you, especially if you’re ever considering attending a conference like BlogHer. It can really be overwhelming when you’ve never attended this kind of conference. All the parties. All the people you don’t know. All the rushing around, and lack of sleep, and potential for overindulgence. Its not always helpful to our state of mind or mental health, especially when you have a mental illness like me.
So, here are my tips for maximizing your conference confidence, while minimizing your stress:
- Join Pre-Conference Facebook Groups. This was huge for me. I was able to find a few very active BlogHer attendee Facebook groups to share info, invites and ask questions. It was a way to build a community before going. To get information about all of the invite-only events. And try to set up connections before going.For example, via one of these groups I discovered that Gigi @KludgyMom and I were flying into Midway airport around the same time. We had never met in person, but decided to connect at the airport and take the train together into the city. Having that connection right off the bat, made my entry into the BlogHer experience so much more comfortable. And because of such Facebook groups and following the #BlogHer13 hashtag on Twitter, I made connections with others who I ran into over the course of the conference. (In pics clockwise from top left: Alison @SassyMomChicago, Tricia @Tricia_Oakes, Kerri @_themaven, Nicole @thesistershood, Tracy @chimomwriter, Deborah @AskDocG and Pauline @Pauline_Campos)
- Pre-Schedule a Few Meet-ups. I did know a few Seattle area bloggers going to BlogHer, and also had a few other friends who I had not seen in quite some time. And a couple I only know online and had never met. So prior to the event, I connected a few of those friends and set up dinner the first night upon arrival. It was so comforting to have dinner with Jen @jenphillipsapri, Jenny @jenrenpody, Kerry, Merry @Merry120 and Ashley @Crunchy_F. I also pre-planned to meet up with my friend Tracy @chimomwriter (in top right pic) for Thursday night events and for the Friday Lunch Keynote with Kathy @bereavedblessed (in top left pic).
- Pre-Schedule Events. Using my handy dandy BlogHer iPhone App, I was able to set up my schedule very easily on my phone. And as I mentioned, because of the Facebook Groups I had joined, was able to procure attendance to some invite-only events.After my dinner upon arrival, I headed by myself to my first invite-only event. I was a little nervous taking a cab by myself and then walking the pier to the MadameDeals Seadog Cruise, but decided to brush off my anxiety and just go for it! And I knew once I got there, I’d see my great friend Lizz @Lizz_Porter (in bottom left pic above). I’m glad I did because we saw some AWESOME fireworks over Lake Michigan and I met several new friends including Kate @guavalicious (in bottom right pic above.)
On Thursday morning my roommate Kerri and I checked-in at registration and then headed to our next invite-only event with Disney Infinity and The Big Toy Book. I was so thrilled to be that this event, because this is the new, yet-to-be-released Disney adventure game kind of in the style of Skylanders, with Disney character figures. My kids are going to LOVE this game, and I got the chance to see it and get one of the figurines before they are available to the public on August 18th!Thursday night was a whirlwind of events. I had not scheduled to attend the BlogHer Pathfinder pre-conference as I did in 2011, so I had the time to meet with and interact with great brands who I hope to work with in the future. I attended the Social Luxe Lounge sponsored by Cottonelle, a Mom Central event at the World of Whirlpool, Social Soiree, Sweet Suite by the Big Toy Book, and a party by Verizon Wireless. It was SUCH a busy busy night, but I found my unexpected confidence and just went for it!Friday highlights included the Visit South Walton Florida party where I became on official blogger in residence, MomTrends, Lifetime TV and American Girl. I will be writing a lot more about these in the coming weeks.
- Don’t get Drunk. There is a lot of alcohol flowing at conference events like these, and yes, I was away from my family and responsibilities at home, but I was there on business. I ran into more than a few people who had one too many and honestly most people were trying to get away from them. If you want to make a positive impression with future potential clients or business partners, its best to be yourself and enjoy the proffered libations in moderation.
- Say YES to the Fashion Show…even it it SCARES you! So I might have been tempted, knowing my anxiety to say no when Elisa @ElisaC emailed me to ask if I’d be interested in walking the runway at the BlogHer ’13 Fashion Show, but I didn’t hesitate for a minute. I will be writing much more about this event as it was quite the amazing experience! But I’m waiting to get access to a lot more of the photos. The diversity and courage of the women involved was absolutely beautiful. And I got to do it with two of my best blogging buddies Lizz and Katherine @PostpartumProg and met so many amazing women. So FUN! (Photo by BlogHer.com and Danielle Tsi Photography from The BlogHer ’13 Fashion Show brought to you by Ulta.)
- Pick Conference Sessions that Speak to You. You don’t have to go to everything at a conference of this size. There is truly SO MUCH to do. And feeling like you have to do it all is just plain stressful. So my advice is to pick a few that truly speak to you, and if you find you have more time on your hands check out one or two more, or do like I did and spend that extra time in the convention hall checking out the great brand sponsors. And if you feel like you really missed someting, you can always check out the Virtual BlogHer ’13 Conference here: http://www.blogher.com/node/815579/virtual-conference
- Recognize Someone? Say HELLO! Seriously, this is something that I didn’t do in 2011. I let my social anxiety rule that year, but this year I just did it. I walked right up to Annie @PHDinParenting and told her how much I love her work. I introduced myself to Cecily @CecilyK, Nicole @MomTrendsNYC and so many more. If I saw someone I’d met at another event, I’d say hi. It really didn’t matter if we didn’t remember names. There were so many people at this event, so we all understood. I was so proud of myself for reaching out when I normally wouldn’t, and that confidence shined through throughout the conference.
- Its OK to Take a Break. So after all of the activity of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I woke up Saturday and KNEW that for my mental health, I needed a break. So I stayed in my room, wrote a blog post, caught up on email and just lounged in bed. Saturday night was the Fashion Show so I knew I needed to be at my best mentally to attack that fun challenge head on. And I let go of the guilt that I missed the Saturday sessions. I did want to go to a couple originally but it made much more sense to my state of mind if I skipped. So I did.
- Pre-Schedule to Ride with a Friend to the Airport. After all of the excitement I definitely still wanted to feel connected on my trip home. Via the Facebook groups I was able to find a friend on my flight back to Seattle. Jenny @jennyonthespot and I had met a few times in Seattle, but never really had the chance to get to know one another. She is so awesome, and we had a wonderful trip chatting, getting to know one another, and sort of de-briefing about our conference experiences. A GREAT way to end my conference trip!
So there you have it. My 9 tips to have a GREAT conference. Without risk, you will never achieve rewards. So its all about finding ways to tap into your inner confidence and finding a comfort zone that works for you.
Did you get to BlogHer ’13? I’m sorry If I missed seeing you! What are your best tips for maximizing your conference experience?