I have a confession to make. It took me (Gemma) three years to attend a blogging conference and I regret not signing up sooner. My first national conference was the Edinburgh Blogging Conference which was closely followed by the travel blogging conference, TBEX, in Ireland and now I’ve hit the hat trick by attending IMM TravMedia in London. In this guide to blogger conferences, I will detail why we (Gemma and Laura at Make Traffic Happen) feel attending conferences shouldn’t be viewed as a financial hit but a worthy investment in your career as a content creator. Don’t believe us? We’ve asked a selection of content creators from different niches what the benefits of attending conferences are for them too.
What are blogging conferences?
Influencer conferences take many shapes. Some last for one day and focus on connecting bloggers with brands (such as IMM TravMedia), others are multi-day conferences which mix speed dating between brands and influencers with workshops, presentations and panels (like TBEX). In addition to educational events, some conferences also offer press/FAM trip opportunities to help promote the area (Traverse and TBEX, for example). Some conferences are niche specific such as Beer Bloggers Conference, others are skill based, like the Pinners Conference. There are also female-focused (such as Blogher and Women in Travel Summit) and multi-cultural focused Blogalicious.
6 benefits of attending a blogging conference
1. Being present
Personally, I think the most underrated benefit of attending a blogging conference is that it gives you the opportunity to be ‘present’. By this I mean physically showing your face, networking with brands, liaising with conference organisers and socialising with fellow content creators. No relationship is fully formed until you meet face to face and this intense period of time (conferences are manic!) gives content creators the ideal opportunity to create friendships. This blogging game is not an island – Zoella, Forbe’s top beauty influencer says that ‘collaboration is key’ and encourages ‘speaking with other bloggers and finding the people you can grow with’.
Being present also lets you show off your brand. This part is important. You are always your brand. Do bear that in mind before you partake in any blogger backstabbing! Attending conferences helps you define your message. Is there a colour you associate your brand with? Are you a hat/scarf person? I fully commit to tartan during events, this aligns me with Two Scots Abroad. Remember your branded on business cards too (see our ‘before you go’ guide below). Brand singals are so important for SEO.
2. Networking opportunities
London based blogger, Amanda, of the The Boutique Adventurer, a blog which focuses on luxury adventures in emerging destinations, has this to say about networking at blogger conferences:
“I started my travel blog about 18 months ago. I didn’t know much about blogging but I did know that I wanted to turn my blog into a business. The turning point for me was attending my first travel bloggers conference. I identified the gaps in my knowledge, how to fill them and best of all, I started meeting other travel bloggers. The bloggers I was introduced to at that first conference became my kickoffs for meeting more bloggers, introductions to PR companies, sharing content across social media, guest post opportunities, backlink swap opportunities and best of all some new friends! Networking is critical if you are going to turn travel blogging into a sustainable career and conferences are, to my mind, the best way to start this valuable process.”
3. Gaining a different perspective
U.S. blogger, April, from the blog April Golightly is a food, fashion and travel blog celebrating everyday luxury, style, living and delightful light food. April met both Gemma and Laura on an Ireland TBEX fam trip. She says:
“I love attending conferences abroad because they open a new perspective on my business. I learn so much from meeting people that have a different perspective than I do. Since my blog and social media are lifestyle focused, I can work with a lot of different brands in creative ways. I find that I learn a lot from one or two speaking presentations at each conference. I like to choose the ones that I attend carefully based on what I think that I need help with. The remainder of the learning is done behind the scenes after I have formed relationships that started at these conferences.”
Allison Green, of the blog Eternal Arrival, which focuses on off-the-beaten-path travel, the blog Sofia Adventures, about Sofia and the Balkans, is a California-born travel blogger based in Sofia, Bulgaria. She likes attending blogger conferences for social opportunities.
“There are many reasons for going to blogging conferences, but I’d say that one of my primary reasons for attending travel events is the socialising opportunities. I’ve found that my friendships with other bloggers have been the most beneficial in terms of motivating me, teaching me new things, and letting me know of opportunities. In fact, I think I get way more out of networking with other bloggers than I do out of networking with tourism boards at events like TBEX and ITB! It’s one of few rare opportunities to meet tons of bloggers at all levels of growth, and I’ve made many of my close friendships in the blogosphere at conferences. It’s especially great to finally get to put a face to a name from people you’ve interacted with and chatted with in Facebook groups. While conferences should be useful for presentations and formal networking as well, I’ve found the socialisation aspect to be my favourite part of attending conferences.”
5. Press Trips
Stephanie Craig is a travel writer and podcaster. She hosts The History Fangirl Podcast and Rick Steves Over Brunch. You can find her writings at History Fan Girl and Sofia Adventures. Blogger conferences are especially appealing to her because they often come along with press or fam trip opportunities.
“One of the great things about going to travel conferences is that many of them have associated press trips before or afterwards. Travel blog conferences work with the local tourism boards to offer different style FAM trips, which attendees can apply for ahead of time. Other conferences and organisations combine tours or smaller, multi-day trips with their conference. This makes the return on investment for many conference attendees better, as they also can get content that aligns with their blog’s niche.
In addition, conferences offer the opportunity to network with tourism boards and other DMOs to determine if a future group or solo press trip is mutually beneficial. Solo press trips have the added benefit of being able to be customised to the blogger’s audience and interests.”
6. Worthwhile workshops
Ron is an Army veteran, blogger, Amazon FBA Seller, professional poker player and world traveller. He regularly blogs about breaking free from societal thinking, individuality and his adventures in business and travel across the globe at Red Pill Rebellion. Ron has attended many conferences and has this to say about the benefits:
“I’ve always believed in the power of community! Attending conferences is one of the best ways to build a dynamic community of like-minded individuals who are all passionate about the same topic. I’ve attended many conferences over the years and in doing so I’ve been able to build a network of professionals in various areas of interest. The relationships I’ve built have stood the test of time. It also allows for you to have a wealth of knowledge and information to tap into at a moment’s notice.
One aspect of attending professional conferences that I find particularly valuable is workshops. Workshops allow you hands-on experience from veterans on your passion of choice. It allows you to fill in the information gaps that you may have otherwise missed. For example, this past October I attended TBEX Ireland, an international blogging conference. It was here that I took a workshop on writing that has allowed me to hone my skills and elevate my written communication to a much higher level of effectiveness.
Are there any benefits to attending workshops and conferences? Let’s see, a network of incredibly positive people all working towards a common goal, lots of new friendships to build upon, an information nexus for you to grow and learn, and of course, it’s always a fun time! I always make it a point to go to at least one conference or workshop a year and you should too!”
Conference tips – before you go
Get in early – most conferences have some kind of meeting management scheme for their speed-networking events. Instructions on how to use the system, as well as access to begin setting up meetings, are typically published weeks/months before the event itself. Usually, you create a profile, identify your statistics and display your best work. From this meeting management system, you can contact businesses who are attending to arrange a meeting.
Prepare your elevator pitch – when you meet with a business you will get a 10-15 minute window to sell yourself. What are your website and brand about? Where do your strengths lie? How can you work together successfully? My elevator pitch discusses how we save hard and make travel happen, and how we encourage our audience to do the same. I highly recommend researching the brand before you meet and creating a proposal if you have one, or create a pitch which shows how you are can best work together for mutual benefit.
Buy a notebook and create a section for brands/businesses. Making notes on each brand and business you meet with is essential. Make a new page for each brand and place their business card on that page. This will help when you get home and write follow-up emails. They meet with many different bloggers and brands in a short amount of time and may not remember you (hence why having some kind of brand colour, hat etc may help you stand out).
Order your business cards in advance – check out our thread here for ideas!
Leave space for heaps of tree-killing paper and gifts – you rarely walk away from a table without some form of leaflet, pen drive or if you are lucky, chocolate! You often get given a tote bag as you enter the conference, keep this handy. Or why not make a branded tote yourself? Cheesy but may make you memorable!
Prepare to party if that’s your scene. Lots of sponsors put on nightly events with drinks and live shows. Hydrate, work on your vocals (I always lose my voice!), limber up and I’ll see you on the dancefloor (or at lunch).
Events and conferences don’t have to be held at the national and international level. Check out your local Travel Massive chapter. Their events are free and a great way to mix with content creators and businesses in your local area. Travel bloggers might want to consider attending their local tourism board conferences too. I presented on how to work with bloggers at mine. Laura met the events coordinator of Conde Nast UK at a local wine event in London. The opportunities are endless!
Whether you are attending a blogging conference to further your skills or to socialise with new friends, there is a blogger event for every niche and stage of blogging. Although there is an initial cost for most conferences, the rewards tend to outweigh the benefits which can lead to future work, relationships and even presenting the next year.
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