A couple weeks ago, I wrote a brutally honest post about my experience at the BlogHer 2012 blog conference and why I don't plan to attend next year. I tried to keep it balanced, discussing the pros and cons of a big blog conference and my own (admittedly high) expectations. I was astounded at the response I got, with hundreds of messages from fellow bloggers providing their own blog conference insights and looking for advice. One question came at me time and time again: “Which blog conferences SHOULD I attend?”
To me, it all boils down to what each blogger is looking to get out of blog conferences. It would be ideal if bloggers could be at every blog conference learning every single lesson and networking constantly. But we're all on a budget and time away from the family is difficult. It's important to pick and choose a limited set of blog conferences that are the best investment for your needs. With that in mind, here are some of the top blog conferences I recommend for different needs, with a brief overview of what they're all about. I've also noted the location and month for upcoming/announced ones (note: some are already sold out for this year, but good to keep in mind for the future).
The Big Names in Blog Conferences
- Type A (Atlanta, September 2013): This blog conference leaves lots of time to connect with other bloggers and brands, while still offering top-notch content. This is a favorite of many bloggers I've spoken to.
- Evo: Learn the ins and outs of blogging. Whether you're a newbie or a seasoned pro, this blog conference offers a wealth of knowledge and decent opportunities to connect with brands.
- Blissdom (Dallas, March 2013): Lots of opportunities for one-on-one time with brands, and sessions filled with new blogging ideas and skills. If you're starting to feel “blogger burnout” and are looking for some genuine inspiration, this is the blog conference for you.
- Mom 2.0 (Laguna Niguel, May 2013): The blog conference for professional bloggers looking to connect with brands and take things up a notch.
- Savvy Blogging Summit (Atlanta, October 2012): A great place to learn the business side of blogging.
- Alt Summit (Salt Lake City, January 2013): They aim to make blogging beautiful. Spice things up with a little more creativity.
- BlogWorld (Las Vegas, January 2013): This is another blog conference along the same lines as BlogHer. Very large and intimidating, but it can be a good place to connect with brands IF you know what you're doing and you're already experienced with the ins and outs of blogging.
- Bloggy Boot Camp (Dallas September 2012, Las Vegas October 2012, Chicago November 2012): I always recommend this blog conference to newbie bloggers looking to get a feel for the blogging community. These 100-person conferences are inexpensive and accessible, and happen multiple times throughout the year all over the United States. While you won't find hundreds of brands vying for your attention, you will learn how to get on the path to achieve your blogging goals.
- Brandcation: A get-together with an intimate group of 30-35 bloggers looking to learn from each other and see a fun location in-depth while connecting with a very short list of brands who make these events possible.
Niche Blog Conferences: Sometimes, Less is More
The big blog conferences have a massive pull as general resources for knowledge and networking. That being said, I think it's important for each blogger to assess their niche and focus on connecting with people in their own community. The niche conferences below can help people who blog about specific topics take it to the next level.
- ABC Kids Expo (Louisville, October 2012): A trade show with a massive amount of exhibits from kid-focused brands. If you go, plan ahead which companies you want to connect with as you may not get a chance to meet them all.
- Blog Paws (Tysons Corner VA, May 2013): The gathering place for pet bloggers, with a heavy focus on social media tools.
- Reviewer's Retreat (Pine Mountain GA, June 2013): Aimed at bloggers whose focus is on reviews. Very “mommy” focused, this one has good opportunities to learn from other bloggers. However, getting face time with the companies there can be difficult.
- TBEX: Travel Blog Exchange brings together the whole community of travel bloggers with in-depth sessions and opportunities to meet brands at cool functions.
- Haven: There's no place like home. Meet DIY-focused and renovation bloggers and connect with home-focused sponsors.
- SNAP! (Utah, April 2013): Creativity at your fingertips. This is for all you crafty types.
- FitBloggin (Baltimore, September 2012): All about health and fitness.
- BlogHer Food (Austin, June 2013): Put on by the BlogHer people, this conference is much smaller than the BlogHer general conference. All about food!
- Financial Bloggers Conference: Bringing financial bloggers together to network and learn.
- Blogalicious (Las Vegas, September 2012): Aimed at multicultural bloggers, this conference aims to connect diverse people and offers sessions to help take your blog to the next level.
- SXSW (Austin, March 2013): A merging of tech, music and film, this hipster conference focuses on what's new and cool. Just be aware that a lot of people come here to party as opposed to talk business. Making genuine connections can be difficult, so I only recommend this conference to experienced people who really know the ropes of networking.
- CES (Las Vegas, January 2013): Hosted by the Consumer Electronics Association, this is all about electronics. This is more for the general electronics industry as opposed to being a specific “blog conference,” and some bloggers that I've spoken to have been treated by certain companies and other attendees as something of a nuisance (this is actually pretty common for companies that are still learning the value of bloggers). If you go, go with your game face on and show them that you mean business.
Getting the Most out of Blog Conferences: Make Your Connections Count
My advice to those looking to establish connections initially: attend smaller, nearby conferences to get your foot in the door, and work your butt off to make those connections worth it. That will lead to bigger opportunities in the future. For those on a limited budget or unable to take much time away from their family, you can still work wonders to further your existing connections via simple phone calls or thoughtful follow-ups after working with a company on a campaign. A handwritten thank you card makes a long-lasting impression. Another money-saving conference tip: browse the conference hashtag on Twitter to find a roommate, and ask about volunteer opportunities for subsidized or free tickets. Experienced bloggers may also contact the event organizers and offer to speak in exchange for a free or reduced price ticket and some assistance with accommodations.
Blog Conferences: What's Next for Me
I'm thrilled to be speaking in October at Bloggy Boot Camp in Las Vegas! Bloggy Boot Camp is the first conference I ever attended, and I love the intimate events they put on at a budget-friendly cost in cities all over the nation. I'll be running a session on blogging authentically about grief and loss, which is right up my alley as many of my readers have shared in my journey coming to terms with my abusive childhood.
I'm also registered for Mom 2.0 happening up in Laguna Niguel and have heard wonderful feedback on the event in terms of professionalism and real opportunities to meet with the faces behind brands that support the blogging community. It's another big-name event along the same lines as BlogHer in terms of content and price, but it's limited to 400 attendees. I hope to see some of you there!
So, did I miss anything? Any other burning blog conference questions you have for me?