Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend Blogalicious 5. It was my first blogging conference ever, and I was bursting with excitement. A month before the conference my mother had a stroke. For a while I wasn’t sure I could make it. As the conference date approached, my mother was moved to a rehabilitation unit at Johns Hopkins. She told me to go and have a great time, and a few family members stepped in so I could fly to Atlanta without much worry.

As I traveled to Atlanta, I found myself thinking about everything I would learn at the conference and all the people I would meet. I was especially excited about meeting my digital family from Black and Married With Kids. I knew this would be a game changing experience.

Once at the hotel, I started to run into people. Some were friends from my past who were now part of the blogging world, too. Others were the people I called my digital friends–people I connected with online but never actually met in person. It was great. But once I sat in the first session, I started to have this unsettling feeling. Was I ready to be at this conference? I mean, was I mentally prepared to make the most of this opportunity.

A voice within kept saying, “no.” Crap! What the hell am I supposed to do now. I’m here. I have to get ready quick or I am going to blow this.

You see, when I went to Blogalicious 5 I had this blog, CandidBelle, but I was putting more of my energy into another site I started with a partner. Over time my relationship with that person became a bit strained. We shared a similar vision, but our timelines could not have been more different. I tried to push forward with the venture because I’d already invested so much time and energy into it. Letting go felt like such a failure, so I made the bad decision to hold on for a bit longer.

So I flew to Atlanta, not only with significant concerns about my mom weighing heavy on me, but with some level of confusion about why I was there. My heart was telling me to represent one brand, while my brain kept telling me that the practical thing to do was focus on the brand I’d invested a ton of time into. In retrospect, I made the wrong call. but as they say, hindsight is 20/20.

Now, with Blogalicious 6 just four weeks away, I feel ready. I dissolved the other brand just two months after attending Blogalicious last year and decided to follow my heart. I could not be happier. I’ve also spent the last year growing my following, connecting with my readers, writing for other sites, and networking with other bloggers and entrepreneurs.

I learned a few lessons after my first Blogalicious experience and I would love to share them with you–especially if this is your first Blogalicious. Of course your experience may be very different from mine, so take what serves you well and pass the rest on to a friend who plans to go too. I hope this list helps in some way.

  1. Work on your elevator pitch.

    If you want people to care at all about your brand, you have to be able to succinctly tell them why they should. Practice at home by recording yourself (or with friends) to sharpen your pitch. It’s also a great way to help you think about what you really want your brand to stand for and how you’d like others to view it.

  2. Make a list of bloggers you want to connect with.

    Blogalicious has a great FB group for attendees. It’s an excellent opportunity to see who plans to attend and begin to connect with them before you arrive at the conference. This is also a wonderful way to start thinking about who you’d like to approach about potential blogger collaborations.

  3. Get your mind right.

    If you are dealing with any type of high stress situation in your personal life–whether it’s family, your 9-5, or something else–try your best to lay it to rest during the 3-4 days you are at the conference. Worrying about it definitely won’t change anything about the situation during your time at the conference so you might as well focus on getting the most out of your Blogalicious experience.

  4. Determine what you’d like your takeaways to be.

    Last year, I definitely could have done a better job at identifying what I wanted to walk away with. Sure, networking and attending sessions are great goals, but you really need a list of specifics things you’d like to takeaway from the experience and stay focused on those things while there.

  5. Be ready to connect with brands.

    There will be brands present at the event, and if they are brands you have an interest in working with, you should be ready to have a conversation. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

  6. Research presenters you want to connect with.

    I love conferences because I love to learn. And because I love to learn, I always want to know as much as I can about the teacher. Take a moment to get some background information on speakers you may want to meet. It’s one thing to just sit in a session, but it’s another to actually approach a speaker afterwards. Get ready.

  7. Think about where you would like to see your blog in a year.

    This is really about creating a vision. It doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind about a few things, or even do a complete pivot–it just means that you have some sort of vision and you think attending the conference will bring you one step closer to making that vision a reality.

  8. Just breathe.

    Don’t let yourself get stressed out about the whole thing. It really is a pretty awesome experience and you will meet some pretty terrific people. Just bring comfy shoes, your favorite devices, and a great attitude. I promise if you are relaxed and ready to soak it all in, you will be ready to start saving for Blogalicious 7 when it’s all over. Have fun! I’ll see you on the Riverwalk!

And don’t forget to leave a comment and let me know if this is helpful.