I expected to make connections and I hoped to grow my readership. I thought I would meet like-minded people and learn more about the technologies and techniques of blogging. I didn't expect to make friends. I thought you couldn't make friends instantly like that; friends take time and serendipity and are not just the people you sat at lunch with.
They're not, but actually, it turns out they are. What did I do at BlogHer? I made new friends.
But if you're looking for actual useful information because perhaps you're going next year, and perhaps it already is next year, or perhaps you're me in the future and I've forgotten all the things I think right now I couldn't possibly forget, here are some weighty words of wisdom for you.
- Conference centers are cold. People said “Bring a scarf or a wrap or a light cardigan,” but they forgot to say “Bring a full-body fleece”.
- Don’t get 500 business cards even if they are only a couple of dollars more than 250. At least, not if you think you might want to change the design in the next couple of years. But do get business cards, and it's a good idea to have your photo on them if you can bear it. Definitely put your Twitter handle on them as well as your blog URL.
- If you can, have a family. I mean, a friend family, a safe space to return to, and people who will save you a seat even as they set you free to go a little crazy having your own experience.
- Obsess over what to wear if it helps you feel prepared, but know that you don't have to. You can wear jeans every day. There is no dress code. I didn’t see anyone in sweats, but I wouldn’t call it “business casual” or “dressy” or anything at all. If I go again I don’t think I’ll feel the need to put so much thought or preparation into my wardrobe.
- A smartphone is pretty handy for keeping in touch with people. My phone is not very smart and decided not to work for Twitter or Facebook even though the wi-fi at the conference was just fine. So I was reduced to old-school texting, which only works if you have had the forethought to get actual phone numbers from the people you intended to twitter-stalk, or taking out my laptop to communicate, which was not so handy if I wanted to find out where my friends were sitting while on my way from the buffet to the tables. Still, it sufficed. Don't feel you can't go because you don't have the technology.
- While I'm on the subject, do use Twitter at the conference. I've only been on it since earlier this year, but I found it invaluable for following people as soon as I'd got their card or sat in the session they were chairing, and becoming part of the conversation instantly. I only realised towards the end that every session has its own hashtag, so if you follow that you can see what everyone's saying about it while you're in the room. Which is quite cool.
- Comfortable shoes. You know that, right?