One of the best decisions I made for my blog was attending a blog conference early on. I went to the 2nd ALT Summit before most bloggers even knew about it.
It was a HUGE investment for me at the time — the ticket to the conference, hotel, and plane ticket added up to around $1,500. To help bring the cost down I asked my good friend from college, and fellow blogger Camille if she wanted to come with me and split the hotel room, lucky for me she was game. My blog was making little to nothing at the time, but I knew if I wanted to take it to the next level I needed to get educated.
Blogging and social media was so new it seemed like the Wild West online. After just a few hours at ALT I knew coming was one of the best decisions I could have made for the future of my blog. During one of the breaks between the sessions I was talking to two people I didn’t know — one was Ben Silbermann — the founder of Pinterest. At the time not that many people knew about Pinterest or Ben, but I was already a huge fan of Pinterest and I was telling him how everyone at Hallmark (where I worked at the time) was obsessed with it. Of course I was too naive to realize what Pinterest was going to turn into (I should have asked him if I could come work for Pinterest right then!).
I realized later that it was lucky of me to come across ALT Summit online, lucky that they still had tickets available just two weeks before it started (now they sell out 600 tickets in a matter of an hour months in advance), and lucky that I could afford to go because it was a huge stepping stone in me becoming a blogger full-time.
One thing I didn’t really realize would happen at the conference was that I met a ton of bloggers and people that would become my friends to this day in real life. It’s been so amazing to watch them all in their successes over the years that all started with blogging — book deals, working with huge brands, new websites, etc.
I chose the photo above for a specific reason. Both Victoria and I are in it — this is where we met! A mutual friend of ours, Tobe, told us that we had so much in common and needed to meet, and we just happened to go to the same small breakout session one day. You can see me on the left in magenta, and Victoria’s dark black hair right above me in the photo. At this moment we didn’t even know each other, but we met right afterward.
This photo was from my second year at ALT, I spoke on a panel that year and the following year. The last time I went (2013) I realized that it was time for me to move on to other conferences. I had outgrown ALT and it also was a bit more niche with DIY/mom bloggers, so the networking and brands that were there wasn’t as valuable to me.
Now that there are so many more blog conferences to choose from — you can really find the one that works the best for you. I’ve attended and spoken at numerous conferences since my first experience at ALT Summit, and I can say that they have all been great experiences that were worth investing in.
I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that attending conferences (and being proactive about meeting people and brands at them) was one of the best investments I made for my blog and future business.
Unfortunately, a lot of conferences can cost a pretty penny when you add up the hotel and flight (if you have to travel for it). If you plan in advance, find people to split hotel rooms with, maybe use points for your flight, you can bring the cost down. The good thing about the cost (if you are monetizing your blog) is that it’s all a write off for your taxes! The cost in many cases is worth it.
I don’t recommend going back to the same conference every single year unless it’s just amazing and there are always lots of new people and brands there for you to meet. Now that there are so many to choose from, you can attend different conferences each year and meet a new crop of people.
Victoria and I have written about conferences at length — you can read all the posts in our Conference Series for tips on what you should know when attending a conference. If you have no idea what conferences are out there — we’ve got a handy 2015 Conference Directory for you as well.
I’m sure there are a few people who have had bad experiences at conferences, or didn’t feel like the cost was worth it — but if you do your research on the conferences, the speakers, you are proactive about meeting people and brands while you are there, and you go in with an open mind to learn, it’s hard to not come out with some value.
For me, the first ALT I went to was definitely the most fun and I felt like I learned the most, and each year afterward, since I did so much research on my own, I felt like I learned less and less. But it was still worth it for me to go every time, and I don’t regret any conference I’ve attended.
Even though we live in a very digital world, human connections are still extremely valuable. I know that meeting people in person at conferences has started relationships and friendships that have turned into great things for not only me, but many of my friends in the blogging community.
Have you attended any conferences? Which ones? Did you like them? Did you think they were valuable?
Photo by Justin Hackworth