Every blogger who wants to go professional, work with brands and monetize their blog should attend blogging conferences and events that are relevant to their niche.
These events can be vastly different, but good conferences include some critical agendas that bloggers need to grow.
First of all, sessions can help you improve your craft. I’ve been to several conference workshops this year and learned how to effectively work in my niche using the latest social media tools for maximum impact (ShiftCon) and worked on branding how-to’s for building my business (iRetreat).
Conferences have helped me to connect with major brands in my niche like Hasbro and Boiron.
In addition, conference expo attendance can lead to brand ambassadorships, like the one I earned with Best Buy at BlogHer, and as well as paying contracts.
At Blogger Bash this year, I landed a freelance writing gig with Noodle.com.
Finally, catching up and meeting bloggers in your niche in person builds and strengthens relationships and may be one of the top reasons you attend blogging conferences.
The problem is that many bloggers don't realize that these are professional business events. To cultivate an atmosphere that promotes networking, conference organizers often plan lots of fun activities and events as well as offering goodies and swag.
It’s easy to think of this like a mini-vacation without your family but that can get you into trouble. This year, I was painfully aware of bad behavior displayed by bloggers at these events. I witnessed at least 6 ways bloggers may have ruined their reputations at events and have come up with a list of what you should never do.
6 Ways to Ruin Your Reputation at a Blogging Conference
1. Drinking or Eating Too Much
We've all seen that blogger who's had one too many or the one eating everything in sight. Obviously food and alcohol vendors want you to sample their goods, but how can you go about it carefully?
If it’s in your niche (and not just something you want now), go ahead and try a little of the cocktail they are serving, take a bag of chips or eat a few mini desserts.
Don’t, however, keep coming back over and over for more food, and please avoid the alcohol drinks that are available at the bar. In fact, sip the one you have slowly as you walk through the event. Know your limits. While booze and food are great to for socializing, they can also make you look bad.
If you’re slurring, you’ve gone too far and should avoid speaking with brands, celebrities – or even other bloggers, who may then gossip about your bad behavior.
2. Overstuffing Your Bags with Swag
Swag is nice, but it's usually easy to see who is grabbing it all. I remember the conference I attended that ran out of samples before the line was half way through – which was not fair to other bloggers who had traveled far for the event.
Instead, focus on brands that fit you. Remember that the purpose of swag is to get samples that you can review or enjoy, which builds brand engagement and loyalty. You are not shopping for Christmas gifts.
And please, don’t complain about the swag. If you don’t like what you get, you can often leave it in a swag swap room, or you can donate it – even food. Be thoughtful and respectful about swag because brands and PR reps are watching you, and so are other bloggers, and you may not get invited to private events in your niche if you caught complaining about the freebies.
3. Knocking Other Bloggers (or Brands or Reps)
This activity can happen before, during or after an event, it can happen in person or online, and it is not limited to bloggers. Talking smack about someone is one of the biggest reputation killers in the field of blogging. Be kind to everyone – even if they don't deserve it. And please watch your comments on social media and your blog.
“This product sucks” is not appropriate to post online. People are watching, from reps to bloggers, and any brand may avoid you when they see that kind of comment. Plus, you never know when you will encounter that person in real life.
For example, your spouse may be interviewed for a job with their company, but you angered someone and now he can’t get hired. Nobody likes a gossip, so keep your words and feelings to yourself when you’re in the public eye.
4. Always Being the Life of the Party at Blogger Events
No matter how much fun you are having, don’t forget that these are actually business events. Remember that you paid good money to attend this event. Even if you were sponsored, you still have expenses, like wardrobe, travel, food and lodging costs and precious time away from family, and you have an even bigger commitment to your sponsor.
I have gone to brief conferences that I’ve simply attended for enjoyment and felt that the whole event was a loss because I didn’t spend enough time working it. You don’t want to get a reputation as the “party girl or guy.” While you can still get some great invitations to festive events, you might not get the business you’d like because of that reputation. Don't let that be you! Plus, if you attend every event and party, you will be too tired to effectively conduct business or benefit from sessions.
“Suitcasing” is when a person with a business interest attends a conference at the blogger price but does sponsored activities illegally during the conferences, like handing out free samples. Sponsors pay good money for their tables at events or inclusion in the swag bag, so it’s unethical for people to get a below-cost price for taking up this space. If you’re attending on behalf of a sponsor, read all the sponsor guidelines yourself and adhere to them.
“Outboarding” means that companies are holding events to leech attendees away from a conference and its sponsors and can be considered unethical. For example, I have been to conferences that do not host sponsors in my niche, and attended events by sponsors who are a better fit during “free” time while still attending most of the events, like the keynote and educational sessions. Use caution and read event guidelines to make ethical choices about events that could be considered outboarding.
6. Sharing Too Much Personal Information
If in some way your personal life factors into a brand, you can share some of the details but please don't give your whole life story and romantic history to brands or bloggers. If you want to share about something with a good friend, use the free time around the conference or the expo and take it elsewhere or to a private area.
The problem with events is that in a big crowd people overhear things and you probably don’t want your pillow talk or even announcements, like a wedding engagement or new pregnancy, shared around strangers. Be judicious with your story in public spaces with people that you’ll regularly meet in the blogosphere.
Blogging conferences are a must to take your blog to the next level, but if you’re going to invest your time and money, be professional when attending. Your reputation can be rescued if it’s damaged, but it will take a long time and may permanently damage you in the eyes of some brands, PR reps and bloggers. Safeguard that reputation now by taking these steps so that you can guarantee your work and your blog will be taken seriously.
About Gina Badalaty
Gina Badalaty is the owner of Embracing Imperfect, a blog devoted to encouraging and assisting moms of children with special needs and restricted diets. Gina has been blogging about parenting, raising children with disabilities, and allergy-free living for over 12 years. She’s blogs at Mamavation.com, and has blogged for major brands like Silk and Glutino. She also works as a copywriter and brand ambassador. She loves engaging on social media, travel and cooking gluten-free.