Short answer: No.
Blog conferences are not necessary to life, or even to successful blogging. I can learn most of what I need to learn about blog design, blog writing and blog marketing online. I can network new readers and great connections through Twitter, Facebook and other blogs. I can support my existing networks the same way.
But when I went to my first blog conference three years ago something special happened.
I love the convenience of online work. You can do it any time, day or night. You can ignore the people you don’t want to work with, you can network and move into the groups you do want to work with. You can take the day off when you want. You can catch up in the middle of the night if you can’t sleep. You can go to work with no makeup on and wearing pyjamas.
But the connections are fleeting. Connecting with people online is like standing in a busy corridor as people holding signs in front of them pass around you, catching one and saying ‘hi how’s things?‘ and they pause for a moment and you chat to each others’ signs and then one of you move on because there’s other stuff going on until you see someone else’s sign and say hi and so on.
At a blog conference you get to say hi to these people in person. You get to see the human behind the sign, the Twitter avatar or the cute blog name. You get to see how tall or short, how they like to dress, that they are shy or tired or any other human condition. If you’re lucky you get to spend more than a few minutes chatting with them. Then the next time you’re online (standing in that busy corridor) you see something behind the avatar and cute blog name, you remember the person you met and their face is in front of you, a real person talking to you. And the relationship deepens, just a bit. It becomes more interesting, you look for them in the crowd, you enjoy connecting with them.
That’s why I like going to blog conferences.
My first blog conference completely changed how I saw blogging. I went from an isolated blogger who just got on with it whenever, connecting well enough to people’s avatars online, to someone who realised she was in a network of amazing people, all available to connect and collaborate with, to support and gain support from, groups of humans to join in and feel part of a community.
What are the negatives about blog conferences?
1. People worry about what they’ll wear.
Zalando offered me a voucher to choose an outfit to wear and having shopped there before (I bought a FAB jean jacket for my duaghter–the one I always wished I had bought as a kid) I was thrilled–I chose some awesome black boots on sale (you MUST check out their sale) and some silver birkies. I thought one or the other would work at BritMumsLive, I hedged my bets. But even with this cool footwear I knew I just needed to dress simple, comfortable and I would be fine. People want to meet the person, not the clothes. I don’t remember a single thing anyone wore, but I remember their faces. (I lie, I remember That Red Dress Julia Boggio wore, who doesn’t?!) And as I said after a previous blog conference, I still maintain that photos rarely do people justice and I always think everyone looks better in real life.
2. The crowds can be to much.
So many people can be overwhelming to a person who is used to working from home. But I find easy solutions for this. I go for a walk outside for 20 minutes, or I sit in one of the quiet areas and read through my emails.
3. The expense is difficult to justify.
Especially when you add travel and hotel costs on top of the ticket price. But a savvy blogger knows how to approach brands for sponsorship (another benefit of networking, you get to learn the tips and tricks of how to do this).
Not bad. Every negative I’ve found from my experience, there’s a solution!
So the next time you think about going to a blog conference and can’t quite decide, these are som ideas for you to weigh up. Want to create better relationships with people you ‘know’ online? Then try it and see if I’m right! Are blog conferences necessary to successful blogging? No, but they certainly make the experience more fun.
What about you, readers? Still not sure if a conference is for you? Or do you have more tips you’d like to add?