By Heather (originally published on Feb. 24, 2010)
When you enter the world of blogging conferences, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Let’s begin at the beginning—which conference is right for you? Only you can answer that question, since the “right” conference will be different for each person, niche and blog. There are, however, a few things to consider as you narrow down your options.
Purpose: The first thing you need to consider is your purpose for attending a conference. Each conference has its own flair and target audience. If you aren’t interested in making money from your blog, you probably won’t want to attend Internet Marketing Conference. Do you want more technical knowledge to impact your blog? Take a look at the geekier-oriented technology conferences. Are you struggling with mastering WordPress? Try one of the Word Camps.
Location: Location, location, location! It can be a really big factor in choosing your first (or next) blogging conference. There is a local conference that I will probably always attend. Avoiding travel expenses and (possibly) a hotel stay can make a conference incredibly affordable. I also look at location in respect to places I want to travel or other experiences in the area. A Las Vegas visit was on my 40×40 list so when I was offered the opportunity to speak at Affiliate Summit in Vegas, it was an easy decision.
Expense: Conference tickets range in price from $30 (Meet me at Word Camp Chicago?) to over $1000. The conference rate at the hotel can be negotiated as low as $99 per night. You will need to consider what meals are included, how much it will cost to get there and if internet access is included or an additional expense. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest picking the most inexpensive conference, but it can be a factor in your decision. Which conference will provide the most bang for your buck?
Timing: Timing really is everything! It isn’t just about which conference fits into your calendar. You also need to consider its impact on the rest of your month. When you return home after a conference, you’ll be full of ideas and have lots of contacts to followup. If you’ve scheduled a conference right before a busy personal week or another trip, you won’t be able to make the most of your time at the event. Timing is also a factor if there are other events in the area. Check concert dates for your favorite artists in the cities you’re eying for travel! (If you are considering a personal extension of the travel, I recommend before, not after, to allow you to jump right into followup mode.)
Keynote/Speakers: If you can wait until the session topics are announced to make your plans, this will tell you a lot about what you’ll get out of the conference. If you have your own, personal blogging celebrities, check their sidebar to see where they are speaking. Consider your personal weaknesses, seek out the experts and find out where they speak too. Chris Brogan is one of my geeky crushes and often speaks on topics I desperately need to hear. Any conference with him as a keynote speaker, goes straight to the top of my list!
Attendees & Sponsors: Check out which conferences are heavily attended by others in your niche or blogging friends you’ve developed. It will give you a chance to network in person with those you contact on a regular basis already. Conference days are long—you want to be surrounded with people you ‘know’ and enjoy spending time with. As for the conference sponsors, in addition to meeting brand ambassadors, PR reps and company contacts, you want to be sure the sponsors are in line with your goals. If you blog about breastfeeding, you may not want to attend an event sponsored by a formula company. It won’t send the right message to your community.
As you consider your options, talk to other bloggers. Find out who has attended different conferences in previous years. If they aren’t returning, be sure to ask why—it just could be a deciding factor. There are literally hundreds of conferences in a variety of niches, but don’t let it scare you! Several you’ll be able to eliminate right away—you won’t see me at a web design conference. That’s his job. I’ve already picked my travel schedule for this year, but I’ll be using this master list of web conferences and the full list of women blogging events going forward.
About the Author:
Heather Sokol is the founder of the Inexpensively frugal blogging networkInexpensively.com and reports progress on learning to be a grown-up at JustHeather.com. and has been attending business conferences since 2000, including 5 blogging conferences in last year. She is the married mother of three beautiful, active girls who have created in her a Montessori mom, Scout mom, allergy mom and avid coupon clipper. She shares her deals and tips at