This is the final post from the archives of author, fitness advocate and photographer Terri Webster Schrandt. I did enjoy the Blogger’s Bash in 2017, however distance and family events have prevented me from attending the last two. One of the great elements of a blogging conference is meeting your online friends face to face. In her post Terri offers four reasons to attend the next one you are invited to. Having attended many conferences in my previous existence this guide to getting the most out of the experience applies across the board.
Four Reasons to Attend a Blogging Conference (2017) by Terri Webster Schrandt
In September, I had the pleasure of attending not one, but two blogging conferences in my hometown of Sacramento, California.
Wordcamp Sacramento 2017 focused on WordPress developers and website design, but had an entire bloggers track. This alone brought in over 200 more attendees than previous WordCamps.
The International Food Bloggers Conference, aka IFBC, spent three consecutive years here in “The Farm to Fork” Capital of Sacramento, and travels to New Orleans in 2018.
Last January, I shared some preliminary thoughts on attending blogging events in Need More Inspiration? Attend a Blogging Event
Before I share my four takeaways, here are some general thoughts on choosing a blogging conference.
Choosing a Conference
Having a blogging (or writing) conference come to your town is a huge gift.
Through a Sacramento Bloggers event in 2016, I discovered the IFBC conference would be offered the following year. Although I wasn’t a food blogger, past attendees assured us there was enough general information that it would be wise to attend. Although the IFBC was pricey, at over $300 for registration, the IFBC offered a deeply discounted rate to “Citizen Bloggers,” who agreed to share three blog posts before, during and after the conference.
At a price under $100, I registered well in advance, not knowing what the sessions or agenda would be.
In April, again through my association with Sacramento Bloggers, we found out that Sacramento was hosting its third annual WordCamp, this time with an entire track devoted to beginner bloggers, and how to use WordPress tools.
In case you don’t know, there is a difference between WordPress dot com (through Automattic, Inc), the free blog platform many bloggers use, and the WordPress dot org platform used on self-hosted websites. I have two sites: this one, Second Wind Leisure Perspectives, (you are reading here now) and my self-hosted website for my business Windigen Consulting
Registration for WordCamp Sacramento was an unbelievable $40 for the entire weekend. This is attributed to the amazing and generous sponsors! When I applied for and was selected to present on the bloggers’ panel “Blogging Success and Monetization,” my registration fee was FREE! Plus, all attendees received conference t-shirts, swag and a useful printed program.
There was enough general information shared at sessions that I could apply to both this blog and my consulting website. Attending two local conferences almost back-to-back was a little tiring, but my drive to downtown was only a few minutes and parking rates for weekends were dirt cheap!
Without further adieu, here are my Four Reasons to Attend a Bloggers’ Conference:
Easy to meet others at a conference! Image from WordCamp.
1. Meeting other Bloggers
The main reason I attend conferences is to meet other bloggers in person, the actual folks with whom I have developed an online blogging relationship. Oftentimes, the world of a blogger can be a lonely place. It is a special treat to engage with other bloggers in person, who “get” you! And so nice to not have to type your reply for a change!
Before the conference:
Once you are registered for the conference, plan ahead and make some business cards for your blog, even if you just print them yourself.
At the conference:
- Network with others. Most conference-goers are easy to spot with their name tags. Do not be shy about introducing yourself to another blogger. Exchanging those new business cards is helpful and useful.
- At your table, say hello to those seated beside you. This may be difficult for some folks, but you can simply ask, “Are you a blogger,” or “What is your blog/website about?” Be prepared to answer this question, too.
- In one session, the presenter asked for everyone’s cards so she could send us her slides and information. Many folks had awkward slips of paper rather than cards, which could be mistaken for trash and did not present a professional look. I was glad I had mine!
After the conference (or during):
Find your new blogger friends on social media and follow them.
2. Networking the Room In-Person and on Social Media
- Use your time to walk around and explore all the conference areas. At the IFBC, there was a huge swag (gift) table where we selected one of each item to take home at the end of the first day. There were some leftover goodies the next day and we were encouraged to take them.
- Be sure to meet and thank the conference organizers and sponsors. Most of these folks donate their time to put on these events. The sponsors and vendors also donated in-kind services and/or money to make the conference happen. One way you can also acknowledge them is by sharing their names and hashtags on Social Media.
- Most conferences encourage social networking during the sessions. While this practice is beneficial, I find it rather distracting to the presenters. Use this at a minimum while the person is speaking, besides, how are you listening to what they are saying, while your fingers are tapping away on the screen? There is plenty of time in between sessions to share.
- Do take photos of interesting conference items, like logos, t-shirts, session signs, displays, food, etc. Those make great sharing options for Instagram and Facebook where images are the key. Use the conference hashtag where possible while sharing. This is also a great opportunity to build your social media following, while following others. Some of these photos I used for this post!
Attendees at WordCamp working alongside the presentation.
3. Learning New Skills
Attending a conference provides an opportunity for professional development and learn the blogging best practices from the experts. Both conference organizers sent e-mails on a regular basis with up-to-date information as the conference dates approached.
Before the conference:
- Read the agenda and look at the sessions that interest you. Have a back-up plan if one gets cancelled (it happens).
- Ask yourself what you hope to get out of attending the conference.
During the conference:
- Attend sessions. Have you ever been to a conference and didn’t go to the sessions? Back in my work days, I saw this practice all the time. I never understood the point of spending money, then not actually learning something.
- Take notes. Conference attendees take session notes a variety of ways, whether by pen and notepaper, recording with a device, or by typing on a laptop.
- Talk with the presenters after the session, and take the opportunity to thank them and ask questions.
After the conference:
Watch for follow-up e-mails from the conference organizers. Many presenters offered their slide shows in a shared format that all attendees could access.
At WordCamp, professional photographers took lots of photos and shared them with attendees (that is how I got many of the images in this post). I’m told WordCamp images are public domain, so no need to attribute them to the photographers.
Taking notes at WordCamp Sacramento 2017
4. Putting What You Learned into Practice
This is often neglected, especially if you attend a conference out of town. Traveling home, you may be tired or needing to catch up at work, and you may be tempted to put your bag of notes and goodies away for a few days. Those nuggets of great ideas can easily be lost or forgotten.
At the conference:
- While taking notes, give yourself 1-2 actionable items from each session that you can implement within 24-48 hours.
- Put it on a to-do list, your day planner/calendar or sticky note or somewhere you can access it quickly. I sent myself a list in a calendar event with a nagging reminder so I wouldn’t forget.
After the conference:
- Following up with these notes is important, or why did you bother to attend? Get as much as possible out of your conference experience.
At the IFBC, I heard two excellent speakers. One presented on “Massive Instagram Growth” and gave us actionable how-to items to implement quickly. Another speaker talked about SEO and provided excellent examples, as well as her slide deck at the end. I saw lots of folks snapping photos of these slides for later use!
Those were my top four reasons. Here are some additional nuggets for you to consider.
The Conference Speakers
Have patience with the presenters. Although they are sharing their expertise on a topic, he or she is unlikely a seasoned speaker. Using a microphone and managing a laptop while speaking is frightening to many folks! Speaking from experience, it can be extremely nerve-wracking to stand in front of 100+ people and present, so take that into consideration and try to jot down the best nuggets of information they have to share.
Many conferences provide a sharing link for all the slideshows used at the conference.
If you just don’t enjoy a session and there is another offered concurrently, do not be afraid or intimidated to walk out of an uninteresting or irrelevant session and move on to another one if possible. You paid for this information when you registered and you have the right to move around.
WordCamp speaker engages with his audience.
Take Time to Evaluate and Perhaps Volunteer
Be sure to evaluate the conference and offer your feedback. If you were disappointed with something, take a moment to describe the issue in detail. At the end of the survey, there might be an opportunity to sign up to volunteer or present for future conferences, if that is something in which you are interested.
If you do have to opportunity to present, you will likely get comped for the entire conference, so that is always a good incentive.
My Overall Impression of Two Blog Conference Weekends
I am glad I went. I hadn’t been to a professional conference since Bloggers at Midlife in 2016, and before that was when I presented at a work conference in 2013.
I learned several actionable items and concepts as well as met many people I could ask for assistance if needed. Don’t miss the opportunity to attend a blogging conference in person. Keep checking your WordPress admin panel for updates on WordPress events in your community.
Network with local bloggers, if possible, to see if other events are being planned.
I also have an opportunity to meet with several fellow bloggers over Veteran’s Day weekend in mid-November as we converge in Southern California. I am very much looking forward to spending some quality time with these special friends..
©Terri Webster Schrandt 2017
About the Book
There is truth to the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. As a blogger, are you weary of constantly hunting for images to illustrate the subject of your blog posts?
Perhaps you are a new blogger struggling to get more readers. Or a seasoned blogger continually seeking inspiration for quality blog posts.
This guidebook is designed to help you utilize your own images on your blog or website.
While free image sites abound, there are limitations to using so-called “free” images. Gone are the days when bloggers can innocently copy and paste an image from the web and paste it into their blog post.
What will you get out of this guide?
In each chapter I give easy but important tips for maximizing the use of images on your blog’s website and within each blog post.
Seven informative chapters walk you through–
- the importance of using images;
- the real dangers of using others’ copyrighted images;
- easy ways to edit your images using free programs and apps;
- building unending inspiration and content around your own images;
- attracting readers with images used in quotations, blog link-ups, and other tools;
- how social media sites link your images, and why you need them;
- a list of image resources available.
After reading this short guidebook, you will want to grab your smart phone or inexpensive digital camera and start taking photos!
One of the recent reviews for the book
As a teacher author, I spend lots of time worrying about the legal and practical use of photos in my blogs (I have three of them). I’ve heard horror stories from efriends who ended up paying $thousands for photos they thought were free and ended up with someone’s copyright. Getting permissions and using public domain images–that’s the smart way to handle blog images but not as easy as it sounds. I have my own photographs but they usually look amateurish.
That’s why I picked up Terry Schrandt’s Better Blogging With Photography: How to Maximize Your Blog Using Your Own Images (Second Wind Leisure Publishing 2016). I use tons of pictures in blog posts, social media, and books I write. Making sure they’re all legal is a challenge. I know just enough about copyright law to worry that despite my best efforts, I’m breaking the law. Terry points out the solution is pretty simple: Make your own pictures.
The book starts by asking one simple question:
“Are you a new blogger struggling to get more readers? Are you a seasoned blogger continually seeking inspiration for quality blog posts? Do you feel there is something missing from your blog or website?”
She explains that any online writing goes better with pictures. Your blog must include the image that will attract an audience, make them look twice, and then announce it appealingly on social media platforms.
Here’s how Terry unpacks this (the chapter titles):
Why use images on your blog or website
How to curate and use your own images
Editing your images
How to use your images to generate blog ideas and readers
Cresting readership with your images
Photo-friendly social networking
A few of her suggestions I liked are (with quotes when taken directly from the book):
“I started taking photos of everything, just in case I needed it for a blog post.”
“…if you write a blog post with no images, you may as well not even bother to publish the post.”
“According to Katie Paul: ‘When I blog, I usually spend more time finding and formatting a photo than I do writing the post. I pay careful attention to my pictures because I know that 63% of social media is made up of images and engagement with images is…'”
“Why use your own images? Can you say ‘copyright infringement’?”
“Even posting the following so-called disclaimer on your blog is basically useless. ‘This blog claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted.'”
“Creative Commons sites do not guarantee that they have the right to give you permission to use the image at all. You are using the images at your own risk.”
A nice use of images is as background for quotations.
Good online image editors (both freemium) are PicMonkey and Canva.
I teach a lot of classes that touch on the legal and professional use of images online. The safest solution is to create your own. With a few adaptations, this book could be a text for those classes. As Terry says, “…a thousand words (in a blog post) are worth a picture!”
Read all the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Better-Blogging-Photography-Maximize-Images-ebook/dp/B01I2NNLRU
And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Better-Blogging-Photography-Maximize-Images-ebook/dp/B01I2NNLRU
Find more reviews and follow Terri on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31356910-better-blogging-with-photography
My name is Terri Webster Schrandt and I blog about the fun things in life from my perspective. I take leisure very seriously because it involves one-third of our lives…really!
I am lucky to have an active lifestyle that involves windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), camping, reading, writing, teaching, walking the dogs, traveling, and…
Most of my posts reflect my leisure places & spaces and my reactions to them. I share a variety of stories all related to a healthy leisure lifestyle.
I use all my own images for my posts and participate in several photography challenges.
My summer weekends are spent in the Sacramento delta windsurfing and stand-up paddling (SUP) with my husband of three years (we knew each other in high school and found each other on Facebook—read about that here).
WHY DO I BLOG? These are my goals:
The ultimate goal with this blog is to educate people about the importance of leisure, one blog post at a time!
I love photography and constantly take pics with my Lumix FZ-300 and my Samsung Galaxy mobile phone. Sharing these photos in posts and on Instagram is a much-loved hobby!
My ultimate goal? To continue to write and self-publish non-fiction e-books.
Connect to Terri
My thanks to Terri for allowing me to share some of the posts from her archives.. Please head over to her blog and explore further.. thanks Sally.