*Disclosure: this post has not been sponsored by BlogPaws nor does it contain affiliate links. These are my honest and unsolicited comments as I prepare for the blogger's conference. Note, I use the term "prepare" loosely.
A Little About Me and My Blog
2016 was a year of firsts for me. My twins started Kindergarten, I started Bridle & Bone Wellness LLC with my friend Danelle Stukas, and I launched this blog, Bridle & Bone. One could say I've really hit the ground running.....and they would be right. When I am passionate about something, I am all in. And I'm extremely passionate about animals. The good news is if you are reading this, we probably have a lot in common.
I launched Bridle & Bone in response to questions and comments from our equine and canine massage clients (yup, I massage animals!). Of course while my blog touches a lot on animal health and wellness, it also serves as a personal diary of sorts. Although I've been writing my whole life, I've never written, edited, and marketed a blog until recently.
I heard about BlogPaws quite by accident. I began to follow equestrian blogger, Saddle Seeks Horse, on Instagram. I visited Susan's blog (which you should check out!) and read posts about this group of pet bloggers where she was a member. Intrigued, I looked into it and I'm so glad I did. BlogPaws is a network of pet bloggers around the world. It's membership is free and they hold online courses, groups, and social media boosts all with one purpose in mind......to provide a network of like-minded individuals advice on how to run a successful pet blog. Every year they hold a conference and this year it will be held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina from May 18-20, 2017.
So I took the leap I decided I NEEDED to go to the BlogPaws conference this year. But how does a new blogger and a new conference goer prepare for a blogger's conference?
There is so much to do!
As a new blogger and never having attended a BlogPaws conference before, I joined every group I could and really put myself out there. I reached out on social media to a few of the veterans and ambassadors. I'm so glad that I did! I can be shy in new situations. Everyone has been supportive, friendly, and frankly I am very excited to meet them and their furry friends in person. Did I mention the conference is pet friendly??????!!!!!!! I think most of us feel more comfortable around animals than people, and who can be shy around furry faces? Certainly not me.
Conference Preparation Tips
Join the BlogPaws Newbies Course
BlogPaws has an amazing team and great ambassadors. This year, Elizabeth Tucker Keene of Chronicles of Cardigan fame is the Newbie Ambassador and has led the charge to make us feel comfortable and prepared. The first I did was join the Newbies Course on BlogPaws. It has provided me so much information on what to pack, how to prepare to meet sponsors, and much more.
For example, did you know that there is a Newbie table at breakfast on Friday and Saturday? We can all sit together with our ambassador and talk about what sponsors and speakers we'd like to meet, ask questions of each other regarding our blogs, and have someone to sit with during sessions. No sitting in the back by myself. I'm also reading anything and everything the ambassadors post about the conference. There are too many to list, so visit BlogPaws to learn more!
Register for the Conference
1. The BlogPaws 2017 Conference is being held in Myrtle Beach, May 18-20, 2017. I have my tickets. Haven't signed up yet? Register now. *Hint. Make sure BlogPaws is added to your contacts so that you receive your important conference emails. Don't let them wind up as spam. It's scary in the Junk folder.
2. Accommodations: Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel. BlogPaws has a special rate through their website but rooms are filling fast! There is less than a month until the conference. So book your hotel room today.
3. Looking for a roommate to split the costs? Go back to that BlogPaws Newbies Course to find what you are looking for!
Engage with Other Pet Bloggers
Chances are if you are on the BlogPaws Social Learning Community (SLC) you have interacted with other conference attendees. But don't limit yourself. Use other social media platforms to engage with people you will be meeting at the conference, or who have attended in the past and have advice to share. And remember just because other "Newbies" are new to the conference, does not mean they are new to blogging.
- I joined the BlogPaws Twitter Chat, most Tuesdays from 8-10 PM. Use the hashtag #BlogPawsChat.
- Request to join the BlogPaws Community News and Boost Group on Facebook. There is some amazing interaction here on multiple platforms and I've gotten important feedback on my social media accounts and my blog.
- First BlogPaws conference this year? Haven't gotten the hint yet? Make sure to join the Newbies Course on BlogPaws as well for all the important conference tips, tricks, and information. You can also request to join the BlogPaws 2017 Newbies group on Facebook to get to know each other before the conference, and plan meet ups during the conference.
Have a Conference Goal
Looking at the different sessions it's hard to pick just a few. It can be overwhelming and they all look important. So for me as a brand new blogger is to focus on my content, branding, and meeting other bloggers. Next year my goal is probably be different and the sessions I choose will reflect that. What are your goals for this year?
Evaluate Your Blog
One of the recommendations given by Cathy Armato of Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them, is to evaluate our blogs in preparation for the conference. We are going to learn a lot of information. But sponsors meeting us for the first time are going to look at our websites. We don't want bad links, poor spelling, or other errors.
Take a look at your Google Analytics. If you haven't installed the tracking code on your site yet do so now. Don't wait. It's free and is an exceptional tool. It lets me track the page views trending monthly and my most popular blog posts to date. Hint, they are mostly personal.
My 5 Most Popular Posts
- Confessions of a Timid Rider: For the Love of a Thoroughbred
- What I Learned From Watching A Judge's Clinic
- Dogcation: Taking the Train with My Dog to Key West (Guest Post)
- What Your Vet Wants You To Know But Is Too Polite To Tell You
- Confessions of a Timid Rider: The Barn is My Safe Place
Want more tips on how to prepare your blog for the conference? Read this post by Aimee Beltran on How To Prep For A Blogger Conference.
Make a Packing Checklist
Okay, I know we're a few weeks out but I'm already planning what to bring. With three kids and two jobs I'm going to be doing this last minute. Still, I have given it some thought. What can I say? I'm a planner.
- Business Cards.
- Laptop/ phone/ chargers.
- Your conference schedule containing the sessions you have chosen to attend.
- Pen and paper to jot down notes to myself.
- An elevator pitch. In just a few words, who are you and what is your blog about? What sets you apart?
- Your pet and all their accessories. Sadly Gonzo and Beau are unable to attend, but I want to meet all your animals!
- List of the sessions, speakers, and sponsors in attendance. (With notes on who I'm most interested in meeting.)
- Names and contact info/social media handles for the friends you made through BlogPaws so you can meet up while at the conference!
- The weather will be warm outside (hopefully) and cool in the conference center. So lots of layers!
Plan for Fun
Okay, I doubt this is just me. From doing the above and engaging with other bloggers and attendees, I know it won't be all sessions and business. The best thing about pet blogging is that it is fun! And we all share a similar passion. I am definitely attending the Happy Hours, Nose-to-Nose Awards, and Sip & Paint sponsored by pet-friendly Red Roof Inn. After all, we can't work all the time. (If you are lucky, I'll post photos of my "painting". I'm sure it will be a good laugh!)
A Final Note
All in, I feel much better about attending an event where I don't know anyone with a blog that I've only been writing for a few months. If anything I am looking forward to making new friends with the same passions and learning all I can. After all, there's always next year!
I hope this helps you prepare for your first blog conference and look forward to seeing you in Myrtle Beach. More questions? Read the Essential BlogPaws 2017 Conference Everything Post.
Are you attending the BlogPaws conference for the first time? What are you doing to prepare?
About the writer: Heather Wallace of Monmouth County, New Jersey is a certified equine and canine sports massage therapist, co-owner of Bridle & Bone Wellness LLC, and equestrian & canine blogger at Bridle & Bone. She is an adult amateur equestrian in unrequited love with an OTTB and has two rescue dogs, Gonzo and Beau.