logoThese days there is a conference or convention for just about everything, from consumer electronics and comic books to niche interests such as BronyCon (if you don’t know what this is, pause now and research immediately). Amongst those many interests is the ever-popular gathering of bloggers at the 17th annual BlogHer conference, which I attended a few months ago in New York City with a consumer tech client.

It was my first conference of this kind and a first for this client to be exposed to this type of audience. As much of my client work revolves around influencer relations, it was an eye-opening experience to step out from behind the monitor and see how this group interacts face-to-face.

Here are a few insights on how our booth managed to gain more than 150 leads, snag 80 entries for a contest and remain one of the most popular hashtags throughout the three days:

Be present & active: Find ways to engage those at your booth and those circling the perimeter to see what free stuff you’ve got. We were up against brand names like Best Buy’s trendy lounge, Nutri-Bullet’s super-model smoothie servers (thanks for the samples, gentlemen) and ASPCA with a booth full of puppies – PUPPIES. Once attendees entered the booth, don’t hop into your pitch just yet; learn more about your visitor’s company, interests and needs to understand how you can better present your offerings. Listening is key and the first step to converting a potential brand advocate.

What’s in it for me? People attend conferences for various reasons: gaining knowledge, polishing skills, free stuff and of course, networking. Chances are they’ve spent a pretty penny to get there and at the end of the day, it’s about them, not you. Here we come back to the important tactic of listening, first – what can you offer that’s really going to help them?

One of the best interactions I had while at the conference was with a blogger who meant business: “This [product] is what I need – something that’s actually useful for my blog. Free sunscreen is great and all, but that’s not why I’m here.” Free swag is a plus and important for vendors, but what are you offering that’s actually going to help visitors grow their brand or sharpen their competitive edge in their field?

On-site: Be a timely master of social media. Make sure your hashtag is clever and easy to remember, and used in tandem with the conference hashtag. Throughout our conference, bloggers were constantly refreshing hashtag searches to stay on top of conference updates, surprise opportunities and contest announcements. Additionally, connect with attendees in real-time. If your on-site activation has a social media sharing component, have a staff member monitoring engagement for favorite, repost or “thanks for sharing” opportunities on-the-spot. This also allows your client to standout when it comes to follow-up—why wait until returning home from the conference when you can create that personal touch point before the attendee has even reached the next booth?

Post-conference: Don’t let your personal business card get lost in the mix; have a follow-up plan that makes you stand out, too. While email follow up is standard, these attendees will be receiving dozens of emails come Monday following the conference, this is another chance for your client to make a statement. For example, our client included a special discount code on takeaway materials that granted the blogger a free subscription to the product, only available upon visiting the booth.

As the conference came to an end and we toasted to a successful few days, the most important learning was to remember that while you may have a product to promote, keep the overall goal of the attendees at top of mind. BlogHer is intended as a place for bloggers to network and learn how to elevate their blogs as a business. If you cannot position what you’re offering as something that works for these bloggers, this may not be the conference for you or your client.

I’ll take another smoothie sample, please.

Natalie Colli
Account Executive

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