10 Tips For A Successful Blog Conference

Last weekend, my dear pal Katie Clooney (aka Preppy Empty Nester) and I traveled to Richmond, Virginia to attend the Focused Blogging Conference. The days were filled with laughter and learning – all in all, a great success.

So that you might have an equally successful experience when you attend a blog conference, I present:

10 Tips For A Successful Blogging Conference

1. Research Your Options

There are dozens and dozens of blog conferences out there. Many are devoted to certain blogging niches (food, fashion, travel). Some are small or by invitation only. Some are enormous and potentially overwhelming. Find one that suits you.

Google “blog conference schedule” and you will find lists of conferences to choose from. The Blogger Network includes a comprehensive list in their Blogopedia, although they acknowledge that the 2016 calendar is still being set.

We chose the Focused Blogging Conference because it was smaller, promised “hands on” time to implement what was learned and the dates worked for us.

2. Plan Ahead

Many conferences offer early bird pricing which can save you money. Also, conferences usually arrange a group rate at a hotel for attendees. Book your room early so you don’t lose out on the reduced rate.

If you are interested in trying to secure sponsors for the conference (someone who will cover part or all of your trip), start planning your strategy as soon as possible.

3. Bring A Friend

Let’s face it, it’s not easy to walk into a room of strangers all by yourself. A conference is much more fun when you have a partner in crime.

#3 Bring A Friend

Also, when you are old of a certain age, two heads can absorb the lessons better than one.

4. Follow Social Media

If there is a Facebook group for attendees, join it. Follow the conference and the sponsors on social media. Follow the other attendees, especially the ones in your niche. It is quite likely that lots of valuable information will be shared via these channels. Don’t expect to get conference details in an old fashioned way like email.

5. Come Prepared

In addition to the obvious things like a laptop, business cards and lots of adorable outfits, remember to bring things like chargers and an extension cord, water bottle, note taking equipment, etc. Because I am an office supply loving nerd who is obsessed with her label maker, I assembled a conference notebook in which I put a copy of the agenda, course list, mentor bios, and list of attendees. It worked for me.

6. Choose The Right Path

Study the list of available workshops. Be sure to sign up for the ones suited to your level of expertise and interest. If you are just starting out and you need help with blog design and social media, sign up for workshops that can help you with that. Leave the “50 Ways To Boost Your Monetization” class to someone else.

7. Make New Friends

Position yourself at a table with people you’ve never met. Introduce yourself to as many folks as possible. Connect with as many new friends as you can. There is a lot to be learned from your fellow bloggers, even if your audiences do not overlap.

Katie and I connected with these adorable young things and had a blast. Alicia (Vibrant Home Schooling), Jennie (The Diary Of A Real Housewife) and Jennifer (Organized Home, Organized School) took us under their wings and with their help (and social media adeptness), our table won prizes every night.

Conference Dream Team


8. Take Advantage Of All Opportunities

Keep an eye out for special events offered by the conference, instructors and sponsors. These might be things like one-on-one time, study halls or other chances to pick the brain of experts. Even though a nap might sound very inviting, push through and keep learning!

9. Show Your Appreciation

Take the time to thank the presenters and sponsors. Let them know the ways in which they have helped you. Show them some social media love. If someone has been particularly helpful, you might just express your appreciation by treating them to a glass of wine or a Bailey’s nightcap.

10. Most Importantly, Have Fun!

All work and no play makes for a cranky blogger. Approach the conference as an exciting adventure but take time to have fun with your new and not-so-new friends.

Have fun at the conference

Clearly we could have used help from the dream team to get the numbers in the right order.

What would you add to the list? What is your key to a successful conference? Do tell!

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Please ride along with me as I share a little of this and a little of that.

Check out this magazine.

The other day at my hair salon I discovered a new (to me) magazine. The title drew me in immediately.

Live Happy

Live Happy

Live Happy. Those two words pretty well sum up my goal in life and the purpose of this blog.

While waiting for the color to percolate through my hair, I read the magazine from cover to cover. As soon as I got home I filled out the subscription card and stuck it in the mail.

Live Happy is not a very big magazine – 100 pages or so. Many of the articles are one page or less. It’s very easy to read.

The Live Happy tagline is “Trade stress for mindfulness.”.

While I sometimes think that the term “mindful” is overused, I love that this publication encourages readers to live and enjoy life in simple ways not requiring unrealistic crafting skills (ahem, Martha) or the purchase of some new fabulou$$ favorite thing (I’m talking to you, Oprah).

Now I love reading O and Martha Stewart Living and Real Simple but sometimes they can be overwhelming and feel a little like homework.

There is something about Live Happy (at least the 2 issues I’ve read so far) that feels like a vacation.

The magazine is available at Barnes & Noble and you can visit the Live Happy website here.

DIY Invitations

One way in which I live happy is by creating cool invitations for events.

I’m not terribly artistic – most of us accountants are not – but, with the help of a site called Cards & Pockets, I sure do have fun.

We discovered this site while planning for my daughter and son-in-law’s wedding. Annie and Jerry were interested in a non-traditional invitation. My brother and sister-in-law, the ones who host themed Thanksgiving dinners every year, generously offered to come up with a design.

While scouring the internet for ideas, my sister-in-law came across Cards & Pockets and the next thing we knew, the invitations were set.

wedding invitation

This whole thing folded up into a nice packet fitting into large square envelopes which we lined with maps from old atlas books.

Amazing, right?!?!

I will be co-hosting a baby shower in September and asked to be in charge of the invitations. My happy place.

This is what I’ve come up with.

shower invitation

Using a simple, one pocket card, I’ve printed and mounted the invitation on the flat side and used the pocket on the back to include a card with information the guests need.

Cards & Pockets has a wide variety of shapes and styles and a jillion colors to choose from. For a small price and free shipping they will send you samples of just about anything.

I bought the rights to use the passport stamp image from Can Stock Photo and I’m making great use of my tiny investment. I printed the image on envelope liners for a little extra impact. And I used the passport stamp image on Zazzle to create bookplates which will be included with each invitation.

The truth: I love DIY invitations because it allows the control freak in me to have my hands on the process and the product at all times.

Something new on the blog!

At the suggestion of some of my readers, I have compiled a list of the wines I have reviewed in various posts and also the wineries I have visited.

The very generous and kind Dana from Kiss My List provided a sounding board to help me figure out what these lists should look like. Thanks, Dana!!

When you hover over “Wineaux” on the menu bar, you will now see several options.

The “Wine Posts” tab will – you guessed it! – bring you to my wine posts.

Selecting “Red Wines” will bring up this page

red wine list

and the “White Wines” tab will bring you to this.

White wine list

A list of all the wineries and tasting rooms I’ve written about, including those which are part of my pursuit to visit wineries in all 50 states, can be found here.

Taste wine with bread

Please let me know what you think about this snazzy new feature.

I’ll continue to add more wines as I find them. I hope this helps you get ideas about wines to try!

Lucy and Ethel attend a blog conference…

This weekend my pal, the wickedly funny Katie Clooney of Preppy Empty Nester, and I are heading to Richmond, Virginia to attend a blog conference.

We selected this particular conference because it sounded like it would provide lots of hands on learning. And we both need LOTS of hands on learning. Flying by the seat of our pants can only be sustained for so long.

Shhhh there's wine in here

I’ve been “hard at work” preparing for the conference.

Through the special Facebook group for attendees (a party that we were both very late to and had no clue it would be the primary means of communication – whoops!) we have discovered that:

  1. We will likely be on, let’s just say, the far north end of the age spectrum.
  2. There are things we don’t even know that we don’t know.
  3. We just might be in way over our heads.

This should be interesting…

That being said, one thing we know for sure is that we will have tons o’ fun.

But seriously… wish us luck!

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Typos, Travel Troubles and Trucks

What would you call it?

Irony? A lesson in humility? A reminder that forgiveness is important because we all screw up sometimes?

My recent post, “The Apology”, included this graphic

good customer service

instead of this.

Customer-service-quote corrected

Yes, in a post about receiving an apology after mistakes had been made, the lovely graphic I painstakingly created contained a mistake.

In the word(s) of Homer Simpson, “D’Oh”!”

Did you notice the typo when you first read it? Because I sure didn’t. Not the first time, not the 21st time, not ever.

You know how it is when sometimes you read something the way you think it should be, rather than the way it actually appears? Clearly I need a better proofreader than myself.

Enter the eagle-eyed Kelly McKenzie, blogger extraordinaire, who came to my rescue. On her blog, Just Typikel, the very talented Kelly shares hilarious tales about her own antics and those of her 92 year old accomplished artist, purple pants wearing, force of nature mom. Do your self a favor and go visit Kelly here for, as she calls it, a giggle and a chinwag.

Thanks to Kelly, the mistake came to my attention so I could correct it and say sorry about that!

Mea Culpa.

Peter and I have been spending some busy days in Boston. Between Father’s Day, our 35th wedding anniversary, babysitting the grand-twins Chip and Dale, hanging out with little Andy and heading to The Cape for a work event, we have had quite the week!

The trip got off to a bit of a rocky start, though. The morning of the day we were to fly to Boston, Peter realized that I did not have a ticket on his flight…or any flight for that matter.

Since part of the trip was work related, Peter’s company was to pick up the tab for both of our flights. One teeny, tiny little problem: Peter never confirmed with the travel department that his dear, devoted wife of 35 years was actually going to join him on the trip.

You can imagine how terrible Peter felt about this oversight.

He felt even worse when it turned out that there were no seats left on his flight and I would have to depart an hour after him. And worse yet when my flight was delayed over 2 hours.

Not quite an “upgrade her to first class” kind of remorse but close.

However, since I am such a saint good wife and because I’d learned my lesson about mistakes and forgiveness, I laughed off Peter’s blunder.

Life is too short to hold a grudge.

Besides, it’s hard to be grumpy when you are around these guys!

Chip and Dale at the park

Andy at the Park

Andy on swing

Chip and Dale on swongs

One afternoon, on the way home from the park, we walked by the firehouse near Chip and Dale’s house. This is a frequent detour as the truck-obsessed boys always hope to catch a glimpse of the firetrucks.

Alas, the fire house doors were all closed. We stood in the driveway for a couple of minutes getting a little peek at a truck though the window.

But then the most amazing thing happened.


The look on the faces of the little guys was one of pure delight.

Fire Truck

The very kind fire fighters pulled their truck out onto the driveway and let the twins climb inside.

Simply magical.

Many, many thanks to the wonderful Waltham firemen who provided our guys with such a great thrill.

I bet those brave firemen don’t make too many mistakes!

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A Mac Miracle

As you might remember, I suffered a complete computer crash just one week before our big move from California back to Chicago.

Not good

I lost all of my photos and all of my documents – and I had neglected to back up a single file.

The Genius Bar guy at the Apple Store could only do so much. He suggested that I bring my computer to one of those super high-tech data recovery places.

Sure enough, they said that they could probably retrieve my files for the low, low price of $1,372.

Their plan involved a sterile, temperature controlled, sanitized, air tight room and blah, blah, technical stuff, blah blah.

I stopped listening after the $1,372 part.

Needless to say it was on to Plan B.

In the meantime, I limped along with my ancient laptop which thankfully still worked although got pretty cranky with me when I tried to have more than one tab open at a time.

Long story short(ish), after we moved and got a bit settled in, I was directed to Lapin Systems in nearby Evanston.

I shared my entire sad saga with the nice man at Lapin saying that he was my last hope for retrieving my missing files and, more importantly, my missing photos.

“What about fixing your computer? Don’t you want me to get it back up and running?’, he asked.

“Well sure”, I thought, “But I’d also like to win the lottery and act as the celebrity bartender in the Bravo Clubhouse but I’m pretty sure none of that is possible.”

Three days later, Pete called to tell me that he was certain he could save my files AND save my photos AND get my Mac back to its old self…for $288.

It's a miracle!

As I drove over to pick up my computer, I wondered to myself if it would be creepy for me to hug my miracle worker, Pete. I refrained but sure was tempted.

The only teeny, tiny, little issued caused by having to blast the hard drive to coax it out of its hiding place?

My files are spread all over the place and my photos managed to clone themselves into an army of over 47,000. Hey, I’d rather have 47,000 than zero!

Imagine that your hard drive is like a series of file cabinets in which the files are neatly organized in perfect harmony. Then imagine it is necessary to shake those file cabinets to within an inch of their life.

You get something like this.

pile of files

So, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks BACKING UP and cleaning up my files. Now, finally, I can get back to blogging!

I’d like to take a moment to thank my wonderful, Apple savant, son-in-law for guiding me through this debacle and talking me down off the ledge on more than a couple of occasions.

Now let’s get back to talking about something more interesting: wine!

Next up, Napa!

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