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Last week Tamara talked about why a newbie blogger should attend a conference. This week, I want to look at the nuts and bolts of how to attend a blog conference on someone else’s dime(s).Let’s face it. Conferences are EXPENSIVE and if you are a mom making just enough to pay for your monthly coffee habit from your blog it may seem like a crazy way to spend your money. If you are serious about your blogging goals, the money you spend on conferences can be well worth it. If you are just trying to update your family on little Susie’s latest word, it probably isn’t. Either way, looking for conference sponsorship is a great way to make it do-able (doable?? hmm…..)If you have been to at least one conference, you know it seems like everyone there is sponsored by someone. Sponsorship to a conference basically just means that a brand has helped you to defray the costs of attending the conference. I have seen all sorts of sponsorships, from a full sponsor who would pay for everything including your ticket, airfare, hotel and misc. expenses to those that partially cover your expenses or give you a product you may need for the trip.The first thing you should do in looking for a blog conference sponsorship is put together a summary of the conference you are hoping to attend. Not sure which conferences are for you? Jyl has a great list here! What is the conference about? What do you hope to gain from the conference? What types of brands would benefit from having a presence at this conference? What are the benefits to a brand?Last year I attended a conference and was shocked to find that one of the brands I work with was not represented there. They had given me a very small sponsorship to attend that conference without any strings attached (meaning I did not agree to promote them or report back). But when I came home I wrote them a detailed report of the conference and why I think their presence would be invaluable in the future. They agreed to fully sponsor me the following year (I did not ask) as well as expanding their reach year round into the mom blogging market. Win-win for us both!Now that you know what your goals are with the conference and what brands may work well with that, it is time to reach out to those PR contacts that you have been building since we started this series. Start by sending them information on the conference. Point them to the conference website and past years the conference has been running. Don’t assume that they already know about the conference. Hopefully they will have a few competitors who are already involved 🙂 Let them know that you would like to attend the conference. Remind them of successful campaigns you have worked on in the past with them. Your email should explain why you think they should be involved and what you are willing to do in exchange for a sponsorship. Let them know about your readership and stats. What is your reach?Have a detailed breakdown of the costs you expect to incur at this conference. Let them know upfront if you are hoping to get a full sponsorship from them or if you are expecting to reach out to several brands for a partial sponsorship. Tell them why you are a much better choice than sending a rep from their company! This is an easy one….the answer is because you already live in this space and are a more natural fit to really learn what the most exciting trends are. You know the people attending already (if only by being their readers) and you are better equipped to understand the industry.What do bloggers do in exchange for sponsorship?Really, a variety of things. One of the most clever sponsorships I have seen was Jenn Fowler teaming up with Coldwater Creek for her wardrobe last year at BlogHer. Genius in my opinion how she handled that. Some of the more common things:
- hand out business cards
- hand out swag bags with brand merchandise
- run a live giveaway
- live tweet at the event
- live blog the event
- host a private party in your suite
- gather contacts for the sponsor
- give a detailed report on the conference to the sponsor
- exchange advertising space on your site
- list sponsors on a special sponsor page on your site
Make sure that you check the conference guidelines to see what you are able to do for the sponsor before offering. I know BlogHer this year is not allowing attendees to pass things out in the conference space or host private parties within the conference hotel. This is a big change from last year and will force people to get a little more creative!Last but not least, don’t give up! You are bound to get a few no’s as you work through your contact list. That is OK. If it is a no because of the budget or so forth, DO follow up with them after the conference and let them know what they missed out on so they can plan for next year!Oh, and one more thing, if any wonderful brands out there reading this would like to sponsor me for any of the following: EVO, Savvy Blogging Summit, BlogHer or IZEAFest this year, please feel free to read more about how we can work together! *shameless plug*What are some successful blog conference sponsorships you have seen or had? What are some of the ways it doesn’t work??