Time is hurtling towards this year’s ProBlogger Training Event at the RACV Royal Pines Resort on Australia’s Gold Coast, and I don’t know about you but here at ProBlogger HQ, we are getting EXCITED! (if you are yet to get a ticket, head here to grab one, you save $100 if you purchase before July 1, 2016!).
Blogging can be such a solo sport, thousands of us tapping away at our laptops in our own homes across the world, talking to everyone online but rarely in person. It can be a bit confronting to come out from behind your computer and not only have to speak to strangers face to face at blogging events, but also keep it together in front of those you admire.
Having been to a number of blogging events myself, I know first hand how it feels when you’re an introvert and you’re suddenly among thousands of (semi-familiar) strangers, having to make small talk and not have food in your teeth and promote your brand and do all the right things in front of the right people.
I also know first hand how amazing it is to break through the nerves and have great conversations, make awesome connections that lead to incredible opportunities, have a raging time, and make some new friends. I can’t speak highly enough of showing up in person to events and making the most of them.
How to Network at Blog Events (Even if You’re Shy!)
Here are my top tips for working a room even when you want to hide in the corner behind a pot plant and stalk everyone on Instagram. Yes, I’ve been there…
Remember: You’re among friends
Really, everyone who is there has a blog or online presence of some sort, and they’re all there for the same reason as you. So you’ve got something in common, and the likelihood that they’re also feeling a bit overwhelmed and nervous and shy is pretty high.
Yes there will be people who are rocking it because they thrive on this kind of environment, have been to a million events before, and are right at home in a circle of people. If that’s not you, that’s cool. There’s also the people who are faking it until they make it – putting on a brave front even when they don’t feel it, and getting stuck in anyway. They usually find that once they start chatting they are more relaxed, and start to enjoy themselves. It is often the fear of speaking to strangers and doubt about the unknown that makes events a minefield for introverted folk.
If you really want to sit behind a pot plant and scroll through the event hashtag on Twitter, that’s fine. But if you’ve come to meet people, be inspired and maybe make a friend, it’s worth swapping the cyclamen for a smile and at least a friendly remark in the ladies’ loo line (you’ll be surprised where that can get you!).
Stalk on social
So the night before or the morning of the event, check out everyone’s Instagram or Twitter feed – you’ll often see what others are wearing, what their faces look like, something that’s happening in their life right now you might be able to ask them about later when it comes to small talk, and you can even leave them a friendly comment like you’re looking forward to seeing them later in the day. This all helps you feel more comfortable when you’re looking for a friendly face in the crowd or are hunting down your blog crush for a brief hello.
Have a few pre-prepared questions in your head you can ask before the conversation gets awkward. General questions you can bust out to anybody – what’s your blog about? Do you live near here? Which speaker are you looking forward to hearing? Who here would you love to meet? Did you enjoy lunch? Whatever you can pull out of your conversational arsenal when the moment strikes.
It’s also TOTALLY OK to not know every single blogger and be familiar with every single blog. People love you asking about their blogs, they’re not going to be offended that you don’t know who they are, and it’s totally not embarrassing to have never heard of someone before. Bloggers come from all walks and all niches, you don’t have to be across them all to have a friendly conversation.
Here’s my card
If you think it will help, have a business card printed before you go. You don’t have to spam everyone with them and throw them around like confetti, but if you meet someone you’d really like to get in front of, it can be helpful to give them a little card with all your details on it. Everyone’s meeting so many people it can be hard to keep track of what face belonged to what blog. The cards will help.
Wear what you love
I can’t stress this enough! You want to be comfortable and confident, you don’t want to be hiding in your car or sitting down the whole time because you’ve worn something cool but inappropriate, or shoes that are fabulous but hurt so much you can’t stand.
Of course you want to look good and make a good impression, but it’s hard to make a good impression when you’re stressing about your outfit and you don’t want to be seen. Wear what you love, whatever that may be. You don’t have to be in the fashion blogger league (unless you want to be!), and by all means treat yourself to a new outfit if that’s what you want, but feel good in it.
Chat with the team
Find out who’s running the show (often they have a special lanyard or t-shirt) and chat with them. They might know another blogger who’d be good to meet, or give you good tips on what sessions might suit you. They’re also friendly and happy to talk to you anytime so you never have to feel alone in a sea of people who all look like they’ve been friends for years and this is your first day of school.
Keep an open mind
You might have an idea of who you want to talk to and what you want to do, but don’t discount other bloggers you don’t know yet – anyone could lead to anything! The possibilities are endless, so be open to whatever may come.
Go easy on the liquor
I know, Dutch courage is awesome and most of us are 200% wittier after a glass of something, but you really can be drunk before you feel drunk and you will 100% say something stupid if you’re not in possession of your faculties. Keep the booze intake on the conservative side until you’ve taken care of business, then find a wingman or a tribe of your peeps and by all means party on. You never know who you might connect with on the dance floor busting a move to Madonna.
Have a purpose
Having said all that, it can be super-useful to you to have a small bucket list of what you want to achieve at the event. Is it asking a specific person a question? Making sure someone else gets your card? An offer for a collaboration with a fellow blogger? Have a think about what will be good for you and try as hard as you can to tick off your to-do list. It can also help with nerves and that fish out of water feeling if you’ve got a task at hand and a purpose for the day.
Do your homework
Have a read through of the blogs of the people you want to meet. Think about how you can tailor your conversation to them, think of the questions you want to ask, or the thing you want to offer. Also have a think about where you are at in your blogging and how networking with these people can help. What do you want t oachieve? What is your favourite blogger’s favourite drink? offer to buy them one!
Don’t be quiet at Question time
This is the worst thing for all involved. The speakers WANT to answer your question. YOU want your question answered. The team WANT there to be a lively question session. You are only inconveniencing yourself if you don’t seize the moment and make use of question time. You’re not bothering anyone, it won’t be embarrassing, and all will be well. Just ask the damn question!
Have an effective introduction
I won’t go into elevator pitches or how to explain you and your blog in one minute or less, but as a personal blogger who finds it difficult to explain what I do, it’s WAY worse if I’m stumbling through a spiel and everyone’s feeling uncomfortable at my inability to answer a simple question. Even if you don’t have your niche mapped out, at least pick something to immediately convey the kind of blog you have. You can give further info later, but have a snappy response to the answer “what is your blog about?” and you’ll be way more memorable for all the right reasons.
The best thing to do after the event is to go home and reach out to people you’ve met to help them cement you in their mind. Tweet them or email and leave a little reminder as to which blogger you are as I dare say they met a fair few! Give them the info you promised, or reach out with an idea or feedback.
“Can I write this down?”
Don’t be afraid to take notes if you’re chatting with someone and they say something interesting or make a point you’d like to remember. Chances are you won’t remember, so grab a small notebook or put it in your phone. I promise no-one will think you’re senile or weird, they’ll probably be flattered that you’re keen to know so much about them.
Go it alone
Oh I know this is a hard one, but don’t be afraid of showing up to these things without knowing anyone, or without a wingman. I can guarantee if you go with a friend you’ll hardly push yourself out of that comfort zone to go and talk to people. If you’re alone then you’re more likely to strike up a random conversation or go speak to someone just so you’re not standing around looking lost and awkward. This is the time to think of your blogger bucket list and go track them down.
Keep a lid on the nerves
You will regret it if you scurry off to your room or the loos and avoid everyone at all costs, I promise. Just grab your fake it till you make it face, think of one question you can ask just about anyone and remember that everyone’s there to meet people. If you finally get to that blogger you’ve always wanted to meet and then you freak out so much your mind goes blank, you’ll be kicking yourself later.
Also, everyone is nervous! Even if it’s just a little bit. Even the confident bloggers are still a little bit concerned that you’ll be disappointed when you meet them, or they won’t live up to expectations, or people will think they’re fat, or they’ll say something dumb because they’re better at writing than they are at small talk with strangers. Everyone is in the same boat, so if you’re calm and relaxed (even if you have to fake it!), you’ll make everyone else calm and relaxed too.
Be strategic about catching them – they do often get swamped at the end of a session, so be aware of that. They also most likely have to rush off so the next speaker can get set up. Save your bigger questions for a different time and try to catch them at breaks, in between other sessions, or whenever you think they’ll be most receptive to a chat. But don’t (whatever you do!) assume it’s always a bad time and don’t seek them out, you will regret that too. They are there to speak to people, so it may as well be you!
Stand near the table
This is one of my favourite things to do. Hang by the registration desk and watch people coming in – you’re guaranteed to find someone to chat with! I also like standing near the food table – not only because I like to eat as much food as I possibly can at all times, but also because people are relaxed around food and I’ve had many a funny conversation with someone I’ve been desperate to meet over shitty tongs for the salad or fighting over the last baked potato.
The other benefit is that almost everyone will go to the registration or the food table at some point, so you’re more likely to see them there than anywhere else.
It’s ok to stand alone and survey the scene before you. Someone might strike up a conversation, or you might spot someone in the crowd you want to speak to. Don’t hunch over your phone, worried that everyone will look at the weird blogger in the corner staring at everyone, chances are they’re either feeling weird too or caught up in their own business and they’re not judging you.
Be the person everyone wishes they had
If you wish that you could just sit there minding your own business and someone will come to your aid, then be that person for someone else. If you spot a frightened face behind a fern, go and say hi. If there’s someone lurking by the food table looking uncomfortable and out of place, make a joke about the food. Ask any and everyone a friendly question and be warm and encouraging. They’ll be so grateful you did and you will feel awesome too.
So what are your tips for making the most of face-to-face blogger interaction? Who have you met that you loved? Who are you wishing you’d met? What do you do when you’re super nervous and would rather blend in with the wallpaper? I’d love to chat about it!
Also if you haven’t bought your ticket for PBEvent 2016, don’t forget you can get $100 off for the next few weeks.
Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama, follow on Pinterest for fun and useful tips, peek behind the curtain on Instagram, listen to her 90s nostalgia podcast, or be entertained on Facebook.