In just one week, I’ll be arriving in Chicago for my first time at BlogHer, the largest women’s blogging conference! And to add to the excitement (stress), I’m a speaker! BlogHer ’13 will have 6000 attendees so it’s huge. And I don’t know any of them! But a LOT of them know each other. The blogging world is pretty close-knit. Some of these attendees have known each other online for years.
I’m no stranger to conferences this big. I often attend the ASTD ICE – the largest training conference in the world with 8-10k attendees each year. And if you’ve followed me at Red Feather Networking you know that many of the networking techniques we teach were discovered at a conference like this. Here are a few of the techniques I’ll be using to make some space for myself in this huge conference.
Reading Blogs of other Attendees
Since this is a blogging conference, you can be sure that every attendee has a blog. Once of the easiest ways to learn more about my fellow attendees is to read them! I have found some of the most amazing blogs this way. My feed reader is now full of posts from mom-bloggers, fashion-bloggers, and tech-bloggers. I’ve been so busy starting a new business, working full-time and being a mom and wife that I’ve seriously neglected my casual reading and exploring all of the great content out there. Two that I can recommend are Kludgy Mom and Suburban Turmoil.
Participating in the Twitter Feed
The twitter feed for this conference is heating up! Not only have I gotten some excellent tips from people like @InThePowderRoom (who was down-and-dirty-honest about things) I’ve put out a video to show attendees what my Move Your Blog to WordPress session will be like, and I’ve also pushed out some “sneak peaks” of my slide presentation. I am feeling a bit lost in the feed. After all, many of these bloggers already know each other and have been attending this conference for years.
Photo Business Cards
For this conference, I did something with my business cards that I NEVER thought I’d do. I put my picture on them. And not just a tiny little head shot. I made the entire card my picture! I’m very self-conscious about pictures of myself, so hitting that “Order” button took a serious amount of courage. But now that they’ve arrived and I can hold them in my hands I’m much more confident. Because I ordered from MOO Business Cards (Disclaimer: This is an affiliate link) I was able to get two different photos in the same pack. Thanks to CARTERelite Studios, these pictures are truly me. And you can’t go wrong when you are being genuinely authentic.
Planning My Intro Strategy
This one is the most difficult for me. In spite of my extroverted communication style, at heart I am very much an Introvert. I’m not comfortable in large crowds and I find it difficult to strike up conversations with random people. However, I’ve learned that every time I push myself in this type of situation I meet AMAZING people. Some of whom become my closest friends. And I’m ready with the following tactics:
- I’ll simply say hello. This is often the hardest part for me. There are so many people who are NOT open to talking with random strangers. Which in normal everyday life could be a good thing. But at a large conference being open to the people around you only adds to the experience. So while I expect that some of these convo attempts will fizzle out, I won’t let that discourage me from striking up the next conversation with that person next to me.
- Noshing and Networking. Food can be an excellent bonding experience! I love walking up to a semi-full table and asking “Is this seat taken?” Occasionally I’ve sat with a tight-knit group who had no interest in including me in the conversation. But more often I’ve found some new friends this way.
- I will be liberal with the compliments. I can already tell from the pre-conference buzz that I’m going to see some serious fashion at this conference. I’m not going to hold back. If I find myself admiring this dress or that pair of shoes, I’m going to say it out loud! Honest compliments not only make the receiver feel good about themselves, but can be a great way to start a conversation.
Amazingly enough, presenting at my session is the thing I’m the least nervous about! Presenting is my sweet spot! I am so passionate about WordPress, and I’ve been on stage in one form or another for the past 20 years that it doesn’t faze me. I’m incredibly excited about showing bloggers what WordPress can do and how to make it happen.
If you’re going to BlogHer ’13, I hope you’ll find me and say hello! And I’d love to hear some more veteran or newbie tips so please leave me a note in the comments.
Networking is all about communication. You’re communicating not just with the things you actually say, but with the clothes you wear, the actions you take, and the way you move. Truly effective communicators understand how all of these things work together to build a consistent personal brand. Not only does your body language impact the message you give, but in the Ted Talk below, Amy Cuddy explains how our body language can actually impact our own feelings about ourselves. If you’re looking for a way to boost your confidence when networking and interacting with others, check out what Amy has to say about your body language. Give it a shot and let us know if it makes a difference for you!
It was the part that I hate the most about networking. When you walk into the room , not knowing anyone, and can tell by the people around you that you’re going to have to make the first move if you’re going to meet anyone. In spite of all appearances to the contrary, I am not an extrovert. I am a complete introvert. That doesn’t mean I can’t be chatty, personable and sociable. It just means that those aren’t the most comfortable modes for me to operate in.
This particular night I was attending a Continuing Ed instructor workshop for the school where I teach elearning and WordPress classes. When you teach night classes, you never get to meet your fellow instructors unless they happen to be in the classroom next to you on the same night. So I grabbed my box lunch, found a place at a table, and did the one thing that almost always works. I turned to the person nearest to me, smiled and said “hello!”
It seems so funny to me that after all of the anxiety and avoidance and worrying I did about networking for so many years, the one thing that always seems to work is a simple smile and a hello. Does it always work? No, there have been times when my hello has been met with a brush off and even completely ignored. But for every one of those there are at many more people who smile and say “hello” back.
So what happened this night that prompted me to write about it in this blog post? Robert smiled back and reminded we that we’d met a few months ago at the first instructor workshop I had attended. I then said hello to Rob, Dave, Al (actually he said hello to me first) and we had a great group discussion about geeky things like elearning and flash and HTML 5. Several of us stayed an hour after the workshop just to chat and I now have some new friends/colleagues that I know I’ll learn a lot from. All because I was brave enough to smile and say “hello”.
So the next time you find yourself alone in a crowd, feeling nervous and wishing you were anywhere but there, think about me and smile. Then say hello to the person next to you and see what happens.
Do you have a tip for breaking the ice at networking events? Share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Sometimes, making connections with people who have a solid online presence like a blog can be a bit intimidating. It’s not always easy to just walk up and introduce yourself to someone you follow and admire. Here is one great tactic that you can use to connect with that person in a very safe, secure, and low risk way. Comment on their blog.
If you have a blog, you instantly get it. Even if your blog gets a good amount of traffic, it can sometimes feel like you’re pouring your ideas and feelings out into a big black hole of nothingness, day in and day out. When in fact, people are reading and connecting with your ideas. They just aren’t telling YOU about it! When someone you don’t know makes a comment on your writing, it’s like payday. It’s proof that your writing has meaning – even if the commenter doesn’t agree with your ideas.
As a reader, it’s very rare that you don’t have some kind of reaction from reading a blog post. You get to the bottom of the article, you pause for a moment to have a reaction. And then – click! – you’re on to the next article or blog.
That’s the moment when you can take a second to start or strengthen a relationship with the blogger. Many bloggers will comment back to you, but even if they don’t I promise that they’ve read your comment and are taking note.
So what should you write in a comment? Well, write whatever you’re thinking after you read the post. Do you agree with the blogger’s point of view? Did you think of something they missed? Are they way off base and you can explain why? That’s what you should write.
So the next time you read a blog post, pay attention to your reaction. What are you thinking about the post? Click in that comments section and write a little note to the author. DO IT! It’s a surefire way to open up lines of communication and let them know that their words are NOT going into a black hole. That you are reading and appreciating their work. Here’s your homework – stop right now and leave me a comment!
Note: Ironically, the comments on our site broke just when this article was posted! They are up and running now, but if you have any issues, please email me at email@example.com.
If you’re going to Training 2013, we’d love to meet you! Come hang with Kelly and Michele from Red Feather Networking at the Laguna Bar on Sunday night. We’ll be there from 6 PM to whenever. Stop over and say hello!