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.
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!
There are two frustrations I most often hear from people when they get home from a conference. 1) They didn’t know how to meet people and didn’t take advantage of networking while they were there. 2) They were inspired and motivated by the conference but once they got home real life took over and they never truly used the great things they learned.
There is no easy fix for these complaints, but I do have a suggestion that will help. Make good use of the conference back channel. The back channel is a flow of information happening real-time during the conference and is usually done using Twitter.
Now, if you are not a Twitter user, please practice your “withholding judgment” skills. There is no reason you can’t get a Twitter account to use during this conference and then afterward go back to your less connected life. Don’t discount the backchannel simply because of the platform it’s being transmitted by.
OK, now that you have a Twitter account, how do you find the backchannel? If the conference you’re attending really has it together, you’ll find a hashtag listed on the conference page. A hashtag starts with a # and is made up of cryptic letters and numbers that should have something to do with the conference. For example, The Training 2013 Conference that I attend has a hashtag of #trg13. You can do a twitter search on this hashtag to find all of the Tweets for the conference.
Ways you can use the backchannel:
1. Use the Backchannel to “Meet” People Before the Conference. Send some tweets about the sessions you’re going to attend. Retweet good tweets from other tweets. Tweet out to people who say things you like. You’ll get to know them online and when you meet them in person at the conference it will be like you’re already friends. Yes, you really can meet people on Twitter.
2. Use the Backchannel to monitor what is happening at the conference. People will tweet out quotes and learnings from session they’re in. They’ll tell you their plans for the evening. They’ll tell you which speakers are good and which to avoid. If it’s a large enough conference, the stream will go so fast that you won’t be able to keep up and you’ll have to flip back through it at night when things are quieter.
3. Use the backchannel as a motivator and reminder when you get home. The Tweets will be available on Twitter for several months and you use a free tool such Hootsuite to look at them or Row Feeder to download and keep them. There are even people in different industries who will curate backchannels for specific events, pulling out the best tweets and making them available in a report.
The backchannel is a fabulous tool for any conference or event. Don’t miss out on this great resource!
Have you ever been a part of a conference backchannel? Did you love it? Hate it? Have advice for using it? Post a comment below!
Many people believe that making a resolution is simply a way of setting yourself up for failure but it’s a tradition right? Don’t we all like to make a resolution… a new start to the New Year? Well, we do too. Regardless of if you call it a “resolution’ or you simple look at it as an evaluation of 2012 and a new plan to adjust in 2013 you owe it to yourself to make YOU a priority this year!
2012 delivered many surprises to me both personally and professionally. On a personal level, my oldest daughter got engaged, my youngest daughter discovered a passion that will lead to many years of working at what she loves, my husband left his job of almost 20 years to join an amazing team (this decision has us in a long distance marriage with him now living in Texas and me still living in Florida) and I my mother’s battle with dementia continues and after many agonizing months of research, interviews and site visits, she is now very comfortable settled in her new “home” and loving it. Professionally, I took a giant leap and have dedicated myself to Red Feather Networking full time which is my dream come true. Kelly and I have amazing things planned to “Unleash” in 2013. My personal goal for 2013 is to remain focused and to use my time wisely. By implementing some awesome time management skills I learned over the holiday break I will be able to assure that every task I do is working in the right direction of achieving my goals and the goals of RFN. This more organized way of working will also give me the flexibility I need to work wherever I am… Florida…Texas…airport…(thank goodness for laptops and smartphones). Thank you to several people in my amazing network who helped me discover this better way of “being”.
… from Kelly
This past year has run me ragged. Building a business, working full-time and being a good and involved wife and mother is a lot to put on anybody’s plate! This year is going to be a year of focus for me. One of my business resolutions is to spend more time strengthening my network. In 2012 I found several interest groups where I feel truly comfortable with people who share my ideals and have similar goals and roadblocks. So I dedicate the year 2013 to them. I plan to spend more time focused on the people I’ve met and talked with in 2012, strengthening those networking bonds and learning how I can help them to achieve their goals while I’m achieving mine. Not that I won’t meet new people and try new events. You just won’t see my face in quite so many new places this year. Other resolutions include losing weight (that’s been on the list for a few years now!), spending more time with my son, and speaking at least 3 large venues.
Thank you for the immense support that you have shown us in 2012. We appreciate the love and look forward to bringing you what promises to be your best networking year ever in 2013!!!
Celebrate safely and thanks for reading~
Kelly & Michele