4 Tips for Making (and Keeping) Connections at #BlogHer13
BlogHer '13 is just two short weeks away. Many of us have a lot of concerns on our minds, one of them being how to make, and keep, conference connections.
Here is your go-to guide for how to prepare to make and keep connections that will remain a part of your life after the party is over.
One of the many things I learned at BlogHer ’12 is there are three main connections you are going to want to make at almost any blogging conference.
You are going to want to connect with bloggers. Bloggers you know, bloggers you wish you knew, and bloggers you didn’t know you wanted to know.
You are going to want to connect with speakers. Both whose sessions you attended, and you wish you had attended.
Whether you think so or not, the allure will be strong, and you will want to connect with brands.
Do Your Homework.
I know you think you are going to be able to just run into and catch up with all your blogging peeps, all the session speakers you want to meet, and all of the brand ambassadors you want to have a one-on-one with. But the truth is, without a plan, you won’t be able to.
My suggestion, of course, is to make lists. Make a list of every single blogging friend you have, every blogger you want to connect with, every speaker you want to meet, and every brand you want to check out. Pre-plan your activities with your buddies ahead of time, and compare notes.Then write down/make a chart/Google calendar/Excel file of your daily agenda, and who you want to meet when.
Take note, though. Don’t be afraid to break off from your buddies. Even if you are hanging with your Bestie from the Westy, who writes in the same niche and has similar blogging goals, your goals are not likely the same. And unless you write a blog together, you need a chance to pitch yourself and stand in the spotlight.
Define Your Blogging Goals.
Approaching, and preparing to pitch to brands is probably one of the scariest parts of any conference. It’s so nerve wracking. You want to be their IT GIRL! (By the way, it doesn’t matter if you think you don’t want to be an It Girl. At some point during the conference, there will be some part of you that will want to be an It Girl, if only for a second.)
Okay, now that we are over it, let’s talk Expo Hall.
It’s fun. It’s overwhelming. There is a LOT of STUFF. A LOT. It’s fun to get stuff, sample stuff, read stuff, even if we aren’t interested in forming relationships with a brand. I like to stop by most of the booths and look around, and talk to the brand ambassadors, in a professional, but fun way. My feeling is they are people too, and it’s probably refreshing to talk to people who don’t want something from them.
The brands you are really interested in connecting with is a slightly different story. You want to still be you, but have a more focused message. Think about what you have coming up and what you would like to be doing – this month, in three months, by the end of the year. See if your goals connect with their goals.
Make sure you ask the brand ambassadors if they work with an agency or have a blogger outreach strategy or point person. Then try to get the twitter handle of an actual person. I find that Twitter is a great way to make an initial connection with a brand. Follow, comment, re-tweat, show genuine interest, and let the brand get to know you before diving right in and asking for email addresses and partnership opportunities.
Twitter is Your Friend.
I found last year that Twitter was the best way to connect with brands and bloggers preconference, and keep a new conference connection memorable. It is also a great way to keep up with, and contribute to what’s going on at BlogHer in general.
Many of us are already using Twitter as a way to connect with brands and attendees pre-conference. Twitter is also a great way to stay connected post conference. When meeting with brands, for example, if you can’t get a Twitter handle of a specific individual within a company, try tweeting to the agency or brand, asking them to connect you with the appropriate person. For example, “I met with your brand ambassadors at #BlogHer 13, and I would love to discuss your blogger outreach strategy.”
When you are meeting anyone new for the first time at the conference, get their Twitter handle, and tweet them a “nice to meet you, I hope we can catch up again” tweet. It’s great to add in something memorable that was also meaningful to you in your conversation. Who doesn’t like to be remembered, right? You might not connect again at the conference, but remember to contact your new connections and continue the conversation when you get home and the dust settles.
Tweeting about sessions and to speakers is a great way to connect not only to individuals, but to the BlogHer conference, adding to the conversation. I love preparing for the sessions by collecting Twitter handles of the presenters of the sessions I plan to attend, and sessions I wish I could attend. I get both because I make a plan and a backup plan. It’s very possible that you could change your mind about a session, or the room of the session you want to attend is full, and you need to move on.
It’s common practice to tweet quotes or thoughts during a session, and of course you would want to give the credit to the speaker you are quoting or are inspired by. I also think it’s a great boost to the speakers to tweet them a “thanks” and maybe something you loved from their session.
Sometimes you don’t make it to a session, and you hear something interesting about that session. In this case, you could tweet something like, “I missed the interesting discussion about [xyz] and would love to hear your thoughts.”
If you find yourself in a session you haven’t prepared for, pay close attention to the PowerPoint slides with the names of the speakers, and write down the handles. In my experience, these might be the sessions that are going to have the most inspiring or mind blowing information that you are going to want to share or thank someone for. (That’s just the way the universe works for me!) If you can’t get the handles, write down the quote, and then approach the presenter after the session to exchange cards and/or handles.
In fact, never, ever be afraid to speak to a presenter at the conference. Many of them are there to make connections as much as you are!
If you want to contribute to the conversation, remember to always use the #BlogHer13 hashtag!
I actually saved the number one connection making tip for last. Regardless of who you are making a connection with, know who you are, and don’t betray yourself. Have genuine conversations with other bloggers and speakers. Know what your blogging and conference goals are, and stick to them. Don’t let yourself be swayed into thinking you want to/can blog about something that is not in your heart. Because I can tell you right now, you won’t be able to do it. It will become the most consuming work that will turn you into a resentful bitch in a hurry. It won’t be genuine, and you will turn off every reader you have, and connection you made at the conference. Bottom line, don’t compromise your integrity to try to make a buck or in an attempt to make it big.
I say this because I know this. I learned a lot about myself, my business, and my blogging direction while in the throws and afterthoughts of BlogHer ’12. I know what it feels like to know you want to amp it up, but don’t know how. I know how it feels to write about things that turn me into a resentful bitch.
BlogHer ’13 is almost here. Take a deep breath. Just be yourself. You are wonderful, and you own this. And tweet. Don’t forget to tweet!
Have fun and don’t forget to stop by my SEO Basics workshop, or tweet me @ElaineSGriffin. I’m looking forward to meeting you at the conference!