Last week, I spent five days in sunny Las Vegas at BlogWorld—one of the foremost industry events in new media across the U.S. I was there as an organizer this year—co-organizing the Social Media Business Summit with my friend and colleague, Chuck Hemann.
Over the course of those five days, I listened to a lot of people much smarter than me talk about issues, topics and concepts I care about. I was inspired. I learned. And now, like many who experienced BlogWorld last week, I’m exhausted.
But, the biggest benefit of the trip to Vegas each fall is without question the networking. The opportunity to meet people I’ve been talking to online for years. And, this year was no different.
Now, I know many people think networking is a dirty term. But, that’s not the way I look at it at all. I look at networking as relationship building. I don’t think about networking as a way to extract information and resources from a person. As a way to take advantage of a personal rolodex, so to speak. But instead, as a way to help others—and maybe some day, they might just help me. And if they don’t, that’s not a big deal. Because, chances are, in the process of giving to them, I’ve probably learned a new skill or made another new friend along the way. Don’t believe me—I’ve seen it play out in real life may times before.
For me, BlogWorld is a networking mecca. Each year, this is the one national industry event I don’t miss. And, the chance to catch up with so many others is the number one reason.
So, today I thought I’d share some of the networking lessons I learned this year from my BlogWorld experience. Why? Because I think networking is a learned behavior. And one that’s critical to our professional success in many ways. So, learning how to network is crucial. I hope some of these lessons can help you as you plan for the conferences you want to attend in the year ahead.
* Don’t be afraid to shake a hand. At industry events like BlogWorld, the worst thing you can do is to be a wallflower. Don’t be afraid to approach people, extend your hand and introduce yourself. You’ll be surprised how friendly most (not all) people are. One strategy that has worked well for me in the past: Approach speakers after their panel. Tell them you enjoyed the session. Ask one relevant question. And then build one additional “ask” into the close (a guest post, coffee the next day, etc.). Again, it never hurts to ask.
* Keep your energy level high. I learned this one of the hard way this year. The BlogWorld schedule can wear you down—and it was taking it’s toll on me early in the week (travel and the time zone change don’t help either). So, when I had the opportunity to meet a few key people during the course of the week, I found my energy level waning. And, I think it showed to a few folks I met for the first time. Make sure your energy is high for those key moments. Maybe you don’t attend every party or meet-up during the week—you can’t hit everything. Save your energy for those moments that matter most for you.
* Don’t get caught up in celebrity. BlogWorld is one of those odd events where you see a lot of different people you’ve only read or watched online for years. Some of which have reached “celebrity” status. Don’t get caught up in the hype. At the end of the day, they are just people—just like you and me. So, don’t be afraid to approach them, introduce yourself and chat. But, maybe more importantly, instead of focusing your time and energy on trying to meet internet celebs, focus on meeting and talking with people just like you. For me, that meant spending a lot of time at this year’s BlogWorld with people like Heather Whaling, Justin Goldsborough, Kellye Crane, Jen Wilbur and Sara Meaney. We all work in digital PR and have been talking online for years. And going in to the event, I knew I wanted to spend “quality time” with this group (and a number of others). Mission accomplished.
* Have a game plan and stick to it. I learned from last year’s event that I wanted and needed a game plan heading into the event. Who did I want to meet? What sessions did I definitely not want to miss? And, what business did I want to get done at the event? Ask yourself how you can best use your time at the event. You don’t want to leave on Sunday wishing you would have met that one person or that you would have attended that one session.