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How to Make Friends and Influence People at the ProBlogger Event

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This is a guest contribution by blogger Johanna Castro.

Day one of the ProBlogger conference dawns, and butterflies are probably winging around your stomach as if making a bid for freedom.

For many of us this day has been eagerly anticipated for about 6 months, and it represents one of two days in which you’ll meet some of the biggest names in blogging: Presenters, bloggers, media celebrities and a heap of new friends.

But first. You walk in, you register at the front desk, and then you face a sea of people. That sea of people seems to be undulating like a wave mingling effortlessly with yet another wave of people and the worst thing is that they all seem to know each other.

Crikey!

While you, on the other hand, are standing there on your own without a friend in sight.

I know. Because I’ve been there done that, and at my first ProBlogger event in 2011 I cringed with embarrassment and wondered how I’d dared to bring me and my little blog out into the open to such a huge conference.

After registration I clung to the nearest wall like a boggle-eyed wallflower and actually shook to the souls of my pink suede boots.

Added on to the anxiety of meeting people I had little idea about What to expect at a Problogger training event.

You might also like: Problogger Event 2013 and The Meaning of Life

Be Prepared

Forearmed is forewarned as they say, and since then, and after many brazen ‘fake it till you make it’ occasions, I’ve been continually reminding myself that a conference is not just a fabulous place to learn (Problogger Perth), it’s also a great way of networking in real life with others from the online world.

So it’s a really good idea to be armed with some strategies to put yourself ‘out there’ in order to meet new friends and influence people.

This year I decided I’d up the ante with my networking, and at my local library I found a book called “How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends” by Don Gabor (Simon & Schuster) which gave me the idea for this post, as well as some prompts for conversation openers. I’d like to reference it because it incorporates a lot of great advice and echoes many of the thoughts I’d been having about making the most of a Problogger event and getting to know as many people as possible.

Help I don’t know Anyone!

So you’re standing there hoping that your make-up isn’t smudged and you haven’t got lipstick on your teeth, or as a bloke maybe you’re hoping that in this meadow of mostly women you might find a friendly male face.

You look around the room, feel slightly overwhelmed, and don’t know where to start.

How to introduce yourself

Relax. Have a walk around. Smile, and look for smiling faces. Also keep an eye out for small groups of people. You might think that these people know each other already and are chatting about old times, but in reality you’ll probably find that they’ve only just met.

Hover close by (keep smiling won’t you) and when there’s a gap in the conversation, take a deep breath and say: “Hi, I’m … this is my first ProBlogger event. May I join in?”

Tip: Don’t leave it too long to introduce yourself in a group situation, because if you do it could make the other people feel uncomfortable.

Better still look out for anyone standing alone. They’re probably in the same boat as you and longing to chat with someone, but they don’t know who to approach for fear of butting in on a group of friends.

Perhaps you could say, “Hi my name is … I’ve never been to a ProBlogger event before. Have you?” and if they say “Yes,” then follow with something like, “How does this one compare to previous years?”

Getting a conversation going

Keep a look out for bloggers that you’ve met online. Smile, make eye contact and say something like, “Hi, I’m … and I’ve been longing to meet you.” If they’ve given a presentation you could add, “That was an awesome presentation you gave and I really related to X or Y comment you made.”

Remember that what you say doesn’t have to be clever or witty. As long as you come across as smiling and friendly you’ll be surprised how willing other people will be to talk to you. They’ll also probably be sighing with relief that someone has approached them. A simple, “Hello, my name’s …” offered with a smile and a handshake and followed with, “Nice to meet you,” should do the trick to get a conversation flowing.

Body Language

Body language is also important. I try not to cross my arms when I’m chatting and even if the conversation veers away from my own interests I think it’s important to keep engaged – so I nod and maintain eye contact – because soon you will hit common touch-points or shared interests, and it’s important not to have turned the other person off by then due to bad body language.

Influence

Influence begins by being noticed.

To be noticed you need to make new friends and acquaintances. Just as you might comment on other people’s blogs in the online world, you need to carve out a ‘belonging’ in the real life world too.

In time you’ll be noticed as ‘one of the in-crowd’ or ‘one of those in the know’ and bit by bit you’ll become viewed as someone with influence rather than an unknown newbie who needs befriending.

So make a point to meet, introduce yourself and chat to as many new people as you can because these are the relationships which are likely to continue online as well as offline.

It’s this connectivity which leads to influence.

And ultimately, influence leads to making money blogging.

Remember people’s names.

You’ll meet tons of people at ProBlogger and Don Gabor says that five seconds is all the time it takes to make a good first impression. Remembering a person’s name makes them feel important and adds warmth to the conversation as well as helping to build rapport.

Author and public speaker Dale Carnegie said, “The sweetest sound in any language is a person’s name.”

Darren Rowse is very good at names, and I’m sure he employs lots of useful strategies.

5 name remembering tricks

  1. When you’ve been introduced to someone, try to repeat their name back to them in the conversation.
  2. Focus when you’re introduced to people. Don’t think about what you’re going to say, and don’t worry about what people are thinking of you, or if your clothes are ok … just focus.
  3. If someone has an unusual name, mention that it’s unusual or unique and ask them to spell it.
  4. Don Gabor suggests trying to use a person’s name at the end of your conversation so you’ll better remember them next time you meet. “Ronelle, it’s been lovely chatting to you. Here’s my card, it would be great to keep in touch.”
  5. If you’ve forgotten someone’s name, don’t fudge over it! Just be honest and say something like, “I do remember you, and we’ve been introduced. But I’m so sorry your name has suddenly escaped me.” We’re all human after all ;)

Other conversation openers

At coffee or lunch breaks – where the food is likely to be awesome :) you could start with an opening gambit of, “Wow, doesn’t the food look fantastic! What would you recommend trying first?”

Or … “Hi, my name’s … Isn’t this a great event? What’s been the best bit of the conference so far for you?”

Most people like being asked for advice or information, so if there’s someone you admire then ask them something. “Excuse me. My name’s … and I love your blog/I loved your presentation … may I ask you a question?”

Be interested in others – remember people like to talk about themselves. “May I ask you what your blog’s about?”

If you’re sitting next to someone you don’t know then don’t just stare ahead. Strike up a conversation. Ask them something like, “Which speaker have you enjoyed most so far?”

Tricks to keep conversations going

  1. In group situations keep your ears open and listen to what other people are talking about, then respond with a positive comment that shows you’ve been listening. Note: “Negative comments are conversation stoppers,” says Don Gabor.
  2. Don’t give unsolicited advice unless you are expressly asked for it. It’s always better to ask questions and respond accordingly.
  3. Remember that most people like talking about themselves and bloggers like to talk about blogging.
  4. Have an opinion but don’t be overtly opinionated.

Compliments

Sincere compliments make people feel good. Notice something interesting about the person you are talking with, and then weave your compliment into a question which will ease any embarrassment. “You’re always dressed so stylishly. I love the dress/shoes/top you’re wearing – may I ask where you got them?”

If you’re given a compliment then smile and say thank you. Don’t dismiss it, belittle it or make light of it in any way.

Mrs Woog (Woogsworld) and Liz Lennon (Life Dreaming) taught me a lesson quite recently on Twitter about receiving compliments gracefully, when inadvertently I’d made light of one.

“I’ve worked with 1000′s of people and one thing I say is ‘just say thanks’ to the gift of compliments,” said Liz.

“I learnt years ago from someone who took compliments well. It is grand,” added Mrs Woog.

Okay. QED!

And I was grateful for being pulled up on that one.

So … Thank you for reading to the end of my post today :) Any compliments will be received most graciously ;)

I really hope if you’re attending ProBlogger Event that you’ll use one of the techniques I’ve written about and pop over for a chat with me. I’ll probably nervously be wondering a) if anyone will come and speak to me or b) who I could approach to engage in conversation!

Anyway, it’s your conference. Make friends and start influencing people. You deserve it.

Do you have any tips to add for attending a blogging or social media conference?

Jo Castro is freelance writer who also facilitates blogging and writing workshops. She’s the founder of two blogs: Lifestyle Fifty, an inspirational blog empowering women to live life to the full as they get older, and ZigaZag a Travel and Leisure blog. A gypsy heart and geologist husband keep her in search of utopia – a tropical beach, a simple shack, and a fridge filled with chilled champagne would do nicely.

 

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Comments

  1. David Miller says:

    Thank for the article. It was nice to read. I have been to many types of conferences but not blogger conferences. Just a few organized internal reminders on his to approach people in those situations is helpful. Reminds me of some of the Dale Carnegie teachings. Thanks again.

    • Johanna says:

      Hi David, thanks for your kind comments today. Yes, I think it’s probably good even for seasoned conference goers to have a few reasonably organised internal reminders at hand for when the mind might just go blank.

  2. linda say says:

    Thanks for your sharing. You’ve given some ways to make friends and show influence people at the ProBlogger event. It’s useful for me and many people. Thanks!

  3. Good tips there. I particularly like the one about approaching someone who is standing alone.

    • Johanna says:

      Thanks Paul! Yes, I guess lots of us have ‘been there, done that’ and felt very alone in a crowd. I’m definitely going to look out for lone bods, take a deep breath and pop over for a chat.

    • Johanna says:

      Hi Paul, thanks for reading. Yep, there’s nothing worse than standing alone when everyone else looks occupied with chatter – I’m going to make it a quest to approach people standing by themselves this year.

  4. Catherine says:

    Thank you for such an interesting and useful post! I guess I’m very fortunate because I don’t usually feel nervous, or intimidated, in new social (or other) situations. My downfall is that I’m really not good at making/holding eye contact, or remembering people’s names, so your hints in those areas will be very useful. As a beginner blogger myself, I’d LOVE to attend a Pro Blogger Event sometime. Thanks again, and best wishes.

    • Johanna says:

      Hi Catherine, I really hope you get to the next event and if you’re good at social situations then you’ll ‘rock it’! Hope perhaps then that the people’s names tips have been helpful – and see you there in 2015!

  5. Pam says:

    Some great tips there Jo – I always have to think about body language, I have a habit of crossing my arms and I have to consciously think about uncrossing them. Problogger for me next year I hope :-) Enjoy the event.

    • Johanna says:

      Hello Pam, Ahh yes, arms! Having a handbag or tote bag means there’s no way I’m able to cross mine inadvertantly, but if they’re just dangling aimlessly by my side it’s all too easy to cross them, so I totally get you!

  6. Great post –
    I love all your pointers – and I for one will be bee-lining to say hello to you :)

  7. Excellent tips, Jo. I’ve been a wall flower on numerous occasions and it takes a bit of nerve to put yourself out there and say ‘hi’ to someone you’ve never met. Practice makes perfect, though, I guess.

    Hope you have fun at this year’s Problogger conference (no doubt you will!) – I wish I could be there.

    • Johanna says:

      Thanks Carolyn! It’s definitely a skill putting yourself out there but like most things, as you say, a bit of nerve followed by practice go a long way! Maybe you’ll get to Problogger next year? Fingers crossed.

  8. Great tips Jo – it’s so easy to be terrified of meeting the bloggers who you really admire/respect because they seem bigger/more important than you, but of course all bloggers are just real people (and my experience is that not only are they real people but nearly always real nice people too!).

    • Johanna says:

      I so agree on that one Amanda! Celebrity status means nothing when it comes to keeping the inner demons in check – and everyone I think (even the most successful bloggers) has their own problems and demons, making them as normal as the next person. And yes, they are generally really lovely people eager to make new friends.

  9. Wonderful to see my favourite blogger, Johanna Castro, here on Problogger.
    What really useful tips – and not just for blogging conferences but for any group social situation!
    I think we’ve all been to a conference or party where we feel totally alone. ‘I’m the only one who doesn’t know anybody”. Hard to keep smiling when inside feeling so threatened but it’s great advice – so too all the other tips.
    Thanks so much

    • Johanna says:

      Hello Denise and thank you so much :) I’m glad that you could relate to this post and yes, any social situation (even parties) can feel uncomfortable when you are alone in a crowd of people.

  10. A good blog post here by Johanna Castro…. I like the way Jo writes with good use of metaphors and her ability to paint vivid word pictures, engaging the reader.

    Some good tips here for attending such a big event as the Problogger conference … it can be daunting with so many people you don’t yet know. And remembering names is a wonderful skill to aquire – I find often the sinplest names can be the most difficult to remember (like John Smith for example). If it was Ivor Stravinsky I might have a better chance of remembering it, funnily enough.

    Sorry my comment is a bit long – I didn’t mean to write an essay here … anyway, thanks for the post.Jo -when I get to atttending a Problogger conference, I will be sure to look out for you.

  11. A good blog post by Johanna Castro … I love the way Jo writes with her use of metaphors and ability to paint vivid word pictures, engaging the reader.

    It can be daunting attending such a large event as a pro bloggers conference with so many people you don’t yet know. And remembering peoples’ names is a wonderful skill to acquire. I find often that simpler names can be more difficult to remember (such as John Smith, for example) whereas a name like Igor Stravinsky I might remember.

    Sorry this comment is a bit long – I didn’t mean to write an essay here. Anyway, thanks for the post Jo and when I attend a Pro bloggers conference I will be sure to look out for you.

    • Johanna says:

      Hello Ingrid and thank you for your lovely comment which made me smile. Yes, a name like Igor Stravinsky might be something that I would remember over a simpler name – er do you perhaps know an Igor or did you pluck the name from a story? lol! No worries, your comment wasn’t long, it was very interesting. And thank you for your compliment too. Yes, hope to meet up with you at a future Problogger conference too.

      • No I haven’t met Igor yet Jo – plucked him from my imagination. Sounds like he could be an interesting character hey – perhaps I could introduce him to Flynn!

  12. Hi Jo

    And many thanks for mentioning me and Mrs Woog.

    Your tips are really useful.

    I went to a face to face biz women’s networking event here in Dublin and didn’t know a soul.

    I thought about what I’d do as I’m not in love with the whole room full of strangers thing.

    1. When the speaker opened for questions I asked one. Speakers always look relieved when someone asks a question as the silence can be awkward. It’s also a good way for people in the room to see you so when you do go up and say hi they remember you.

    2. My opening question was ‘tell me about your biz and why you started it?’. I love hearing peoples stories so it was a delight. At the conference people could ask someone ‘ what do you blog about and why/when did you start blogging?’

    3. I asked people for their biz card [not sure if bloggers use them but it is a good way of keeping track] and then gave them mine

    I hope you have a great conference Jo and meet heaps of great people. I’ll have to pop along to one when I move back to Oz next year.

    best wishes

    Liz

    • Johanna says:

      Hi Liz! Thank you for some wonderful add-on tips :) I love the one ‘tell me about your biz and why you started it?’ A great question to have up your sleeve because it’s something the other person would feel comfortable talking about and which, as you say, as bloggers we would most likely find interesting too. I love hearing other people’s stories. I think the hardest part is actually asking a question when the speaker throws the room open to questions – I hate the sound of my own voice ;) Gotta man up this year!

  13. I like to check out who’s attending and let my fave bloggers know that I hope to bump into them. That way I won’t feel so weird around them when we meet.

    • Johanna says:

      That’s a fabulous strategy Rhonda! If you’ve made a sort of ‘appointment’ then it feels planned. Nice one :)

  14. sam says:

    Wonderful tips. Love to read the complete blog and especially this post I have bookmarked it. It is possible to forget something what ever learnt now. We’re all human after all ;) Thanks

    • Johanna says:

      Hello Sam! Thanks for popping by and bookmarking the post. I know I’m always forgetting things, so I try to re-visit bookmarked posts to refresh on tips I may have forgotten too.

  15. I wish I could have read this before my first blog conference. I attended my first travel blogger conference, TBEX, last June in Toroto, Canada. One way to pave the way for your attendance at a blogger event is to—-read the blogs of people you expect to be there. Comment on their blogs. They will get to know you or at least know of you or at least be able to pretend they know you because you so obviously know them. At TBEX, I was able to meet IRL (in real life) people who had been very supportive of my fledgling blog efforts. In some cases, we recognized each other from our on-line photos at plenary sessions even though we were among 1300 attendees. I arranged to meet some ahead of time. If you have been supplied a name tag with your name, blog name and home base, find some bloggers who are local to where you live. Ironically, I had to go to Toronto to meet some of the Philly travel bloggers. We have our own FB group and try to schedule meet-ups locally. Always wear your name tag!! I wish I could attend the next TBEX conference in Cancun, Mexico. I even speak Spanish. Alas, I will be traveling—because that’s what travel bloggers do.

    • Johanna says:

      Hi Suzanne! Lucky you attending a TBEX conference, but Wow, that number of attendees would have been well and truly daunting. I love your tip about commenting on other people’s blog before you get there so that they ‘know’ you – HaHa, you made me smile when you said ‘They might at least be able to pretend they know you because you so obviously know them ;)’ Can relate to getting to know other local bloggers too – there are lots of peeps going to Queensland from Perth this year – people I haven’t met yet even though we live reasonably close.

  16. A good blog post here by Johanna Castro … I like the way Jo writes with good use of metaphors and her ability to paint vivid word pictures, engaging the reader.

    Some good tips Hereford attending such a big event as the pro bloggers conference … It can be daunting with so many people you don’t yet know. And remembering names is a wonderful skill to acquire – I find often the simplest names can be the most difficult to remember (like John Smith for example). If it was Igor Stravinsky I might have a better chance of remembering it, funnily enough.

    Sorry my comment is a it long – I didn’t mean to write an essay here. Anyway thanks for the post Jo and when I get to a pro bloggers conference I’ll be sure to look out for you.

  17. Cindra says:

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  18. Rae Hilhorst says:

    Hi Jo, thank you so much for the tips. I am nervous and have a very small blog so feeling like a fraud. But will jump in with two feet, am feeling more confident after reading your post. I am looking forward to the experience, and to meeting other bloggers who I have admired. I am really interested in the #Olympus camera so am hoping to see a demonstration and an explanation, oh and the food x Rae

    • Johanna says:

      Hello Rae! No no, you mustn’t feel like a fraud (although I do ‘get’ that feeling because I’ve been there done that too). I’ve read your blog and your writing makes me smile, it’s not a ‘small’ blog. Anyway I’m happy that this post makes you feel more confident and hope that you get to meet lots of bloggers you admire.

  19. The tips which you have shared in this post are just awesome. These tips are really helpful to me and I think it should must helpful to others. I really like the style of writing this article. Your articles are always helps me a lot. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article with us. :D

    • Johanna says:

      Glad you found the tips in this post helpful Sylviane. When I start out on a post and put it out into the blogosphere I’m never quite sure if it will strike a chord or fail abysmally, so thank you.

  20. Kathy Marris says:

    Great article Jo. I think that is always the most difficult part of attending an event of this magnitude. I don’t know one other blogger in my town, the Gold Coast and I think this event would have been a great opportunity to meet some local bloggers. Maybe next time! Your tips were extremely helpful.

    • Johanna says:

      Thanks Kathy. Oh, what a shame you can’t be there. I’m sure you’d meet up with a lot of fellow bloggers from your area. Perhaps after the event there might be a list of bloggers and where they hail from? If I meet anyone from the Gold Coast I’ll try and get their name and contact details – pop by and contact me via my blog if you like.

  21. Carmel Forrest says:

    Wow! So well written. I felt like I was actually there, attending my first bloggers conference, because your descriptions of the scene before you, as well as the turmoil of thoughts and emotions within you, are so vivid. But you did not dwell for too long on the ‘me’ stuff – instead you went on to give some very practical and insightful tips to anyone else finding themeselves in that awkward situation. Thanks, Jo.

    • Johanna says:

      Thank you for your kind words Carmel. I’m very happy that you felt as if you were actually there, and hope that perhaps it might have tempted you to attend the next Problogger conference – but without any ensuing angst ;)

  22. Great advice Jo, I am still at the point of not even considering attending events like Problogger because I don’t really view myself as a ‘real’ blogger yet. Need to change that attitude.

    • Johanna says:

      Yes, definitely a turn-around required Michelle :) I actually believe that you are a ‘real’ blogger the moment you start blogging, and events like Problogger and the people you meet there, make you feel emboldened and more confident, raring to take big steps onwards and upwards (honestly, seriously, hand on heart).

  23. Now if I can only remember the 5 tips for remembering names! I have this awful tendency to just not listen to their name – I’ll forget it 5 seconds after they tell me.

    My tip for making this a habit: when you go to a “boring event” (eg spouse’s office party) concentrate on remembering people’s names more than anything else. Make it a game – and hopefully make it a habit!

    • Johanna says:

      What a great tip Brighton! Haha, yes, we’ve all been in that type of situation where you’re just longing to get home and put your feet up and watch Tele rather than be introduced to yet another person with whom you have little in common. Making it a challenge would be more fun, and as you say, it would turn remembering names into a habit. Love it!

  24. Thanks Jo, these are great tips for anyone going to an event where they don’t know anyone. Or for people like me who are not good conversationalists around people they don’t know, or don’t know well. I should look for that book in my local library. Thanks Jo. and happy blogging and conferencing! ps – love your blogs by the way! This blogging caper really is big business!

    • Johanna says:

      Hi Jill! I started writing tips for myself because I really wanted to be a better conversationalist, so I’m am glad that other people are finding them useful, and yes it’s a really helpful book and deals with all kinds of other situations and scenarios too. Thank you, by the way – glad you like my blogs too :)

  25. Sushain says:

    I absolutely loved reading this post. It is informative, completely comprehensive and straight to the point.

  26. Wanda says:

    Perfect timing Jo! I’m heading off in a couple of hours to a networking event and these gatherings always make me pause and think: “now how I going to remember all those new names and faces.” Your handy list is definitely going to come to my rescue. I can see it already. Thanks again!

  27. Carol McDowall says:

    This is great advice not just for the Problogger event, but for any conference full of people you have never met before. I particularly like the advice about remembering names. You can not underestimate the impact it has on people when you remember their names. There are some good tips here on how to do it. I have a professor from Uni who remembers every name of every student he has ever taught. Even when I see him twenty years later he greets me by name and it makes me feel fantastic. He is a legend, however has never revealed his secret. What a gift to have.

  28. Johanna says:

    Wow Carol, what an incredible feat! It’s one thing to remember people’s names when you’ve just met them, but years later, now that’s truly impressive. Question though. Perhaps you were the most incredible bunch of students your lecturer ever did tutor? lol! Seriously, I agree. What a talent to have. Thanks for popping by to comment, and glad you enjoyed the post :)

  29. Ben says:

    thanks for the tips, I love the one ‘tell me about your biz and why you started it?’ A great question to have up your sleeve because it’s something the other person would feel comfortable talking about and which, as you say, as bloggers we would most likely find interesting too.

  30. hairspray59 says:

    You’re right one off the things people love to hear is their name and you showing a genuine interest in them.

  31. Eric says:

    I like to check out who’s attending and let my fave bloggers know that I hope to bump into them.

  32. grimsindia says:

    Thanks for share informative articles like this. Its true that we can make and treat blogs like our websites. And can share our thoughts through blogs also we can use blogs for make popular our websites.