It’s just around the corner- the biggest, best, and most entertaining pet conference of the year- BlogPaws 2011!
If you’re a three-peater like me, you probably know the drill by now, you’ve met some people already and are looking forward to reconnecting with your buddies. But if this is your first time, perhaps you find yourself a little bit intimidated. I know I was- well, I’ll be honest, I still get intimidated by these things.
Do you all read The Bloggess? She is hysterical and she posts insane things about chickens, and for that reason alone I think she’s amazing, but she posted something about BlogHer (the last conference I went to) that really stuck with me. She said that the first two times she went to BlogHer she spent the entire party in the bathroom. To paraphrase: “We’re all a little socially timid here. That’s why we’re on the internet.”
I would venture to say that compared to the general population, pet bloggers are even a little more on the introverted side than your average women’s issues blogger. We are the quietest of the quiet. So we’re all terrified of huge crowds. Understand that and you will like it a lot more.
Yes, you’ll run into a few over the top extrovert life of the party types at BlogPaws as well, mostly people there selling something, but for the most part we are a pretty quiet, reserved bunch. I’ve gone to two now and have yet to see a single person dancing on the tables or wearing a lampshade on their heads. (Hope springs eternal, however.)
Before any conference, as the days get closer you’ll see tips for getting the most out of it, but I wanted to go one step further and give you some tips for really leaping out of your computer and making some great connections if you’re coming to BlogPaws if you’re like me, a little nervous and hoping you won’t be stuck standing by yourself without someone to talk to.
1. Tweet it up!
This is a very Twitter-savvy crowd, and using the #BlogPaws hashtag is a great way to strike up a conversation in the days leading up to the conference. It’s amazing how quickly a friendship can develop even when you’re limited to 140 characters. Plan to meetup when you first arrive and bam- you’ve got your tribe.
2. Suck it up and say hi.
This is so hard for me to do. I am terrible at jumping into conversations. But here is what’s so special about BlogPaws- and I mean this sincerely- you will never meet a nicer group of strangers. The lack of ego and the genuine level of interest in other people is amazing, so don’t be afraid to walk up to people and say hello. They won’t be strangers for long.
3. Feature your handle prominently on your nametag.
I really screwed this up at BlogHer. No one refers to me as Jessica online. I am Dr. V or pawcurious or Brody’s mom. Your real life identity is secondary here to your virtual one, and people who look at you blankly when you say your name will light up when they realize you are GustheFrenchie or whoever they have been talking to online for a year.
4. Go say hi to the person standing alone.
No one likes standing by themselves. It’s awkward. Odds are they’re doing it because they don’t see anyone they know and they’re stymied by the idea of trying to find someone to approach. My very first night at BlogHer, I went up to a woman and said, “Do you know anyone here? Because I don’t.” (That’s my new pickup line for conferences) and god bless her, she said, “Well, you know me,” and took me by the arm and introduced me to five people. I will forever be grateful to her for that.
5. Have a conversation piece.
It can be a flat pet, a saucy brooch, or a statement T. Or a real pet, as I’ve learned. Anything to get the conversation going that doesn’t involve you having to think of something to say. Have pictures of your pet loaded and ready to go on your phone. If all else fails and you’re stuck for something to say, ask the person you’re with about their pet. Then show them yours. Works every time. I learned this lesson from the single male friends in my life.
For me, breakfast on that first day is always the worst part of the conference when you’re by yourself. Everyone’s already sitting and talking and you have to find a table either by yourself where you can take your phone out so you look like you meant to be alone on purpose, or you have to find someone who looks approachable and hope they are OK with you sitting with them. I swear to God, I’m in my mid thirties and I haven’t changed one bit since junior high. It’s funny, isn’t it? I thought I would be wiser by now.
Anyway, Friday’s going to be that morning of terror for all the newbies- and some of the oldies- so I’m going to come down at 7:30 and set up a Newbie Table. I will plunk down there with my coffee and my bagel and will leave my phone in my bag and cordially invite anyone who wants to, to come and sit with me and hang out. Consider yourself invited. I can’t wait to meet you all!
Photo credit: “Shy Dog” by cajophora on deviantart