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
Tabitha @ the chefs wife says
Im so sad I wont be there to join your newbie table. I would love to meet you too.
I think if i have to bring something to strike up a conversation, I would being a rat. 🙂 They are sweet and kind, social a soft. And I could easily carry it around for the day.lol.
Lisa W says
That’s a great idea for all conferences, I think, especially those related to pets. When I went to HSUS’ Taking Action for Animals conference two years ago, I was SO shy I didn’t think I’d ever meet anyone. But I met two women (coincidentally who live not far from me — and we met in DC) with whom I am still in contact, And we roomed together at this year’s TAFA. It was awesome. And I am forever grateful to them for reaching out, because I’m like a deer in the headlights when it comes to meeting people and making small talk!
Amy Palmer says
GREAT post! BlogPaws West was my first conference & I was so overwhelmed. I’m rather shy & have trouble making small talk, so I would find myself alone and nervous. I would go up to my room, pull myself together and go back down to try again. And you know what? There were a lot of really nice people there. I’m sure this time will still be hard, but I made a lot of friends in Denver & will make it a point to make more this time. You’re at the top of my list. 🙂
Dr. V says
Wonderful! It will be great!
BlogPaws West was my first BlogPaws conference, and I won’t be at this year’s conference, but I can attest to the fact that the people there are AMAZINGLY friendly. I made real friends last year, and wish desperately that I were attending again this year. You’re so right, Dr. V, pet people tend to be introverted, but once you find out X person is actually YourFavePet on Twitter, it’s so easy to start that conversation 🙂 I encourage everyone attending to jump in and chat with others and, especially, make sure you get a chance to connect with Dr. V. She really is just as friendly as she seems!
Dr. V says
Aw bummer that you won’t be here. Hopefully next year!
Dr. V., you sure you weren’t an RA or a camp counselor in a former life? I think those excellent points should be handed out to any newbie attendee, for any conference. As I was reading through the post, I was thinking, really, somebody at BlogPaws should be organizing a breakfast specifically for first-timers. And there you are! And you weren’t even hired to do so.
Dr. V says
I never got to go to camp. :*(
Caren Gittleman says
Great post Dr.V! Looking forward to meeting you! This will be my first BlogPaws but I am embarrassed to say that I lean more towards being an extrovert than an introvert (but I do have introvert tendencies!) I can talk to anyone (when I want to! lol) I think that is because my past life before blogging was spent in sales. I HAD to learn to talk and I attended MANY conferences. That isn’t to say that I won’t be a little shy but one of the best things you can wear is a SMILE! A smile makes people feel you are approachable. Will definitely say “HEY!” if I see you with your coffee and your bagel! I will more than likely have some item of clothing on that has a CAT on it. (What else?)
Dr. V says
Embarrassed to be an extrovert? No way! That is a good thing! 🙂
Rooms full of strangers always make me feel like my shy, awkward 12-year-old self!! And I’m in my mid-40’s! If I was going to BlogPaws I’d for sure stop by your “Newbie” table and say hi! 🙂
Dr. V says
That makes me feel better- it’s not just me!
Katharine M says
Dr. V, I can’t wait to meet you IRL – I enjoy your blog and this post was great! As I tend towards the introverted side in larger groups, I am bringing my ultimate ice breaker with me – my precious dog. 🙂 I am also bringing my friend Audrey who is just launching a pet blog (and working on founding a pet-related non-profit) – she is more of an introvert than I am UNTIL she starts talking about her passion for pets! I will make sure we look for your NEWBIE breakfast table on Friday so we can join you.
As another way for newbies to connect, there is a group on the BlogPaws community for newbies at this year’s conference (BLOGPAWS “NEWBIE” MEET & GREET!). Organized by Caren Gittleman (@CatChatCaren and @DakotaSheltie) and Barbara Struninfor (Adopted Mom to Chazz The Dog), this group will be doing a meet-up on Thursday evening to help newbie meet each other. See the group page for final details on where/when.
Thanks again for all the great tips/advice! See you in a little over a week!
Dr. V says
Caren just posted and didn’t tell me she was putting together a meet and greet! That’s awesome! Yaay, so I expect everyone to be BFFs by Friday am.
Shelley @ Green Eggs and Hamlet says
I wish I was going. It always sound like so much fun. Plus, I’d be honored to sit at your Newbie Table. Have a great time!
Oskar & Pam says
I’ll be looking for your newbie table!
This is a great post.
Oskar & Pam
Great post and thanks for the information. This won’t be Petco’s first time attending but it will be mine.
PETCO Community Manager
Diane and Cosmo @ To Dog WIth Love says
Great post! Can’t wait to see all who are coming. Cosmo is my wing man and he’ll be there in all his fluffiness! We’re three-peaters too.
Helen Woodward Animal Center says
Dr V, you can always sit with us! Always always always! 🙂
Dr. V says
Ha! Just try and stop me! 😀
Karen Nichols says
Great post! I’ve suffered from shyness and social anxiety all my life, but it disappears when I’m in a room full of jabbering pet lovers. You’re absolutely right that having a pet in tow (be it a real fluffy or a flat pet) is the best icebreaker.
I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones!
Dr. V says
Isn’t that funny how perceptions work? You strike me as very poised and confident. 🙂
Great info, this will be my first time to BlogPaws, looking forward to meeting you! Flat Prudence will be coming along too.
Dr. V says
Laura Sterner says
I will be there, but Louie the Love Muffin is staying at home. We do a lot of networking on Facebook and I’m finding that not many of the Facebook pages are planning to go. Would love to meet up with anyone who is interested in Louie and his mission to spread information about issues affecting pet health and quality of life for companion animals, as well as supporting rescue and other pet advocacy causes.
Gracey, The Tiniest Tiger says
Great post! You nailed it about the Friday morning breakfast being the toughest moment. And agreed that everyone is super nice and welcoming. It is the most friendly group I have had the pleasure of spending time with. See you next week.