As a full-time blogger I love working online but real life networking has been the real game changer. It’s had the biggest impact on my journey to full-time blogger. It can feel scary to put yourself out there but that’s where things really start.
Online conversations can build real relationships but when you take them offline, that’s where the magic happens. I remember my first blogging event. I was so nervous I thought about cancelling and staying home. It was raining too so I totally had a good excuse. But I have this saying that good things happen when you put yourself out there. So I got dressed and went out. I was alone and had never met anyone in the room before (though I felt like I knew a couple of people from reading their blogs). It was terrifying but it was also the best thing I’ve ever done.
That one event has lead to amazing friendships, professional relationships and even speaking gigs. Now I regularly attend blogging events, especially through Blog Society and have started Little Blog Big to bring new bloggers together. Networking at blogging events isn’t like at a corporate event. It’s more relaxed and authentic. The people you meet are way more interesting and you never know where the conversation can go.
Here are my tips to make networking fun and to make it work for you.
Before the event:
1. Look up the guest list
Check if there is a list of who’s going or if there’s a Facebook group or Twitter list for the event. Doing a little research on the guest list will help you learn more about who will be there and find out if there’s anyone you really want to connect with.
2. Have your elevator pitch ready
Your elevator pitch is a quick sentence or two about you and your blog. It’s a quick way to introduce who you are and what you do. It’s tough to summarise this in a sentence. Try to keep it short and interesting so that people want to ask you more questions and keep the conversation going.
3. Set an intention
Think about what you want to get out of attending this event. Is there a project you're working on that you need help with, or maybe you are looking to meet more bloggers from your niche. Setting an intention helps to keep you focused.
At the event:
4. Smile & breathe
If you don’t do anything else, just remember to smile and breathe. Blogging events are fun and nothing to be nervous about. A smile makes everything better.
5. Put down your phone (just for a minute)
Blogging events are one of the few places where you are encouraged to use your phone as much as possible. You’ll want to Instagram and share what’s happening but be mindful and put your phone down for just a minute. You’re much more approachable when you’re not looking at your phone. You can always #latergram it.
6. Be present
When you’re talking with someone, give them your attention and listen to them. Don’t worry about what you’re going to say next. Please don’t look over their shoulder to find someone better to talk to. There's always time to move around the room and talk to others later.
7. Ask questions
If you’re nervous about small talk, remember that most people like talking about themselves. Ask open questions (who, what, where, when, why and how) and let the person answer. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with questions.
8. Focus on giving
Often traditional networking is about what the other person can do for you. Instead, think about how you can help the person you're talking to. Maybe it's a service you offer, or you can recommend a friend or another blogger.
After the event:
9. Get social
Connect with the people you met on social media. Follow them and message them to say how lovely it was to connect at the event. Keep the lines of communication open and growing.
10. It’s all about the follow-up
You met at this event, now what? Keep developing that connection online. Read and comment on their blog and share their content on your social channels. You never know what kind of collaboration or friendship that initial meeting could lead to.
So don’t be afraid to organise a meet-up with local bloggers or go to a blogging workshop or networking event. You’ll learn so much from taking your online relationships offline.
Christina Butcher is a full-time blogger and New York Times bestselling author. When she’s not fighting bad hair days at Hair Romance or inspiring adventures with her husband Jim at Mr & Mrs Romance, she’s helping bloggers grow their Little Blog Big with live workshops and networking events.