I’ve just returned from BlogOnXmas in Manchester and will be heading to London for BritMums’ BML conference this weekend.
This is my ninth major blogging event over the past 2½ years, so for anyone who is embarking on their first conference and struggling with an impending sense of nervousness or downright terror here are a few invaluable lessons I have learned, often the hard way.
1. Being attacked by mummies!
This is a very real fear if you’re one of the tiny minority of dads at a parent blogging conference. But mummies can come in multiple forms …
My first ever conference was BritMums in 2015. The very first thing we did was attempt a world record attempt for the most people transformed into mummies by being wrapped head-to-toe in toilet roll in three minutes. (As you do.) We succeeded but there’s nothing that breaks the ice quite like saying to a woman you’ve never met before, “Hi. Don’t mind me, I’m just going to get all hands-on with you. By the way, I’m Tim. I feel you should know my name before we get intimate.”
2. Will anyone talk to me?
Especially if I adopt my preferred practice of retreating to the toilet so I can frantically tweet hellos to people I’m too shy to actually say hello to. Despite the fact I have spoken at BlogOn twice and sung in public at both BML and BlogOn (yes, really), I’m always afraid no one will recognise me (bad) or won’t want to speak to the big sweaty bloke pleading with puppy dog eyes for validation (worse). #ImOverHere
At bigger events it can be intimidating if you’re a newbie and you see groups huddled together in deep conversation. Some have left events upset that they felt excluded by perceived cliques. It’s not deliberate. Often we are dashing around trying to catch up with people we might only see once or twice a year. You aren’t being ignored deliberately. Pick your moment and find others who are on their own or in a small group or introduce yourself to random people you are sitting next to. We’re mostly a friendly bunch and will always be happy to talk to you if you say hi. In fact, we’ll probably be relieved that someone wants to talk to us too. #WannaBeInMyGang
3. What if I don’t recognise someone?
I have a terrible memory for faces and names and it’s getting worse with age. Admittedly drinking nine pints at the pre-event party doesn’t help but it’s a miracle sometimes that I wake up in the morning and recognise myself, never mind someone I have only interacted with occasionally online who seems to have a better recall of what I’ve been up to over the past six months than I do. #WhoAreYou
Also, ladies, pinning your name badge to your chest can make things a little awkward when you’re a bloke with terrible eyesight. Ahem. #NotAPerv
4. How should I introduce myself?
If you say hi for the first time I may not know your name or face or be able to instantly remember your blog name. But if you introduce yourself with your name, blog and Twitter handle, you stand a better chance of being recognised. And if that doesn’t work, don’t be too downhearted. The blogosphere is a big place. I may not know you but I’ll still happily speak to you – and others will recognise you. #PleaseRecogniseMe
For bonus points, if there are particular bloggers you want to introduce yourself to, show you know about them. Us bloggers like nothing more than to be recognised, so opening with, “Hi, I’m Joffrey from Game of Thrones 4 Real, @YouKnowNothingJonSnow. I loved the recent post you wrote about X …” is a decent start. Okay, maybe not quite like that. #NotAStalker
5. What if I can’t think of anything to say?
I’m what could be charitably described as ‘socially inept’ and am always terrified about being shown up for my lack (for which read ‘complete absence’) of small talk game. So don’t ask for me for help on that one! #Awkward
6. But, but, you’re like blogging royalty
I’m often intimidated whenever I see one of the ‘big’ names of the blogging scene. But they are almost without exception lovely, down-to-earth relatable people – being relatable is one of the things that makes them successful, after all – who may be just as shy about introducing themselves as anyone else. So just do it. Say hi. What’s the worst that can happen? (Other than a restraining order.) #StarStruck
Every now and then, someone admits to me they have wanted to say hello but felt too intimidated to do so because I’m a big name in their eyes. Usually it’s because they’ve mistaken me for Oddjob in Goldfinger. It’s an easy error to make. Don’t have regrets. Come and say hi. I don’t bite (that often). #IJustWantToBeLoved
7. How do I make the time to talk to everyone?
A blogging conference is over in the blink of an eye. Different people attend for different reasons. But most are keen to meet bloggers they’ve been
stalking following online.
If the social side of things is a priority to you, plan your day accordingly. Don’t be afraid to skip a session to meet more people. You can walk away from a blogging conference with lots of new knowledge and that’s great but often what sticks with you most are the friendships you develop. Don’t underestimate the value of that. #ItsGoodToTalk
And those are my top tips. It’s natural to feel apprehensive before a blogging conference, especially if it’s your first. But there’s honestly no need to be. We’ve all been in the same shoes. Go. Learn. Enjoy. And if you see me hiding nervously in a corner pretending to be absorbed in my phone, do come and say hi. I was probably tweeting you anyway.
If anyone else has any top tips, please share them in the comments below!