Networking is essential in any field. By now, that should be obvious, right?
The best way to get ahead is by forging relationships with the people who can help you, regardless of whether you work at a Fortune 500 company or want to make it as a Hollywood star.
But it can be especially important for professional bloggers. When your job depends on getting people to read your writing, you can always use some help from other professionals in your field.
Making the right contacts can help you find another writer to collaborate with, allow you to exchange guest posts with another site, or get other bloggers to help build backlinks to your site. Talking with other bloggers can even spark your creativity and motivate you to make your blog even better than it already is.
Luckily there are a number of conventions and trade shows all around the world just for bloggers so that busy writers can temporarily unglue themselves from their laptops and make contacts with other people in their industry.
Events like BlogHer in Chicago (and yes, men can attend, too) and Pro Blogger in Sydney, Australia attract huge crowds of writers who want to discuss everything blog-related, from marketing to new tools and technology. Several large conventions, such as Bloggy Bootcamp and Social Media Week, host events in several major cities throughout the year, so keep an eye out for events that will be taking place near you.
If you are going to one of these live events for the first time, or even if you’re a seasoned veteran, it can be all too easy to get overwhelmed by all the trade show booths and panels. Don’t let yourself become so awestruck that you can’t make some good contacts while you’re at the conference, though—blogging is all about connecting with people, and that’s as important in the real world as it is on the Internet!
Here are a few ideas for how you can professionally and successfully network with like-minded bloggers.
1. Visit Trade Show Booths That Are Relevant to Your Blog
At many live events, you’ll find yourself in a room lined with trade show booths, all of them highlighting different blogs or companies. You may not have time to visit every single booth, but make sure you stop by the ones that are particularly relevant to you and your blog.
Talking with the people behind the booths could potentially lead to you having a guest post on their site, or one of their writers having a guest post on yours (or both). Trade show experts Nimlok have created booths to be spacious and open, so no need to worry about cramped spaces!
2. Promote Your Blog at Your Own Trade Show Booth
Do you have a particular area of expertise that you want to share?
Consider setting up your own trade show booth to promote your blog.
Make sure that you check the guidelines for the conference’s booths, though. Some larger conferences may not allow vendors to set up booths without invitation, and some only allow vendors who pay a hefty fee for their table. But if you’re at a smaller or more laid back event, you might have a great opportunity to put your blog on display.
3. Have Business Cards On Hand
Although bloggers are all about digital formats, it never hurts to have some old-fashioned business cards with you at a live event.
Make sure that you include your blog’s URL on the card in addition to your name and contact info so that anyone who you hand it out to can easily find samples of your writing. If you have a Twitter feed or Facebook page related to your blog, include this on your card as well to make it easier for fellow bloggers to promote any of your material that they like!
Too old school for you? Try sharing digital business cards, which you can create directly on your smartphone using apps like Icon or SnapDat.
4. Attend Any Talks That Pique Your Interest
Most blogging events won’t just have trade show booths, they’ll have a number of panels on many blogging-related topics.
For example, panels and round table discussions at the 2013 BlogHer conference included Find Your Instagram Style and The Anatomy of Humor Writing. Don’t skip out on these and head back to the hotel; these are half the fun of conferences, and they’re a great way to meet and strike up a conversation with other like-minded bloggers.
Plus you might just learn a thing or two!
5. Research Convention Speakers
You can go even farther than just attending panels by doing some research ahead of time on the writers who are going to be speaking on the topics that most interest you.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to these people—they’re not off-limits just because they’re guest speakers, and they’d probably be glad to spend 15-20 minutes talking to you if you ask politely.
Consider engaging with a guest speaker on Twitter before the conference so that there will already be some name recognition by the time you’re both at the event. If you can’t muscle your way through the crowd after the speaker’s presentation, send them a private message via Twitter to see if they would like to get coffee or meet in the trade show break room to talk about blogging tips.
6. Ask the Right Questions
Maybe there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but there are definitely unmemorable ones.
If you’re talking to a fellow blogger and the only questions you ask are, “Where are you from?” and “What’s your blog about?” you’re not likely to leave much of an impression. Just about every other conference-goer is going to be asking these bland, basic questions, so try to go a little deeper.
For example: “I haven’t seen too many blogs that focus on the endangered plant life of New Zealand. How did you become interested in that topic?” By tapping into a fellow blogger’s passions, you’re likely to have a more engaging conversation and be remembered after the conference is over.
7. Have an Elevator Pitch
Although I just explained that “What’s your blog about?” isn’t a very compelling question, it’s still one that you’re likely to get asked dozens of time over the course of the convention. And a lot of the people who ask you that are asking that same question to dozens of other conference-goers, so you need to have a dynamic, concise response in order to stand out from the crowd.
This is where your elevator pitch comes in. You may have heard the phrase before: it refers to a short but informative summary of what you’re all about (the kind of summary that you could give to someone in the length of an elevator ride).
Make sure that you’re able to explain what you blog about in a few sentences, even though it can be hard to boil down your passion to its essence like this. Be able to talk about the specific subjects you write about, your target audience, and what kind of impact you hope to make.
8. Don’t Oversell
Okay, have your elevator pitch down? Good.
After you’ve explained what you write about to a fellow conference-goer or presenter, let the conversation progress naturally.
Don’t turn it into an infomercial during which you try to convince your audience to subscribe to your blog. This is obnoxious and is likely to turn people off. If you have a good conversation with someone who shares some of your interests, they’ll be likely to follow up with you and your blog without you having to push them.
9. Keep in Mind that Networking Is a Two-Way Street
Whenever you’re networking at a live event, remember that it’s not just about finding people who can help you out professionally— other bloggers are going to want you to help them out as well.
Be open to the idea of having other writers contribute a guest post on your site, agree to add a backlink to someone else’s site in one of your posts, or promote somebody’s post on Facebook and Twitter. Helping out other bloggers will make them much more open to the idea of helping you out, and the two of you may be able to work together in the future as well!
10. Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Your networking efforts shouldn’t end as soon as you leave the conference or convention.
Make sure that you’re adding contacts that you made on LinkedIn and becoming a follower of the blogs you’re most interested in. Send an email or thank you note to any presenters or other particularly helpful people that you spoke too—this is both the polite thing to do and a way to jog the person’s memory when your name comes up.
It’s not unusual for convention-goers to meet hundreds of other convention-goers, so make sure that you’re one of the ones that stands out from the pack.
Blogging conferences and conventions can be a lot of fun, as long as you fully engage with other attendees and make the most out of panels and round table discussions. By maximizing your networking efforts at a live event, you can significantly expand your readership and get the opportunity to exchange ideas with other bloggers who you admire.