I wrote this with future Blogcademy students in mind, but truthfully, this advice applies to any workshop. We all want the same thing out of our experience: to feel that we got our money’s worth, that we enjoyed ourselves, and that we asked every question that came to mind!
Sometimes, though, when we walk into a room of unfamiliar people, that all goes out the window. We get shy or anxious, our minds go blank and sometimes we just don’t feel like we have the confidence to approach someone else.
Here, then, are my tips for getting over that stuff, and not letting it encumber your enjoyment of your time. Here’s to a fantastic event!
Fluff up your site!
Before The Blogcademy even begins, we connect all our students together in our forum, where they swap URLs and start to get to know one another. And you know, these days, your blog is like your outfit: first impressions count…
If you’re going to a workshop or a seminar, give your site a good going-over the week beforehand. Check that you have links to all your social media and your email address somewhere obvious. Run a spellcheck. Consider refreshing your “about me” page, especially if your hair is a different colour now!
Just cast your eye over your site as if you were seeing it for the first time. This is probably not the time to start a complete overhaul, but do what you can do to clean it up, and make it the best it can be.
Business cards, business cards, business cards!
Sure, business cards can seem a little old-fashioned in today’s eminently Googleable world… But done right, they can make a fabulous impression.
If you’re going to an event, you absolutely must have a stack of business cards on you… And those business cards absolutely must have your Twitter handle on them. (Other than your URL, it is probably the only information on your card anyone will use.)
At Alt Summit, the business card game is NEXT LEVEL. Look at these turquoise and bright pink cards, for example. When I spoke at Alt in 2012, I was handed business cards which came with bracelets attached, or a little packet of glitter, or a teeny pair of scissors… The ingenuity was incredible.
You don’t have to spend a million dollars on your cards, but do what you can to make them eye-catching and memorable. You never know who you could be handing it to!
Come armed with questions.
As soon as you book your ticket, start jotting down any questions you have, no matter how silly they may seem. For extra-organised Virgo points, put these questions in the notebook you’re planning on bringing to the event. Keep writing down any questions that occur to you in the time between securing your ticket and the workshop itself.
Inevitably, many of these questions will be answered during the class or seminar. But there will be a few that are more specific that you really want to know about, and will fly out of your head when you’re in a room full of people, being overstimulated. (Then, of course, three days later, you’ll be sitting in front of your computer, it will hit you, and you’ll think, ‘DAMN! I wish I’d asked that!’)
So write down everything you can think of… And don’t be too afraid to raise your hand in class!
Wear something that is a conversation piece.
There are a few reasons for doing this. Firstly, it makes you more memorable. Secondly, wearing something a bit bold can encourage you to be bold, too… Almost like wearing a costume. Thirdly, it actually does other people a favour: if they’re feeling shy or don’t know what to say, they can always compliment your shoes/hat/dinosaur necklace!
We always recommend our Blogcademy babes wear ears. It has become a kind of silly signature of our class, which we love (and it makes class photos so much more adorable!). Wearing ears at The Blogcademy shows everyone else that you are part of the clique (or cult, as the case may be!), and it also encourages you to get just a little bit outside of your comfort zone. When you’re a little outside of that cushy place, you’re more likely to take chances or try new things… And that’s what this is all about!
Before you walk in the door, do a quick gut check.
Ask yourself: what do I want to get out of this day? What do I want to achieve?
In fact, Kat, Shauna and I do this before every class. (I force them to do it, but I think they secretly love it!) Before we kick off the festivities, the three of us get into a huddle, like a sparkly football team, and I say, “How do we want today to feel?” We start to throw around adjectives, like, “Exciting! Informative. Friendly. Helpful! Glittery!” That totally sets the tone for the class.
There is no reason why you can’t do this on your own. I often do it before I go out to an event: it helps remind me why I’m going, and what I hope to get out of it. If you try this, let me know how it works for you!
Put yourself out there.
If you’re not the most extroverted person on the planet, that’s okay. Odds are excellent that PLENTY of people in the room with you feel exactly the way you do! You don’t have to be an outgoing chatterbox to get the most out of a class or seminar… But just mustering the courage to say hello to people can work wonders!
As a teacher, you know what’s going on with your students. Kat, Shauna and I are hyperaware of how engaged people are, whether they are interacting with one another, and how shy they are. I get a feeling about certain people all the time, where I know they want to speak to me on a personal level, but they’re afraid to do it…
…And inevitably, I end up having a heart-to-heart with one babe at the very end of it all, late on Sunday night. It always makes me wish we had been talking like this for the whole weekend! I wonder about them, too. Did they get to say everything they wanted to say? Was I able to answer all their questions?
One of my greatest thrills in life is getting to know someone, and feeling like I have been able to help them. It would really upset me to think that I hadn’t made myself approachable enough for someone to feel comfortable talking to me candidly. That’s what I’m always striving for… And I don’t think I’m alone in that. That’s what we all want, no matter whether we’re teaching or soaking it all in.
So next time you feel nervous, just take a big breath and say hello. Start a conversation. It’s what we all want, and it’s worth the risk!
Take notes. Lots of notes!
Some of us fool ourselves into thinking that we will simply remember all the best bits of the day… But the truth is that a full day (or more!) of incoming information will overwhelm even the most magnificent of brains!
Always take a couple of pens and a notebook to any event where you think a little bit of genius might be taking place. Write down direct quotes as much as possible.
I always like to create a to do list while I’m sitting at an event. It’s one thing to take on the information, but it’s entirely another to put it into action. If you make a to do list at the time, you’ll have actionable items to get cracking with as soon as you go home!
It’s a simple tip, for sure, but it makes such a difference! Sometimes when we think we have a neutral face, we’re actually doing a chronic bitchface. Eep! (I am so guilty of this!) Standing around looking dour makes it less appealing for other people to approach you, and that will impact your day.
As much as you can remember to do it, smile! Grin and laugh and beam at other people. Nine times out of ten, they’ll smile right back!
Make an effort to remember people’s names.
We try to do this as much as possible when we’re teaching, simply to show people that we value them, and because it makes our students feel good. They always say that there is no sweeter sound to a person’s ears than their own name, and I think that’s true!
If you’re not great at remembering names, try playing a memory game, or simply jotting notes on any business cards you receive. There is no such thing as a good or bad memory (apparently), simply a trained or untrained memory. That means you’ll just get better with practice… And this is certainly something that’s worth making a little time investment in!
Follow up with your fellow attendees afterwards!
The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter who you’ve met if you never follow up with them! The only girls I remember from Alt are the ones who made an effort to reach out to me — and vice versa — once we’d all gone back home. The rest of them disappear into a haze of faces.
If you’re going to a workshop or an event with the intention of making friends or contacts, this step is imperative! Just meeting someone once isn’t enough of a basis to establish a friendship or a working relationship: you need to follow up, be in contact, and remind them that you exist!
Add the people you met to Twitter. Like their status updates on Facebook. If you took photos together, email them through with a sweet note! Get involved with them, and as Kat would say, “Subtly insert yourself into their life!”
I hope these tips help you at your next event… Of course, you’re more than welcome to put these ideas into practice by joining us on The Blogcademy World Tour! Just click for more details.
Photo by Shell De Mar.