Monday, May 6, 2013

Blogging Conferences and Getting To Know Others #SoFabCon

This weekend I went to the inaugural SoFabCon which was created by Collective Bias. I went for work, and got the benefits any blogger would’ve gotten. It was a fantastic conference. I met people I’ve “known” for years! To meet them in real life blessed my socks off. They no longer live in a picture that’s only one inch square.

Dallas Airport on way to SoFabCon

I met 4 new people and got to hug two people I’ve chatted with for at least 2 years, Brandi and Christy! Thanks for the photo Wendy! This was at the Dallas airport as we were heading to Arkansas.

One of the hard things going as a contractor was not really getting to hang out with other bloggers. Now, this was something I chose to do because I wanted to hang with my cbSocially team and get to bond with them more. I tried to say, “hi” to pretty much every single person I came across. I was literally giddy with excitement having the chance to go up, introduce myself, and ask who everyone was.

That’s not typically me. I think being there for work gave me the opening to be bold. I have to say, I was shocked at how many people knew me. My blog isn’t well known at all, but I lived for years on Twitter and that’s where most people know me from. Now, they know me from Social Fabric.

cbsocially team

My cbSocially team from Collective Bias!

I’m terrible at transitions, so let’s just jump into the “cliques” of conferences. Let’s start with the definition of a clique: “A small group of people with shared interests, who spend time together and exclude others.” I think the important piece to take away from this definition is the last part that says “exclude others”.

I have to say first of all, that I did feel like I was in high school again, but probably not for the reasons you might think. I didn’t feel this way at BlogHer, mostly because it was so massive, but definitely felt it at SoFabCon. In high school, I was the girl most everyone knew either by name or by sight. I was close to a few girls, but was pretty well liked by everyone. That’s how it was for me this weekend. I wasn’t part of any blogging group other than my team. I think had I gone simply as a blogger, I would’ve found my homegirls (I’m so 80s) or hung out with various groups throughout the entire event.

meeting Sara Blake

One of my goals was to hunt down find Sara Blake and say #IHeartNailArt for a bottle of Sally Hansen nail polish! I was so excited to find out she had some left! It was my first time meeting her, too!

Secondly, and this is the biggest reason why I’m writing this is, I don’t think that there were necessarily cliques. I think there were groups of people who blog in the same niche and/or have talked for years and wanted to hang out with these girlfriends in real life for the few short days they had together. Doesn’t that seem the natural thing to do?

I’ve been on women’s retreats with church, and groups of women typically hang out together. They’re the women who have bonded over the years and built relationships so that make sense if they get some time together they’re going to enjoy it.

Monica Johnson

If Monica Johnson isn’t one of the sweetest gals ever I don’t know who is!

Are some ladies going to have a tight knit group and spend a bulk of their time together? Of course. Does it mean that their group is so isolated that no one’s allowed to join in on the fun or be included? Absolutely not. I truly believe that if any one of us would’ve gone up to any group of ladies hanging out, they would’ve been welcomed to spend time together. That just seems to be the Collective Bias way. We’re all in this together! (channeling High School Musical here) The shirt I’m wearing right now, on my flight home says, “I ♥ My SoFab Family”, and that’s what we are, a family.

I don’t know if it’s the same in your family as it is with mine, but a couple of siblings might have a tighter bond than the others. It’s just the dynamic. It’s not bad, it’s just part of being a family. It doesn’t mean one or two people are excluded, it just means there’s a difference in the relationship.

I know we’re in full conference mode now so what are my suggestions if you’re going to a conference?

  1. Make yourself available. If you sit in your room or don’t make eye contact with anyone, it will be hard for you to meet anyone. Hang out in the lobby or in conference rooms. No, everyone won’t always rush over to talk to the person sitting by themselves, but maybe, just maybe, one person will and it could make a huge difference for you!
  2. Start a conversation. If you see someone sitting by themselves or there’s room at a table for one or two more people, ask if you can sit with them. Seriously, what are they doing to do, look at you with a nasty face and say, “no”? Ok, yes, there are rude people out there who might, but I’d say take a chance and have a seat.
  3. Sit in the middle of a row, because what’s going to happen? People are going to fill in around you as a session begins. Ask a question of the person next to you. Make a positive comment about something the session leader has said and start getting to know that person next to you.
  4. Share your business card. What could be more effective to opening up a dialogue than to exchange business cards with another blogger. Introduce yourself to someone and ask them about what they blog about. Make them feel important, that they matter and that you’re interested because they’ll start asking you about you and your blog.
  5. Who’s in your niche? Now, this one would be tough for me because I’m pretty niche-less. =) But, we all know that there are a multitude of blogging niches: photography, parenting, faith, fashion, life, pets, DIY/crafts, single parenting, and this list goes on. Find people that you have stuff in common with! Get to know them and build relationships!
  6. Smile. Nothing is more inviting to another person than your smile. You will look so much more approachable if you look happy and cheerful than sullen and uninterested (even if you are). A smile will open a world full of doors for you! Try it out!

Now, for those of you in tight knit groups, maybe, if you’re at a 3 day conference, take half a day and spend time getting to know others. Eat at someone else’s table or go to different sessions than your posse. Just mingle with others for a little while. Expand your horizons and get to know a few others. After your sessions, go hang out with your girlfriends for the rest of the night and maybe invite one or two new ladies to join you.

Collective Bias

I’m putting a lot of weight on you (and myself) so that we don’t put our thoughts about “cliques” onto others. Yes, there might be cliques, and I really didn’t see them that way at this conference, but you have a responsibility to yourself and your blog to get out there and connect with others. Don’t be jealous, and trust me when I say I get how hard that can be, but be glad that some ladies have found time to grow their relationships and make them more real!

If any of you feel like you were left out or not included in some of the activities, please let Collective Bias know. I saw that they’ll be sending out a survey because they want to know what worked and what didn’t work. One of my suggestions is to pull from Bloggy Boot Camp where they don’t let you sit at the same table with the same people at every keynote, and I think that’s fabulous! You still get your time with your girls, but for an hour or two, you get to spend time with people you might not otherwise meet. That’s just my two cents for their survey.

I hope that you’ll have a wonderful experience at any blogging conference you go to and remember, it’s going to start with the ball in your court!

For the record, these are my personal thoughts and have nothing to do with my job. They don’t even know I’m writing about this because I’m doing it as a blogger, not as a contractor.


Unknown said...

First of all, I'm SO glad I got a chance to see you again! I absolutely adore you and it's been too long.
I spent a lot of time with my tribe while we were at the conference and I still don't feel like it was enough. We talk every day and yet we'd never met in real life. We had a lot of catching up to do!
I was feeling a little bad about not meeting more people, but then I started to think about all of the new people that I did meet. I have a ton of new friends. It really was a family reunion and I got to give and get a ton of hugs. I can't wait for next year!
In a few weeks I'll be at Bloggy Boot Camp and I'm honestly a little worried. I'm on my own for that one and I'm not good at all meeting new people when I'm not with other friends!

Unknown said...

I completely agree with you Mimi. I, like many others, have a close knit group of blogging friends. We just get each other through our blogs and in life. We completely enjoyed our bonding time but split up often at the events to mingle, then we'd meet up again. We actually made a plan to split up at sessions so that we, as a group, could get the most from the conference and get notes from all of the sessions while meeting other bloggers. Plus some made more sense than others for some of us (because you know, I'm pretty much HTML delayed). And we invited "shyer" members to join us for lunches or back at our rooms to get ready for 80's night. But I do have to admit that I loved watching the "cliques" get to bond IRL. It warmed my heart to not only meet my own posse but to see Sara and Heather enjoying their time together...Heidi and Sarea sharing the love they do daily...Melissa and Kelly sharing that awesome Texas bond (and fabulous 80's hair)...Kristi and Lori building an awesome lifetime friendship. The list goes on and on and on. And I met 300 people ( met me, I'm very social) from my online family and my life has been enriched. My family is amazing and I'm proud to be a member. CB as a whole is amazing and they have the most fabulous employees! Thanks for putting this out there. Sorry that I just wrote a post on your post. I talk a lot. #youalreadyknewthat

Sara @ said...

I Loved getting to meet you, Mimi! You are such a delight and do a great job for CB Socially! I enjoyed reading your tips shared here. I actually am an introvert by nature. The first few conferences I only talked to a few people and kept to myself pretty much all the time. I felt sometimes there were cliques but found that it was my own perception, not the truth! I then changed my mindset, what if I made myself be assertive and had goals to get out there and meet people? It works! I found by putting myself out there I actually had a much more enjoyable experience PLUS I meet amazing bloggers every time :)

Sorta Southern Single Mom said...

Great advice. I am someone who needs to have a buddy in situations like that and I know I tend to come across as cliquey, but it's more because I'm shy!

MMAR said...

I loved meeting you!! You are such a sweet beautiful person!!

Thien-Kim aka Kim said...

Mimi, I'm glad that we had time to hangout and take silly photo booth photos together!

Anonymous said...

LOVE this post, I've never been to a conference before but I have wondered these things. Thanks for sharing. And you look great in your pics! Love your scarf!

Danielle Harper said...

Sounds like you had a fab time! And those are some great tips.... hoping I make it to a conference one day to put them to use. :)

Unknown said...

Looks fun! I am so glad that you got to participate in this! I would love to meet some of my blogging buddies some day!

Texas Type A Mom said...

I'm so glad I got to meet you! You're so friendly and sweet and I noticed you take the advice you give - I don't think your bright smile ever left your face!

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Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.