b o k  c h o y

Networking events can be incredibly useful for all kind of things, and particularly if you have a blog. Not only do they get you away from staring at a computer screen for a couple of hours, but they also give you the opportunity to meet other writers and PRs to help take your blog to the next level.

But, for the shy at heart, these events can also be absolutely terrifying. Up until a few months ago, walking into a room full of strangers was my absolute worst nightmare. Although these kind of events are still not my most favourite thing in the world, I’ve managed to find my own little ways to deal with the anxiety of social meet-ups.

DSC_0068I think part of the reason why I’m not so super terrified of networking events is the fact that part of me just doesn’t care anymore. I used to worry that my blog wasn’t good enough, that people would laugh at my concept and run me out of the room before I could even ask ‘Can I just nick another crisp?’

But now, I’ve kinda moved beyond that. Because, at the end of the day, I love doing my blog. It makes my week when I get the time to sit down, design and write. Everyone has their own ideal of what a blog should look like; this is my version, and I’m rolling with it!

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Hanging out at BlogStock with Rachel from rachelbirchley.com

That being said, it’s also worth saying that these events aren’t quite as terrifying as you may imagine. Although from all different backgrounds and professions, every person has one thing in common: a love of travel. Having the opportunity to just  meet up and talk about your last holiday or future travel plans is pretty darn awesome.

However, if you’re a shy networker like I am, there are a few ways to lesson any fears…

1. CONNECT WITH PEOPLE ON SOCIAL MEDIA BEFOREHAND

A simple shout out on Twitter to ‘Anyone heading down to X, Y or Z?’ will often put you in contact with a few other bloggers who will be there too. Likewise, searching for mentions of the event you’re going to will also bring up a few people attending. Talking to as many people as you can before the big day can help to alleviate worries. Maybe you can also go round the event together?

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 2. TURN UP EARLY

I still remember one of my first networking events, back in the grand old year of 2012. I didn’t know a single person, and I stupidly turned up when the event was already in full swing. Unsurprisingly, I spent the whole evening crowded round a table, nursing an orange juice. I felt stupidly intimated by all the people, chattering away as if they all knew each other. Needless to say, I left pretty sharpish.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve learnt my lesson. Nowadays I try and turn up as early as I can, when there’s normally just a handful of people there. Not only does this make it easier to meet people and spark conversations, it also gives you the opportunity to practise your blog pitch (see point no 4).

3. TAKE A FRIEND

Any event can be daunting when you turn up by yourself. If you don’t know anyone there, consider taking a friend along. For the last few Travel Massive events in London I’ve taken along my friend (and new blogger) Chris, who will willingly go up to anyone and talk the socks off them. He’s my secret weapon for these kind of events. I’m also willing to hire him out for the right price.

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Me and Chris (who’s probably trying to engage in a full-blown conversation with that cardboard cut out)

4. PRACTISE YOUR PITCH

By far the one question I get asked all the time at networking events is: “What is your blog about?”

The first time I was asked this, it absolutely threw me. I launched into a long speech about working full-time, travelling when I can get the opportunity, running after cats, drinking lots of tea. It didn’t surprise me when the person who asked me just laughed in my face.

The second time I was asked this, I was equally as thrown. This time, I went too far the other way and stuttered out “Well…I like travel…and comfort” (kudos to Chris ‘I-will-talk-to-anyone-and-everything’ for getting me out of this awkward moment).

So now, I try to have a sentence to hand that sums up my blog. It’s good to have this to hand as it’s a good little conversation opener and can often lead on to further questions. Try and sum up how your blog is different from the thousands already out there.

I’m still getting there with my pitch, but it usually comes out as something like: “The Cosy Traveller is a blog all about making the most of your annual leave, while seeking lashings of comfort, style and animals.”

Above all, remember to be confident and passionate about your blog and what you write about.

5. CREATE BUSINESS CARDS

I’m ashamed to say that for the first few events I went to, I hadn’t even thought about having business cards printed. At one Travel Massive event I spent the whole evening writing out my name and Twitter handle dozens of times to hand out to people – MASSIVE error.

As soon as I got in from that night, I made getting some business cards an absolute priority. They’re an absolute god-send, especially for loud events when you can just pluck one out of your bag and point to your logo when people mishear your blog name (“No, I’m not The ‘Crazy’ Traveller – that just sounds exhausting.”)

As an aside, business cards also lend an air of authority to your blog. It shows you’re committed to your site and passionate about your brand. They’re also pretty fun to make…

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My ginger Jim modelling (definitely not against his will) one variation of my business cards

6. HAVE A DRINK FOR SOME DUTCH COURAGE

Not that I would ever advocate getting drunk at a ‘work’ event…but if having a tipple gives you the confidence to talk to people, then it can only be a good thing, right?! Just be sure to keep it within reason, and don’t end the event slumped in a corner. Never a good look.

7. ATTEND AS MANY EVENTS AS POSSIBLE

I’m a firm believer in the age-old phrase of ‘practise makes perfect.’ The more networking events you attend, the more confident you’ll become talking to people about your blog and your ideas. And, quite quickly, some of these strangers will become good friends who you can meet up with again at future events (I’m talking about you Little Travel Bee and Let Me Tell You About a Hotel).

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Lauren (from Tea and Post) and I at the Big Bus Summer Social

BONUS TIP: KEEP THE FOLLOWING EVENING FREE TO IMPLEMENT NEW IDEAS

This is a tip that I’d say is highly beneficial to all bloggers – whether you’re of the shy persuasion or not.

I always try to keep the evening after any event free. Not only does this give you something to look forward to and a chance to relax, it also enables you to have a few hours to act while the iron’s hot. Keep the lines of communication open by contacting other bloggers or PRs on Twitter or via email. If the networking event was in a cool venue, consider writing a post about it. If talking to other bloggers gave you a sudden flash of inspiration, use this time to get your ideas rolling. It’s better to act while you’re feeling inspired, than to leave it a few days, weeks or months to fester!

Are there any networking tips you would add to my list?