BlizzCon: Networking 101

BlizzCon: Networking 101

When the first set of alpha invites came out for Warlords of Draenor, I couldn’t help but notice that there were plenty of disappointed people. Hey, completely understandable. Everyone wants to get in and take a sneak peek at the upcoming expansion even though it’s all partially developed and incomplete.

Here’s what bothers me though.

I observed on my Twitter stream (among others) that many people felt that they deserved to get a shot at it. They blog about the game. They create videos for it. They’re an influencer or someone who is up and coming in the community.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking to myself “Who are these people?”. Yes, it’s one thing to produce quality work. Yes, your work should speak for itself. But no one’s going to know how awesome you are unless you network and promote yourself. I get that as gamers, many of us tend to be introverts. We shy away from large crowds. We don’t like doing the hand shaking or the high-fiving.

Actually, even if you’re not some content producer and you want to meet some terrific individuals, then this is a post for you.

If you really don’t give a fajita about meeting other people at all, then skip the post.

If you want to maximize your BlizzCon experience and build some terrific memories and relationships, for cryin’ out loud keep reading.

Really though, you can take these guidelines and apply it to meeting just about anyone. It could be a Blizzard employee, a cosplayer, shoutcaster, a blogger, YouTube personality, or what have you.

The preparation

Shower. It’s a wonder I even have to mention this. But please shower and apply some deodorant. For the men, I recommend Old Spice (but not Fiji because that one’s mine). Go easy on the deoderant spray. Holy hell, let’s not turn BlizzCon into the boys locker room where people were spraying Axe willy nilly. It should go without saying but, brush your teeth too. Actually, just practice good hygiene in general.

Know who to engage. This is a bit of a no-brainer. I’m assuming you have an idea of who you want to go up to and say hi.

Dress to impress. Don’t dress up like a slob. Luckily, you’re at BlizzCon so the dress code isn’t too formal or strict. Literally anything that’s a t-shirt or better will do. For the men, if you want to go one-up, shoot for polos or a dress shirt. Shorts, jeans, or slacks will suffice for the bottom. If you’re Canadian like me, then you’re limited to shorts because damn it’s hot. You’ll be doing a ton of walking and standing around, so pick shoes that will help you feel at ease.

For the women, I asked BlizzCon veteran Elke (@plumwd) for her thoughts. First thing she said to me was to think comfort during the day! Wear comfortable shoes, because walking on the concrete inside the convention center will quickly kill your feet after a few short hours. Save the heels for hanging out afterwards.  If you’re frequently cold, be sure to bring a light jacket or sweater to wear inside the con. Despite the masses it can get chilly (at least, for her it does). Ultimately, you’re going to want to be comfortable because you’re going to be standing in many lines or sitting for a long time waiting for your favorite panel. If you wear makeup, be sure to bring what you need for touch ups with you such as oil blotting tissue, lipstick, powder, etc. You’ll be happy to have it handy.  Plan outfits for both day and night. Think more causal and comfort for while you’re inside the con, and then maybe something dressier for the evening. You never know who you’re going to meet or the opportunities that may present themselves for adventures in the evening. I always bring at least one business casual outfit just in case.

Best practices

Approach from the front, not the sides or rear. Chances are, the person you want to speak with is already in a conversation. Wait for a gap in the conversation. Make eye contact or even do a little wave. It usually catches their attention.

Have a conversation starter in mind. It’d be a little embarrassing to go up to someone, introduce yourself, and then have nothing to say. Have a conversation topic or two in mind. Remember, that you’re at BlizzCon and you’re there largely because you’re passionate about Blizzard’s universes.

For example, if I were to meet my buddy @Elvinelol for the first time I’d say something like “Hi Elvine! I’m Matt! I wanted to thank you for establishing the LF BlizzCon site. It really bailed out some of my guildmates who almost couldn’t make it”. If you’re really not sure what to talk about, just remember you’re both at the same convention.

Potential icebreakers include:

  • What did you think of that panel on [game/feature]…?
  • What are your thoughts on [feature/hero/gameplay aspect/character]…?
  • What inspired you to start getting involved with [project/video/blog/game]…?

A firm hand shake. Don’t be limp. Don’t lock them into a vice grip either. Since you may be drinking, ensure your beverage is in your left hand. You don’t want your first handshake to be super cold to the other person. If your hands are clammy or super sweaty, wipe them on your pants first.

Know when to disengage. Have you ever had a friend overstay their welcome when you invited them over? You’re all relaxing and having a good time watching Game of Thrones and sharing stories about your recent escapades. The next thing you know, it’s 2:30 AM and they’re on your couch completely oblivious to the time still expecting you to entertain them. Look, you’re not going to be the only one going up to and saying hi to your favourite personalities. Give them a bit of space. Keep the time of day in mind. It’s one thing to approach a person you admire during the day. It’s another when it’s late in the evening. Ask them for a card or their email if you wish to continue to stay in touch. If not, close off with a "It’s great to meet you!" and meander away. 

I would not end a conversation with a hug unless the other person initiates and if you’re comfortable with it. I’ve witnessed many “oh god, oh god, oh god, why am I being hugged” faces and it did not look fun. Hand shakes, fist bumps, or waves are acceptable.

(Seriously, personal space).

Body language matters. Chest out. Shoulders wide. Smile. Doesn’t have to be a cheesy or fake grin. But a half smile or a slight smirk will make you look more approachable. No one’s going to want to talk to someone who has their arms crossed and shoulders hunched over with a frown on their face. You’re oozing signs of “I don’t want to talk to anyone, leave me alone”. Look approachable! Your mental state has a subconscious effect on your body. When you’re down, you tend to look a little more dejected. You might have a slight frown. But little known tip, it works both ways. Faking it till you make it can trick your mind. Adopting a more confident and cheerful stance seems to have an impact on mood. Works for me, it might for you! If you’re apprehensive out there, stand up straight, force a smile, and throw out your chest. You might feel like an idiot but it’s a good thing people won’t be able to tell what you feel by looking at you. They’ll see a confident and inviting person who just might be cool to get to know.

george-clooney Seth Rogen michael-cera

mila-kunis zoe-saldana

There’s a slight progression from George to Michael. But it’s all natural. No grins or anything but a slight smile is all that’s really needed to feel at ease. No one’s really showing any teeth here, except for Mila. Even then, it’s just barely noticeable. God, I love her.

Stupid Ashton.

Have a business card. If you think people are going to be able to recall your email or Twitter handle after a few days of partying and drinking, you’re sadly mistaken. Get a few business cards printed out. I suggest Moo Cards. Have your name, your website, and email or Twitter handle. I try to make an effort to email and message the individuals I’ve met up with as a follow up and to acknowledge their contributions to the WoW community.

How to make an introduction. I actually did a whole lot of this in previous years (@Itsxia and @Kristin can attest to this). I had friends and guildies who wanted to meet certain Blizzard staff or podcasters who I already had met before. Not only do you look like a hero, but you’ll help break the ice. “Hi AWESOME PERSON, I’d like to introduce you to my friend. She’s a big fan of your YouTube channel and plays a Priest. If you have a moment, she has a quick question about being a PvP player.” Then politely and quietly disengage out (and hit the bar).

Assume good intentions. This is a big one. Most of your interactions tend to be in the evening. Some people will be tired after walking around all day at the convention and might not be in the mood to talk right now. Maybe they’re giving you the cold shoulder. Try not to take it personally. Try to catch them later.

Accept defeat. Sometimes, you’ll run into someone who just isn’t interested in getting to know you. No matter how hard you try, they’re sending out all the wrong signals and just want nothing to do with you. It’s not your fault. It takes two to tango, remember? If you can’t dance with this partner, go find another one. Again, it isn’t your fault. This isn’t a game. You can’t simply just level up your social skills by annoying people. Going up to someone repeatedly when they turn you down isn’t going to make them want to open up to you after try number 30. These kinds of individuals are rare. For the most part, everyone I’ve spoken to has been polite and cordial at minimum.

Follow up. This is a big one. Once you’ve arrived at home, follow up with the people you met! Follow them on Twitter if you haven’t. Drop them an email. Send a message saying that you were delighted to meet them in person and mention your own blog or project for them to check out.

Nerves getting to you? Take a drink. Loosen up a bit. Remember that everyone is there to have a good time. The ones that don’t want to meet people usually bolt to their rooms or are off to the side somewhere within their own fortress of friends. No big deal.

At the end of the day, the BlizzCon experience is entirely what you make of it. No matter what happens, have some fun! Don’t be discouraged.

Of course, you’re free to say hi to me at any time. I promise, I won’t bite.

To the veteran con go-ers, what other pointers would you offer to the wid-eyed, bushy-tailed first time BlizzCon attendees when it comes to meeting new people?

Making Connections

Making Connections

You’ve figured out why you should blog.

You worked hard on naming conventions for your blog.

You learned the nuances when writing for the internet.

You’ve mastered Writer’s block.

And you learned to… just get off your ass and write.

But despite applying all the technical and promotional techniques that you learned, you’re still not quite getting the comments you’re looking for. The traffic isn’t reflecting the effort and work you’re putting in. No facebook likes, Google +1’s, and no retweets. In fact, you’re gradually contemplating throwing in the towel.

What gives?

It’s because you’re missing a crucial element. A few weeks ago, I signed up for a Webinar from John Morrow, associated editor from Copyblogger.com. It was a free, 2 hour session discussing elements of traffic and community building. I figured I’d share the notes I took.

What we’re taught

Content: Write awesome content. The logic is if you keep writing amazing and helpful stuff, you’ll get noticed and your viewership will start skyrocketing.
Promotion: At the same time, you need to promote your posts. Ask for links, retweets, shares, etc. If people don’t know you exist, they’re not going to read your or share your stuff. So you have to do what you can to get known.

You get jillions of readers if you can combine them effectively.

The equation

Content + Promotion = Readers

But, this equation is missing something.

It’s off slightly. Content and promotion are both important, but there’s a missing component of the formula. You can still write smashing hits and you can still get those mentions, but it might only work for the short term and it doesn’t help your overall strategy of your blog.

It’s about the Connections

This is what the actual equation is.

Content + Promotion + Connections = Readers in the bajillions

Jon used best selling authors as an example.

The easiest way to write a best seller is to already be a best selling author. Guys like Seth Godin and Stephen King don’t need to ask for agents, or be booked to TV shows. People just already know who they are. The reasons why new authors struggle is no one knows who you are. You have to fight to get an agent, a publisher, an interview and so forth. This works the same way for bloggers.

“If you deleted my blog and all my subscribers (I’d be sad for one), but it’s not the end of the world. Because over the past few years, I’ve built relationships with all the popular bloggers in the world. I could still do in a flash.”
-John

The real key to blogging isn’t who you know. The key to blogging is who knows you. No matter how good your content, or how awesome it is or how hard you work, it’s not going to matter.

If you don’t have any influential connections, it’s not going to matter.

Popular bloggers ignore you because they don’t know you. If you email a blogger asking for a link to your site, you’ll most likely be ignored.

If you think about it, we do the same thing.

You scan through your emails and look for the senders you recognize. Anyone you don’t know, you end up ignoring or skipping over. Popular bloggers get on average 100+ emails (some go to 500+) per day. The reality is, most bloggers don’t often respond via email (at least, not right away). We respond to people we know. You have to get lucky with them opening your email to help you out. That’s not a situation you really want to be in which is why why link building won’t work.

If they don’t know who you are, it’s impossible. They have to know you first in order to get you links.

Let’s talk about twitter

What’s supposed to happen is you share your link with your friends. They share it with their friends and then it goes viral and snowballs it.

Wrong. That’s not actually how it works.

The posts don’t start with people with few friends. It’s not actually consistent. It’s like winning the lottery online. The way viral posts usually happen is they go top down. They get other people with big followings on twitter to share it with their followers and to their friends on twitter. And then their followers. It starts with the top people and works down.

The 3 C’s

Your goal must be done in these 3 steps in this order.

Step 1 — Connections with list owners

Connections means that those bloggers know your name. They’ve read your work. They’ve had a conversation with you. They think you’re smart and they like you.

No, this doesn’t mean a connection on LinkedIn.

Now list owners means people who have a huge twitter following, high RSS counts, a large emailing list, etc. They’re all different types of lists. You need to get THOSE people to like you because they can help spread your content to their followers and readers.

Step 2 — Content creation

Create awesome content targeted specifically at their audience, point out how it’s relevant to their audience, and ask them to promote it. You can’t just write great content and “hope” someone stumbles upon it. You need to have a connection in mind.

Step 3 –  Convert visitors

Ideally, you’d be able to offer your readers something of value. Blogs in other niches hook up readers with like an EBook, a report, or something but unless you’re really intense about it, I wouldn’t stress about that.

When it comes to subscriptions, Jon advises that email is way better than RSS. The engagement level and retention of email over RSS is about 20 times more valuable.

But, you should offer both types anyway. Make sure they’re full feeds.

This is the wrong order

  1. Content
  2. Connections
  3. Convert

Instead, the actual order should be:

  1. Connections
  2. Content
  3. Convert

The problem is you start as nobody. How do you become a somebody?

The answer to this is guest blogging!

Jon discovered that this is the only strategy that consistently works for every topic, every blogger, every niche. Some strategies work for certain topics and bloggers, but guest blogging is good for everything. If you guest on a big blog, and you write a mindblowingly amazing post, readers are going to say that post is awesome and they want to read more.

Here’s another analogy he used.

Think of it like an opening act for a major concert.

You’re performing on stage for someone like The Rolling Stones and you’re the first act.

The act of writing a guest post for a popular blog, those bloggers will love you. These posts get you introduced to other popular bloggers and influencers as well. This does NOT mean commenting. This means an actual article to give away to big popular blogs. We’re talking like 1500+ words. You write a popular post for one of these blogs and they edit it for you and give you feedback.

As an aside, if you ever get a chance, take your original version and put it side by side by the edited version. Ask yourself what changed and why.
The smartest thing you can do is link directly to your page (If possible, link directly to a page that offers something cool, like a webinar, or a report, etc).

Make connections

I want to re-emphasize one more thing.

Network the hell out of everything.

Make friends.

Get contacts.

Know people.

Connect.

It is the universal skill of all universal skills. So many opportunities will be available to you. This is one of the lessons my dad instilled in me when I was younger (actually, this was second after knowing my 12 x 12 multiplication tables). While you’re never going to be best friends with everyone you meet, it doesn’t hurt to be on relatively good terms with everyone.

This isn’t even about blogging. Things like academic openings or even job postings? Amazes me how much of that stuff is behind closed doors. Who you know can make a way bigger impact on your life than what you know. You never know when a blogger’s brother’s wife is looking to hire someone for a specific position that happens to coincide with your goals.

You never know what doors will open from that one blogger who takes you under their wing, or from that one guy who retweets your post.

On the other hand, if there’s nothing wrong with burning bridges as long as it’s done for the right reasons. Alas, that’s beyond the scope of this post.

“More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than at any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject.”
- Peter Drucker