We Tested Our Own Networking Hacks ... Here's What Happened
This week, The 9to5 MisFits went to a conference! Not just any conference ... Vidcon! It’s basically Comic-Con for YouTubers, the Dorothy Everton Smythe awards if you’re Leslie Knope, or the Dotty Everytime Smurf awards if you’re Ron Swanson. So yes, we were all kinds of excited because although we’ve been making YouTube videos for a year now, it still feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface. And going to the conference only cemented that fact. So much to learn!
We’ve been to conferences before, but this was the first time we wanted to attend literally EVERYTHING! So we had to be smart about it, attend the most valuable sessions, and also allow time for networking and other fun. Thankfully, we already had a handy-dandy guide from Nammy’s SXSW jaunt a few months ago and we decided to test out some of those hacks. How’d we do? Let’s find out!
Have a Purpose: 10 points for Gryffindor on this one -- we made sure to prepare like a bawse! We started with figuring out our purpose for attending Vidcon and discussing what we really needed to learn. That helped us narrow down the sessions to attend. Since there was so much ground to cover, we decided to divide and conquer and attend separate sessions at the same time.
Crash the Party: This was a little harder to do at Vidcon. At SXSW, which Nammy went to in March (and still can't stop talking about!), it was possible to find a plethora of badgeless events, but sadly that wasn’t the case here. Vidcon was a lot more closed-off, with most events being limited to certain types of badges or being invite-only. There were 3 types of badges - Community, (mostly kids who were there to interact with their favorite YouTubers), Creators (content creators like us who have YouTube channels), and Industry (bigwigs from companies and brands who were there to drop truth bombs about the future of video, and look for potential partnerships with content creators). Because the sessions for each badge type were on separate floors, we “Creator” plebeians couldn’t really hang with the “Industry” folk … very Hunger Games! But you know we found a workaround! There were at least 3 different hotels in the immediate vicinity where most attendees were staying, so that’s where we headed every evening to get our networking on.
Get out of your comfort zone and ASK! If you know even 1 person who’s going to the conference with you, you tend to stick together. But since we attended separate sessions, we were forced to talk to new people and met some truly magical beasts in the process. Also, practicing our elevator pitch ahead of time allowed us to effectively communicate what our channel was about, why, and whom we were looking to collaborate with. This way, people knew exactly how to help.
The Classics: Ah, the “greatest hits” that work at all conferences ever!
Talk to people in line: Lines suck, and who knows how long you’ll be in it. The best way to pass the time is to chat with people around you and learn their stories. We used this technique liberally and met everyone from press contacts to potential collaborators. Definitely beats staring into space for unknown periods of time or pretending to be busy on your phone, amirite?
Remember people’s names: Most important rule when interacting with anyone ever!
Get to sessions early and sit closer to the front: There are more people to talk to and more time to do the talking this way.
Listen more than you speak: This took us some practice as rabid extroverts!
Don’t be snobby about whom you talk to: Seriously, you never know who you’ll meet. Besides, if you’re overly agenda-driven and selective, people will catch on.
All in all, it was a fantastic experience. We learned so much valuable information from real industry bigwigs who had first-hand experience. We also met some truly inspiring people and learned that YouTube has a place for just about everyone. It also validated all the hard work we put into creating The 9to5 MisFits. We started the channel exactly a year ago to help people cope with unemployment and provide the necessary tools to get out of it. And although we knew we were doing it for the right reasons, it did get disheartening at times and still does when we don’t see immediate results in the short term. But being at Vidcon really reinforced the fact that we love what we do, and we’re now more determined than ever to see our community grow and prosper. Onwards and upwards!
So what about you? Do you love conferences or hate them? Why? Tell us! We'd love to hear in the comments below.