Friday, April 6, 2018

#BlogPaws Sponsors Are (Pet) People, too: Networking Tips for Newbies

Squidward, however, is mean and scary. 

I had no idea what to expect interacting with brand sponsors in the Exhibit Hall at my first BlogPaws conference. It ended up feeling like speed-interviewing at a pet industry job fair, only I wasn't sure what I was applying for, nor frankly, whether--in some cases--I even wanted the job.

Well, guess what? I didn't get any jobs! OK, let me clarify: I didn't make any connections with brands at that conference that led to paid jobs. I did, however, make one connection that led to a bunch of non-compensated writing jobs...which led to many unrelated paid jobs (you can read more about that here).

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. And looking back, I can totally see why I managed to make that one connection (with a rep from, and none with any other brands: I was already a HUGE fan of Petfinder and had a personal connection. All I wanted to talk about was my rescued cats and how Petfinder was doing a great job partnering with bloggers to promote less-adoptable pets, and that I'd love to help in some way with that...

The rest is history. But I hope you can see my point: I had a "story" with the Petfinder brand and I wanted to tell it. My blog was brand new. I didn't have tons of numbers to sell. But frankly, even if I did, it would have been less genuine (and impactful) had I approached the conversation like a numbers transaction. I might not have seemed authentic and hence, missed a tremendous opportunity.

And so is Patrick!

To that I say, what a relief, y'all! Yes, you should go to BlogPaws knowing how you can bring value to your favorite brands. But when making conversation, please, talk to sponsors about the things that make you love your pets (and how their product/service can/might help you love them better). The person you're talking to loves pets, too!

Related: BlogPaws - The Introvert-Friendly Conference

Feel better? I hope so, but either way, I've got more help for you, starting with a description of the general Exhibit Hall layout. Check it out!

What Does a BlogPaws Exhibit Hall Look Like?

Ever been to an expo in a convention center? Walked through vendors at a craft fair or home and garden show? This is what the BlogPaws Exhibit Hall setup feels like to me, except it's located in the conference hotel's ballroom, always adjacent to the main conference gathering area.

Just as you’d expect to see at an expo, there are rows of tables/stations set up for each sponsor. Some stations are much more elaborate than others (with life-size props and walls of branding, product stacked feet high, and brand reps galore). Other sponsors will have small tables, with modest branding and only one or two reps present. That said, all sponsors, no matter their size, want to meet YOU, and provide boundless opportunities for connections.

Exhibit Hall from BlogPaws 2017! Click the image to see lots more on the BlogPaws Facebok page!

Tips to Maximize Your Time with Sponsors

Start Getting to Know Them BEFORE the Conference.
FOLLOW them on social media. BlogPaws makes it EASY to follow sponsors on Twitter. Check out the up-to-date Sponsor list, and interact with the ones you most care about connecting with at the conference. In addition, learn about their products/services and think about how they fit with your brand (blog/social media), and how you want to convey that message in person. If you do all this before the conference, the conversations you have in person should flow naturally.

Related: A Guide to BlogPaws Conference Goals

Attend #BlogPawsChat(s) on Twitter.
This fits under the previous subheading (especially if a sponsor you love is the special guest during the chat), but there’s more: lots of #BlogPawsChat attendees are conference veterans. Conference veterans impart LOTS of wisdom during chats, especially leading up to the conference. AND, you’ll meet people – not sponsors necessarily, but other conference attendees. The more people you meet, the more potential buddy support you’ll have. And, everything is better with a buddy – EVEN THE EXHIBIT HALL! So, go to the next chat! (As of this writing, there's only ONE more opportunity before the conference: Tuesday, April 10, from 8:30-9:30 p.m. Eastern). Hope to see you on Twitter!

Remember, BlogPaws Sponsor Reps are (Pet) People Just Like You!
I've already covered this, but it cannot be stressed enough: THEY’RE HUMAN (vs. aliens who enjoy vaporizing newbie pet bloggers with laser beam eyes 👾). They are stakeholders whose brand paid to be at the conference--not to scrutinize and/or judge attendees, but to, hopefully, make meaningful (authentic) influencer connections. Have a story and just be you!

More Exhibit Hall from BlogPaws 2017 (See? Those sponsor reps are totally real people!)

Don't Forget to Leave a Business Card, in a Meaningful Way.
Don’t forget to leave it, but don’t just toss it in a bowl, say “hi,” and hope that someone will get in touch. The handing off of your card should be with a purpose: do it while you’re having thoughtful conversation. Make sure you make eye contact!

Use Mingle/Social Time Outside the Exhibit Hall to Continue Conversations With Sponsors. 
So, you made a connection during your initial Exhibit Hall conversation – YAY! If it feels natural, strike up another conversation somewhere else. You’ll see people all over the hotel. In 2014 (Las Vegas), I had a nice chat with a Bissell representative IN THE POOL. (Full disclosure: We didn’t talk much about vacuums and steam mops; we might have talked about the cabana boy a little. Truly, it was a nice hotel.) My point is, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to connect with sponsors. You got this!

I repeat: You got this!

What questions do you still have? Which sponsor(s) are you most excited to meet? Tell me in comments!

I know you're planning on attending the 10th Anniversary BlogPaws 2018 Conference (why else would you have read this far down), but in case you've waited (until the last minute-it's almost here!) to officially register...I have the link RIGHT HERE! 

Don't forget to register for and take the brand new, Newbie prep course in the BlogPaws SLC! 

And, of course, follow BlogPaws on social media for the latest tips and updates!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

How Not to Fail at #BlogPaws (or any) Conference Networking (as Illustrated by Dogs)

For the purposes of this post, "networking" is defined as the specific interaction between two or more people in order to expand one's contacts. Keyword being, expand (also known as the opposite of shrink).

How Not to Fail at Networking caption on t-shirt graphic

Stephen Huneck, the late artist who carved the original design that's printed on my t-shirt in wood, knew a thing or two about networking: It works best when all parties involved are well-behaved and have the exact same, outgoing personality. Whether you're a butt-sniffing dog or a business card-trading human at a conference, if you do it precisely the right way, you can make a conga line and thusly, increase your career potential 10-20-fold!

Except wait. Stephen Huneck was a humorist who specialized in dog-imitating-human parody.

Y'all! Even he knew that NOT EVEN DOGS--short of an unethical cloning experiment--are capable of networking as illustrated on that t-shirt! (Still, it's awfully cute and clever, which is why I purchased it to take with me to BlogPaws in 2014.)


OK, let's get real: Dogs RARELY have opportunity to hang out in packs for the sole purpose of expanding their contact lists. Nevertheless, they do occasionally get together--doggy daycare, family reunions, parks, pet-friendly festivals, training classes, BlogPaws conferences--you get the idea. And when they do, they socialize in a wide variety of ways. I happen to have a few real-life photo examples, featuring my own corgis, Jon Farleigh (red fluffy) and Dewi (blue merle).

Sunday, March 11, 2018

12 Ways #BlogPaws Nurtures Its Newbies (Unlike Any Other Similar Conference)

corgi face in room with baby shower decorations
BlogPaws 2017 Baby Shower Crasher

My first BlogPaws conference almost went off the rails five minutes after I checked in. It was in Tysons Corner, Virginia (outside D.C.) that year--a couple hours (in light traffic) north of me--so I drove up the morning of the first full day. Traffic was awful. I walked into the conference at lunchtime, frazzled, never having met anyone in person, and tethered to my two hyper, young corgis.

After a long walk (only taking a few steps) across the hotel lobby with dogs in tow, I scanned the dimly lit ballroom, containing a sea of tables full of attendees, humming in lively conversation. And I decided I'd rather eat almonds in my hotel room, alone, than walk from table to table, hoping some total stranger would have pity on me and offer me an empty seat.

OK, that's not entirely accurate. I decided I'd rather eat alone than cold-call a table of strangers, but I'd totally sit with people I'd never met in person, if I could find one familiar online friend to introduce me. Good thing I'd exchanged cell phone info with exactly one online friend before leaving home.

And that's how I met my blog idol, Laurie Eno of The Daily Corgi, in person in 2011. She ended up taking me to her table--with an extra seat--and introduced me to the staff of Oldies but Goodies Cocker Spaniel Rescue, local to the area. We hit it off instantly (Laurie, the entire rescue staff, and I), and I've been a BlogPaws fan who is sympathetic to the newbie experience ever since.

The point of my story is: walking into a sea of strangers at an unfamiliar networking event can be scary, but it doesn't have to be derailing (nor a handicap, in any way). The team at BlogPaws recognizes there are unique needs for first-time attendees, and has committed resources to help. Let me tell you about them!

12 Ways BlogPaws Nurtures Newbies
  1. Through me! I'm not saying that to brag; I'm saying it because I'm an official BlogPaws Ambassador, proudly designated for newbies. BlogPaws values first-time conference attendees and their experience SO MUCH, that they appoint (and compensate) a designated support person (aka concierge, ring leader, breakfast host, expert introvert [yes, I am], etc.). I am passionate about tending to the newbies' BlogPaws experience. Let me help you!

    Related: BlogPaws - The Introvert-Friendly Conference

  2. By doing Facebook Live interviews with all the BlogPaws Ambassadors (so you can get visuals and added 411 before arriving in Kansas City)! (My live interview has yet to happen, but stay tuned.)
  3. By creating the How To Prepare for the BlogPaws Conference course in the BlogPaws Social Learning Community (SLC)! Let me explain what the BlogPaws Social Learning Community (SLC) is (according to its About page): "Social learning is the practice of learning from each other. The goal of the SLC is to create a community where our influencers can learn socially with our members, our team, and our partners."

    So BlogPaws has an entire (free and self-paced) course in the SLC, written for and dedicated to first-time BlogPaws attendees (though, veteran attendees might learn something, too). Refer to the image below for course modules. Note: Notice ride share and roommate boards are located here (for all conference attendees, not just newbies).

    BlogPaws SLC Prep Course Contents
    Tell me: what other social media conference provides a newbie resource this cool? Not one*, is what.
    * Based on not having found a shred of contradictory evidence. 

  4. With weekly* #blogpawschat's on Twitter! This is helpful to newbies because...other conference attendees will be there! In addition, you'll get conference scoop, directly from the BlogPaws team. Be there, most Tuesdays, from 8:30-9:30 p.m. Eastern. I'm @ChroniclesCardi; hope to see you!
  5. Through the BlogPaws 2018 Conference Event on Facebook! Make sure you're following it for the latest scoop, and to interact (as desired) with other conference attendees.
  6. With designated Newbies tables during breakfasts at the conference! Located right up front and easily identifiable, be sure to grab a seat and meet some fellow newbies before sessions begin. I will be there, too (not at every table simultaneously, but flitting around). I look forward to meeting many of you in person! (Yes, breakfast is early, but the food is always plentiful and yummy and well, newbies are awesome and totally worth getting up early for!)

    Newbies table full of attendees at BlogPaws
    One of the Newbie tables at BlogPaws 2016 in Phoenix, AZ
    Note: Sometimes BlogPaws VIPs join the newbies for breakfast, like co-founders Yvonne DiVita and Tom Collins (pictured far left to right, respectively) and keynote, Pam Slim (pictured rear, center).

  7. By compiling this Essential BlogPaws 2018 Conference Everything Post! No, really. That's the title of the post. If there's a speck of information to be shared about conference logistics, it's in there.
  8. Through Twitter lists of all the conference sponsors and speakers! So newbies (and veterans) can follow and engage them before the conference (think networking practice).
  9. By providing an interactive, social platform for the conference agenda and speaker roster! The conference's most up-to-date agenda, at, gives attendees a way to create their own personalized, online conference experience. And, as a social bonus, when one registers and creates that experience, other attendees who have registered can see it, too! (Think it's helpful to have an idea of which other attendees are going to be in what sessions/events, possibly at the same time you are? Including speakers, and influencers you'd like to get in front of and speak to before heading home? Hint: Yes!)
    Note: Signing up for sessions in is not a requirement, it's a courtesy to attendees, and a way for BlogPaws to gauge overall session attendance. Once you're at the conference, you can feel free to attend whatever sessions/events you want!
  10. Through influencers' personal tips for BlogPaws newbies, in blog posts like the one you're reading, and this, and this! (Because past newbies are the ultimate experts, no?)
  11. By providing cute "newbie" ID badge ribbons to wear proudly during the conference! Here's mine from last year.

    BlogPaws name badge newbie (new "picture of a bee") ribbon
    Get it: NEW "bee"? (hehe, BlogPaws even has a sense of humor!) Also, I wrote "Ambassador" in ball point pen, because I was (Newbie Ambassador) in 2017, too. (I love BlogPaws newbies...and bees!)

  12. Last, and perhaps most important....BY ALLOWING AND ENCOURAGING ATTENDEES TO BRING THEIR PET(S)! Can you think of a better ice breaker? If so, please tell me in comments, because I can't. 

So, how are you feeling about being a newbie now? Shoot, I'd repeat BlogPaws newbie year, if I knew all this was waiting for me back in 2011! (OK, I'd repeat 2011, maybe, just to appreciate being seven years younger for a few days...or maybe not, because then it would be depressing to come back to the present. *sigh* Alright, never mind. I'm cool exactly where I am!)

What are your questions? Are you excited? Have you packed already? (I guarantee some people have. Not I; although, I started mentally planning my wardrobe last July. A side-effect of being a BlogPaws veteran: fashion hindsight. You have SO MUCH to look forward to!😉) 

I know you're planning on attending the 10th Anniversary BlogPaws 2018 Conference (why else would you have read this far down), but in case you've waited to officially register...I happen to have the link RIGHT HERE! (Don't wait too long; it will sell out, and you'll have to wait until next year to be an awesome newbie.)

Don't forget to register for and take the brand new, Newbie prep course in the BlogPaws SLC! 

And, of course, follow BlogPaws on social media for the latest tips and updates!


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