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!


  1. I know what you mean about "speed dating" the very first time I met with brands at my first BlogPaws. I'm still learning and sometimes it takes a couple of years to truly develop a connection with a brand, but it has to be something you believe it and the brand can tell by what you do, say, and write. Thank you.

  2. I'm super excited about this year's conference especially since I'll be a Finalist. These are such great tips. Each year I love seeing the brands whose products I like best and those I have worked with. I always visit their booth's first!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  3. My first year, Nashville, I don't think I walked away with a real brand connection. I didn't even know what the exhibit hall was all about. You have done a spectacular job of laying it out for Newbies and Alumni alike. This year I have quite a few brands to say thank you to. I am so excited to see everyone!


We love comments almost as much as Reese's Peanut Butter Cups! Thank you!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...