I joined the WordPress community four and a half years ago and have since had the privilege to watch it grow. I just wrapped up my talk at WordCamp US on how to make friends offline and grow your professional relationships in real life.
Although the CMS has grown in popularity, now powering 27 percent of the internet, the tight-knit nature of the community hasn’t changed. People are always willing to answer questions, give business advice, or just chat.
Meeting new people can be daunting. It can feel weird to walk up to a stranger and put yourself out there. Over the years I’ve garnered some tips to take your online friendships into the real life.
My talk, “Let’s Take this Offline: Making friends and growing professional relationships In Real Life” focused around the idea that we invest a great deal of time, energy, and not to mention money to attend these events. As such, we should learn to practice doing everything with intention. Doing things with intention maximizes your efforts and opens up new opportunities.
Start with a goal. What do you want to get out of the event you’re attending. Once you’re confident with your goal, everything else will begin to fall into place. You have to know what you want to achieve so you can set a realistic path to get there.
You also have to realize that this is absolutely scary and difficult and challenging, and no one is confident 100 percent of the time. This is sometimes referred to as imposter syndrome, and if I’m being honest, it’s something I still feel from time to time.
I remember my first WordCamp ever, I showed up doe-eyed and eager to get something out of it but I didn’t know where to begin. It appeared that everyone knew each other already and I was no one. But that’s important to remember, that we all, no matter who we are, started from a place of invisibility.
It’s only by acknowledging it, that you can overcome it. You matter, what you do matters, remember to do it with intention.
I began by checking the WordPress pulse on social media. In the WordPress world, Twitter is extremely popular, whole dialogues happen there with people on opposite sides of the world.
If you’re going to start to engage with the online world, you first have to take stock of what your online profile says about you. How are you presenting yourself to this world, what do others see when they look at you. Put your intentions out there, tell them exactly who you are and what you’re looking for. In my case, my profile is a combination of my love for WP Engine and WordPress, but also lets users know that I’m a food blogger and enjoy talking about desserts.
Next, you’ll need to figure out who to follow. This one can be easy if you just think about what you’re looking for. What conversation do you want to go to? For me, I am looking for people talking about hosting, or community. You might be interested in plugins, or the Rest API. So type that into Google, see whose names pop up, who is writing articles, or giving thought leadership around that subject matter, go to their social profiles and begin to follow them.
Be bold, take it a step further, engage with them. If you like something they published, let them know. Starting the conversation online is a lot easier than offline, so get carried away with it and make some new connections. That way you’ll feel more confident when you see these people in the real world.
You’re now online, connected, putting your best foot forward, you’re following some people and even chatting them up. The time comes for you to go to an in-person event, WordCamp US.
Before you go, look up the attendee list and identify the people you want to connect with. That’ll give you a better idea of how much time you’ll have to find everyone. Then be bold. If you recognize someone from their avatar, go up and introduce yourself. I’ve never had a bad experience doing this at a WordPress event.
If that seems like too much ask the people you do know if they have connections to these people. Or just ask a friend to go up with you for your introduction. There is always comfort in numbers.
If there isn’t anyone in particular you want to meet, sit by a stranger at lunch. Chances are they are looking for a connection as well and are even more scared than you are. Lunch and before and after talks are the best time to make lasting connections.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love the community. The people I’ve met through WordPress have helped me grow in my professional and personal life. I’ve made life-long friendships with people I can’t imagine life without.
Now go forth and meet some people!