How To Behave at YouTube or Other Social-Media Gathering: Vidcon 2011

I really don’t care much for Dear-Abby-wanna-be advice, and I’m somewhat appalled by such concepts as “finishing school.” People should be themselves, but there are certain behaviors (like not sipping your soup from the bowl) that can be selectively adopted to improve the way one “fits in” certain social situations.

This post is kinda a “must read,” and shares 8 major tips on being more comfortable at a YouTube (or other type of social-media meetup). It has some important “extras” on how to interact with someone you regard as “famous.” These points are based on my own feelings of being at gatherings where I’m regarded as famous, which is both exciting and extremely anxiety-provoking. You can help make the “stars” more comfortable, and endear yourself to them by considering these tips. Finally, there’s a list of characters who lurk at gatherings, and you don’t want to be one of them. đŸ™‚

What’s great about YouTube and social media is that you can hang even if you lack personal social skills or comfort in large group settings. Most attendees (except themightythor1212) haven’t attended a live “meetup” with fellow viewers and “stars,” so their natural social anxiety causes them to act in ways that are perceived as odd. The sad result is that they feel “left out” or isolated in the crowd, and end up blaming themselves or others for the lousy experience.

So here are some tips for attending a live gathering of the YouTube community, based on my own mistakes and success at dozens of them. Trust me on this fact: I may thrive on the thrill of a meetup, and may look quite comfortable. In truth, I find them sometimes painfully uncomfortable and exhausting beyond description. So I’m empathetic for those that either avoid them (you know who you are) or come across as looking odd, desperate, egotistical or annoying. I’ve been there.

Tips for Enjoying a YouTube Meetup (or similar setting) and Not Annoying Yourself or Others.

  1. Be Yourself. That seems easy enough, but it can be tempting to morph to the occasion. These tips are not about changing who you are, but rather what attitude you carry and what choices you make.
  2. Resist Hierarchy. As I mention in my atypically long “Is YouTube a Community” video, consider yourself as a member of an egalitarian community. Although some are more recognized, they’re not better or worse than you. You may like some, and loathe others. But we’re all from and returning to the same place where rank doesn’t exist.
  3. Avoid Promotion. Some show up in costume and hand out fliers with your channel name. It’s understandable but awkward. Bring cards, but don’t see the gathering as a place to build your audience via attendees. It doesn’t work well, and you’ll miss better opportunities as a result (like making friends or collaborating).
  4. Float, Don’t Wait in Lines. When you see someone you admire, it’s tempting to wait in a line or linger for their attention. It’s a horrible use of time, and it comes off as needy. Instead, look for natural places to speak to them. Wander through the crowd and start short conversations with people who are just as likely as you to be eager for contact… especially if someone looks shy and alone.
  5. Be Brief, Be Memorable and Be Gone. When you meet someone you admire, be brief. They’re probably overwhelmed, and others are probably waiting for a turn to chat. If you dominate them, you’ll stress them out, and frustrate others. Instead, give them a big smile and introduce yourself.
  6. Reintroductions Are Welcome. Even if you’ve met someone before, it’s possible they don’t recognize you. We all meet so many people at these events, that it’s hard to remember people. I always appreciate it when someone briefly refreshes me on their name, instead of assuming I remember them. It’s very painful to be in a conversation desperately trying to recall to whom I’m speaking. And don’t take it personally when someone doesn’t remember you. I once told The Gregory Brothers, “I’ve always been wanting to meet you,” and they responded with “we’ve already met.”
  7. Respect “Inside Groups.” If a crowd of YouTube creators are getting together for a meal or drinks, be careful about assuming you’re invited. It can appear elitist, but sometimes they want to hang out with people the know, and feel “stranger drain.” Don’t take it personally. I go out of my way to ensure that I’m not “glomming” into a spontaneous sidebar event (drinks, dinner, lunch) even when I am invited by someone I know well.
  8. On Meeting “Stars…” This is important, since many are probably motivated by the chance to see their favorite YouTube “star” in person. So these points are specific to meeting someone “famous.”
    • Treat them as a neighbor. These people aren’t famous. You just recognize them, and they’ve been seen many times. They’re projecting confidence, but they’re probably feeling far more awkward than you. Help them out.
    • Be original. Most people who meet them shout their name, or mention their most popular video. It’s refreshing when they hear something new. Mention an obscure video that you liked. I’m always more happy to talk about some ancient video versus “Farting in Public.”
    • Be cool. Thank them. Most people they meet are seeking something, and a simple acknowledgement of their effort/talent is refreshing.
    • Be brief: See tip 5 above about brevity. If you value an autograph, get one. But to non-celebrities that feels weird as much as flattering. Photos are fun to take, but asking them to do a custom “shout out” on video won’t really help grow your audience.
    • Watch for cues. If their eyes are shifting or they begin walking away, let them run. There’s usually a few odd balls that we discuss during or after the gathering, and you don’t want to be one of them. There’s nothing more wonderful than the words, “I can see there are a lot of people that want to meet you, so here’s a business card (or channel name) and it was a pleasure meeting you.”

Here are some character types that you don’t want to avoid becoming:

  • The Watcher: She meets a star, and then stares at him/her. It’s as if she’s watching a video instead of meeting a person. She forgets that she’s interacting with a human not a video.
  • The Attention Seeker: He’s got an odd outfit on, and he’s pimping his channel. He’s “memorable,” but it’s not a fond memory.
  • The Personal-Space Violator: He stands uncomfortably close for a period that feels like eternity. He probably has bad breath.
  • The Fame Troll: He resents the stars, and gazes upon them with disdain. He doesn’t realize that the star is far more uncomfortable about the fame than he is resentful.
  • The “You Don’t Recognize Me?” Lady: She’s in disbelief that more people don’t know who she is. She expects everyone she’s met to remember her, and is likely to quiz you about her recent videos to ensure you’ve been watching.
  • The eMail Martyr: He wrote his favorite YouTuber an e-mail and didn’t get a response. He’s taken it personally, instead of realizing that it’s impossible to keep up on e-mail.

Finally, have fun and feel good about yourself. Don’t over think the situation and trust your instincts unless they’re poor. If you want a REALLY good book about being comfortable in social situations check out “How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds.” It’s a horrible title (“make” people like you) and I felt very superficial by buying it. But it has some wonderful advice based on neurolinguistic programming. There are ways to put someone at ease (mirroring their own demeanor) that can be a gift to yourself and the person with whom you’re interacting.

21 Replies to “How To Behave at YouTube or Other Social-Media Gathering: Vidcon 2011”

  1. IIRC, you had forgotten you’d already met Barats and Bereta previously when you saw them at VidCon last year.

    Is it OK to wear a costume if you aren’t pimping a channel? Crowds make me anxious and I want to hide behind a mask sometimes.

  2. Hello, Nalts.
    Suggestions 2 & 5 were almost contradictory. If there is a “side group” of well known You Tubers gathering for drinkls, if they are in a public place, there will be people butting in. If they must get together for serious You Tube discussions, those are best served in a hotel room, or an out of public place. The original meeting is the You Tube gathering, and everyone is equal (#2).
    At 789, in NYC, the closest I came to an outfit, was wearing alien eye shaped eyeglasses. I could have thse as a conversation starter, then I could take it from there.
    For me, seeing the more subscribed individuals is interesting, but,I am more interested in meeting the fringe players, and getting their channel info. I agree about not hanging all over one of your favorite creators, If I have commented on a video, and they respond, and do so for most of their work which I comment on,great. We are aware of each other.

  3. Thanks for this Nalts! A couple of responses:

    1. Attention getting is, to an extent, part of Con culture. But people don’t generally dress up as a character from a comic book that /they/ wrote. If you’re walking around seeing attendees as potential viewers then you’re doing something wrong. You’re not there to spam the con, you’re there to make relationships and have ideas that will get you far more than the 2,000 people who will be at VidCon

    2. Hierarchy is very difficult to avoid. I wish it wasn’t but it is. It’s not really possible to fix that.

    3. I love hugging people and hanging out. John is more of an introvert and doesn’t like that stuff as much, different people like different things. It’s important to respect that.

    4. It’s totally true that being in a weird situation will inspire you to do weird things. And I love it when weird stuff happens at VidCon, but make sure it’s not, like TOO weird. I’ve seen some pretty uncomfortable moments.

    1. Hey Hank, love Nerdfighteria and Vlogbrothers. Am one of the many many who pre-ordered TFiOS.
      My husband researched, developed, designed and produced a web-based service to provide online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for shyness and social anxiety, so I know a bit about social anxiety.
      I agree that the advice in this piece is really good and relevant to just about ANY social situation, not just VidCon or similar.

      In case you are interested in checking his stuff out –

      Happy for you to email me to confirm I’m a real person, not some advertising spambot. Although I AM behaving a little like one today….. đŸ˜‰

  4. thanks for the Nod on the gatherings, i was surprised you didnt use me as the overly loud, drunk, obnoxious type that makes everyone else drink with him đŸ˜› of course, i have yet to see where that is a bad thing when we speak of youtube gatherings đŸ™‚ sorry i wont see you at this one this year, but have fun for me!

  5. I’m with theMightyThor1212 … I tend to be the guy drinking and having a grand ol time… what happens is everyone joins in… I briefly met thor last year as well as you Nalts…. and I’ll be there again this year… (at Vidcon)… you’ll find me in the bar (which is pretty much anywhere in the event after one or two drinks)

  6. Sadly, there are no gatherings in my immediate future, but when there are I’ll make sure to conceal ramblingnervousannoying me, and show the confident and brief alter ego.

  7. Dang it!! I’m less than an hour from the dirty grimy city of LA and for the second time, I can’t go. Last time it was because money was too tight; this time, just started a new job and can’t get the time off.

    I hope everyone has a smashing good time without me. If anyone wants, you can message me on YouTube and I will still send you an autograph. LOL

  8. ……by Julie on .Some people swear by Twitter that it is the only place for them when using social media to interact with others..Still others will only use Facebook or LinkedIn for interacting and connecting..And quite a few more folks are proponents of their blogs RSS feeds Flickr social bookmarks and many other social networking sites..But how about using a service that aggregates all of these in real-time in one easy-to-use stream that provides a more comprehensive interaction with your followers and community? These include all social networking websites Facebook Flickr LinkedIn social bookmarking websites StumbleUpon Delicious video YouTube Vimeo 12 seconds blogs Tumblr Blogger micro-blogging status sites Twitter Plurk BrightKite news sites Digg Reddit Google Reader as well as RSS feeds..From there you can share your feeds with others and each feed can generate discussions and commenting with your friends..The best attributes of FriendFeed are that there is one place to suck in all your sites you are connected on and in one stream people can see all these updates from your recent Twitter updates to new pictures posted on Flickr to your most current YouTube video you mark as a favorite..It literally creates a community with a one-stop shopping mentality instead of running to many different places for items of interest to comment on and find out who is commenting on your posts..While FriendFeed certainly creates a heck of a lot more content for you and great community involvement is this good to have it in one place?.Some social media pundits say yes and no..While it certainly addresses many shortcomings in social media mostly the ability to aggregate all the content it also provides a central location to track all the activities going on much easier instead of going to each site for interaction..However some folks especially bloggers do not find FriendFeed helpful in that stops the flow of commenting to their actual blog resulting of course in lower page views and if you are in it for the money probably less money if your revenue is based on page views..What are my thoughts on this service?

  9. Thanks for the advice, Nalts. I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can while I’m there and connecting with people face-to-face.

    While this is my first official YouTube conference/meetup and am a “nobody” to everyone there, I’m one of the “celebrities” at conferences regarding my primary niche. The discomfort and awkwardness you describe is so true. I should plagiarize this for my own audience before my next conference.

  10. I am not a ‘star’ but do know some big shots. Also know other folks, like you. And as you well know, my real personality is so dramatically different from my online persona that people would be shocked if they met me. Plus I HATE big gatherings, even small ones and tend to glom onto one poor schmuck until theyre ready to smack me silly. For example, I like to glom onto Nutcheese at gatherings, both for the security factor and the remote chance I can trap her in the john and . . . Well, you know. ‘Explore’ my boundaries. I think she picked up on that last part though since I never hear from her anymore. Never. Ever. Ever. I LOVE YOU NUTCHEESE! I promise not to try and molest you if you just come back!! Anyway, back to the main point. Hate big gatherings and if I ever go (highly unlikely) I will be the poor pathetic chick standing in the corner dribbling pee down my leg.

  11. My husband researched, developed, designed and produced a web-based service to provide online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for shyness and social anxiety, so I know a bit about social anxiety.
    Your advice in this piece is really good and relevant to just about ANY social situation, not just VidCon or similar.

    In case you are interested in checking his stuff out –

    Happy for you to email me to confirm I’m a real person, not some advertising spambot.

  12. OMG favorite comments ever. Even Hank jumped in. And thanks for the reminder that I did do costume (it’s safer when people are looking for you). Fortunately now I can hide in the shadows of giants. And as for 2/5 contradicting- I was referring to when a small group darts off for lunch or drinks away from the crowd, and it’s hard to know who’s officially invited or not (or who makes the call).

  13. Very good advise that can be applied to many different social events.

    With tip 5, what are some question examples or topics that would be fitting for a short period of time? What is a ballpark time for brief?

  14. Hi, interesting post. I’ve never been to any of these gatherings but I can see how they could be really useful.

    However, I wanted to ask you about the ‘e-mail martyr’. Of course no-one can answer every e-mail but it can be very hurtful to have letters or e-mails ignored by people you admire. Would you have any specific advice about how best to try and contact people you don’t know? Or would you say you shouldn’t do it unless you have a reason to (like you want to cite them in a paper or interview them for a magazine)?

    I mean – what’s more creepy? Trying to engineer a ‘random social encounter’ or spamming them with messages?

    Would appreciate any advice,


    (P.S if you actually have a post concerning this then apologies, going to have a look in a second)

  15. These gatherings sounds like a horrible awkward places with no social rules established yet, surrounded with attention whores, famous people being attacked and wannabes…

Comments are closed.