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. 🙂
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.