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. 🙂

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.

VidCon: Community & Online-Video Industry Morphs in July 2010 Event

This video shows Hank Green (with his lesser known 3rd Green brother) announcing VidCon, taking place July 9-11, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. Here’s the official VidCon website.

youtube gathering july 2010 la vidcon

For those of you familiar with the Vlogbrothers (John and Hank Green), I don’t need to tell you what an enormous connection they have with the vibrant and growing community of online-video. They’re funny, smart, and selfless; this week they’ll be orchestrating another “Project for Awesome,” where they encourage fellow video creators to make a video about a charity… to “reduce world suck.”

So it wasn’t surprising that they’ve attracted the “Who’s Who” of online video… literally the most-viewed and most-subscribed video creators of YouTube and beyond. Also- if you know Hank and John, you’ll know that the admission price is to cover costs, and proceeds are for charity. These guys aren’t interested in making money, but these events cost a lot to do well. So I’ve got little sympathy for those few dozen people who feel a price tag is “anti-community, man”- sing that tune to your waitress at IHOP, kids.

For you online-video industry people who are less familiar with the community side, I have one piece of advice. Attend. If I could only attend one conference this year, it would be this one.

There will be a series of professional tracks covering advertising, marketing and production. But of course you can see the “brains” of online video at any conference. This one you’ll see the brain and the heart. And you really don’t know online-video until you’ve seen the heart… watched the most-viewed amateurs interacting with the fans… seen the groundswell of enthusiasm about a medium that’s changing people’s lives… see the friendships among the talented people (and me).

The informal YouTube gatherings — like 7/7/7 — have brought hundreds and even thousands together in various cities, but this one’s actually organized and planned. So it’s likely to be a huge event. Book your hotel early, friends.

If you’re interested in speaking slots, panels or sponsorships (imagine how many videos your logo can show up on, and how many millions of times it will be seen), let Hank know or shoot me a note (I’m volunteering to help on the professional side). Much of that will be formalized by the end of January. In the mean time, follow VidCon on Twitter.

Short Visit to West Coast Online-Video Junkee with “LA Blue Balls”

Yeah I went to LA for one day, and it was the biggest tease of my online-video life! I have LA blueballs.

The near climax was getting to meet Punchy from WaverlyFilms, Captain from ClipCritics and my favorite YouTube weblebrities… but not having enough time to play! There was a spontaneous dinner on Wednesday night, and before I had the chance to spill a second beer, Chuck Potter (who is making a film about YouTube) was kind enough to whisk me to LAX to catch the red eye back to PA.

I’ve got to get back to LA soon, and inject myself into all of my favorite webshows as a lowlife extra – I had a near miss with TomBoys and Freddy Nager, with whom I’ve been dying to collaborate. And I didn’t even get to see Mickipedia Micki or my Revver peeps.

I did have a chance to appear in an episode of “The Retarded Policeman.” You’ve never been on a cooler shoot in your life. Ponce (Josh Perry) was so kind and gentle, and far from the insulting character he plays.

I can’t remember if he’s really got Down’s and he’s faking as a cop, or if it’s the other way around. But either way, I’ve gone from fan to superfan. His brother (who appears in episode one) directs him with precision and tough love that only a big brother can provide. In a future episode, The Retarded Policeman insults me, kisses me and then slaps me. The Nalts is,  of course, shocked and trying to explain that I’m a weblebrity who wasn’t drunk driving but “vlogging while driving.” I don’t want to give away anymore of Greg Benson’s hysterical script, but I hope he will indulge me on this sneak preview from the script.

“Oh, I recognize you. You’re the cup of shit from two girls and a cup.”

Comedic gold. Benson (MediocreFilms) is one of the best producers/directors I’ve seen in action, and that’s his voice (straight and falsetto) in TRP’s opening song. The MediocreFilms model is brilliant. It’s bursting with simplicity and humor, and production costs are minimized (they used a foam white board to bounce light on this shoot).

unicorn cowI had never seen Greg’s “Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show” until last night, and I’m hooked. Last night I watched the entire series with my 4-year-old Charlie, who was quick to say “that was a short one” or “we already watched that one.” The perverted humor is subtle enough that a child can watch it without too much brain damage. Whether he’s 4 or 40. See Ron Jeremy’s appearance in this episode, or check out this hysterical one that’s a personal favorite.

Have you ever seen anything that’s as funny as that cutaway of the Unicorn Cow’s sad face when he donates his spleen to make Steak Tartar? Honestly, have you? And have you ever seen Internet-video acting as good as the chef’s (who is that guy, Greg, and when can I appear in costume on the show!?)

This stuff is so good it makes me want to stop making videos and start watching them more.