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. ūüôā

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.

Biggest and Most Organized Online-Video & YouTube Community Event

There are loads of social media events, and many YouTube “community gatherings,” meetups and online video events. But the “South By Southwest” of online-video and YouTube is¬†indisputably¬†VidCon. Organized by Hank and John Green (vlogbrothers), the event in 2010 drew hundreds of community members, top “YouTube Stars,” and Nerdfighters (the active people who rally to reduce the world of “suck”). It also included lots of on-stage entertainment that was shared widely online. VidCon 2011 is planned for July 28-30 in San Francisco, California. Early bird discount if you book before Jan. 10, and the hotel is Hyatt Regency Central Plaza.

Here are some highlights of 2010’s VidCon to give you a flavor. It’s focused on viewers and creators, but does attract industry folks and marketers (and has a special industry track). Unlike some popular YouTube love-festivals where “big YouTubers” are VIP, this one is quite egalitarian.

Biggest Online-Video Community Gathering Ever: July 9-11, LA

Some of the most-viewed YouTube “weblebrities” will gather with hundreds of people in the YouTube community, including video creators and viewers, professionals and stalkers.

phil defranco at vidcon 2010
Phil DeFranco Will Attend July's VidCon, a gathering of hundreds (maybe thousands) of YouTube community people.

The event — called VidCon 2010¬†and scheduled for July 9-11 —¬†includes rapid-fire stage performances by some of YouTube’s biggest “stars,” including comedy duo Anthony Pedilla and Ian Hecox (“Smosh“), “What The Buck” host Michael Buckley, Phil DeFranco, “SxePhil” and “Like Totally Awesome” host, and Justine Ezarik, YouTube’s token popular hot girl who hails as iJustine (and author of Tasty Blog Snack). Those 5 people alone, mind you,¬†have been seen collectively 1 billion times (if you count both videos on their individual channels, as well as on group channels like TheStation). For those of you not good at math, that’s “an assload” and more views than most television shows.

To put it in perspect, 106 million people watched the¬†last¬†episode of MASH and the 2010 Superbowl. Paranthetically, my stupid videos have been seen 130 million times, and my siblings still refer to it “as your little YouTube videos.” But if I’m on the local Fox news channel I’m suddenly hot.

Back to VidCon: What’s got me most excited are performanced by some of the most talented musicians on YouTube, including the advertainment song duo of Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal (Rhett and Link), the ukulele-playing singer¬†Julia Nunes (know as j and seven a’s), and the cerebral guitarist¬†Hank Green, who is the¬†event’s mastermind. I’m also looking forward to seeing Joe Penna (TheMysteryGuitarMan¬†aka MGM), who wrote the “Nalts, Nalts, It’s Not His Fault” theme song. He’s been on a magical high lately, and he’s eye and ear candy for the whole family (see his recent “Looping Around,” a song that’s almost passing 1 million views, and what¬†my family calls “The Happy Song”).

Although I haven’t hit all of the major YouTube grassroots events, I have gathered with fellow YouTube fanatics in NYC (twice), London, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. A nude female doll with my face has attended other events, and was no doubt far more interesting to meet. The only formal event YouTube has thrown, to my knowledge, was November 2008’s YouTube Live… a show¬†the San Bruno company¬†doesn’t appear to be reviving.

We’ll also see the omnipresent Charles Trippy and Alli Speed, who have documented their each day for a year. Trippy somehow doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, which I find highly suspicious. ZeFrank is also going, and will appear on a panel with other Internet has-beens like me.