Pardon me while I make a few sweeping generalizations…
Bloggers are a funny breed. Though we probably come off as the world’s biggest extroverts because it appears that we do a lot of talking, pontificating, and social (media) interaction, many of us are really just shy introverts who have found that hiding behind a computer screen allows us to get relational fulfillment without a lot of the social anxiety that we may normally feel.
For instance, on the internet, we don’t have to deal with that nagging feeling that something may or may not be sticking out of our nose while in the middle of a conversation, but we can’t very well check without being labeled a mid-conversation-nose-picker.
(Go ahead. Label me a mid-blog-post-writing-nose-picker.)
Nevertheless, I think many of us discover this fact about ourselves BECAUSE of blogging, when all of a sudden we are faced with the fact that we somehow lose some piece of our confident online persona when we take it off and meet new people face-to-face.
I learned this last year at BlogHer 2009.
Although I didn’t necessarily blog fully about it here (for fear of being lumped into the “BlogHer attendee that writes catty/whiny/annoyingly complainy posts once arriving home ” bucket), I didn’t make it a secret that I had been disappointed by my first BlogHer experience, and that I wasn’t planning on going back.
Not to say that I didn’t have fun last year – I DID have moments of fun, but had more moments of absolute terror, homesickness, and frustration.
But, this year rolled around, and for some reasons I mentioned before and a few I didn’t, I decided to attend again.
And, much to my surprise and joy, my experience was completely opposite of last year. I had a perfectly amazing time, and instead of the distressing moments of last year, I had many, many moments of sheer delight.
However, I don’t think BlogHer changed – I just changed my approach to it. And those simple changes made the trip for me. So, I decided to share them here, for those built like me – introverts who might want to attend a social media conference one day.
Here’s what I’ve learned by comparing my two conference experiences:
- “It’s not you, it’s me” – Don’t room with people you don’t know in real life, or room alone. I really had great roommates last year, but the fact is, I’m an introvert. If I’m going to be at a conference with thousands of women and expected to interact continuously, I desperately need a place to retreat to where I can be completely comfortable and “socially switched off” for a while. Knowing that I had a peaceful, empty room to go back to anytime I needed a recharge of serenity was glorious.
- Don’t feel guilty for taking said rest time, even if you miss out on portions of the conference – you will enjoy the rest more if you make sure to take time to refuel and breathe.
- Look at “Your Money’s Worth” as having an enjoyable trip – not necessarily attending every session, party, and getting every piece of swag available. Your Money’s Worth may mean having an exhilarating afternoon walk in the city while skipping a session that didn’t interest you anyway. Do what you feel like when you feel like it – after all, you’re paying for it – you might as well fully appreciate it. For the record, I went to 50% of the sessions this year – I heard what I wanted to, explored New York City, and blissfully enjoyed my trip.
(And, for the record, I did learn a few things at the sessions I went to. I hope to get some of these written up on Alabama Bloggers and/or B-Sides soon.)
- Don’t work for a sponsor or volunteer at the conference – I was sponsored last year, and although I absolutely ADORE the girls I worked with, it added a great deal of pressure and stress on me to do the best job I could, be at the conference constantly, market a website, and not necessarily take the “me” time I needed to survive such an extroverted event.
- Don’t feel like you have to introduce yourself to EVERYONE you bump into. Don’t miss out on all relational or networking opportunities, but also don’t overwhelm yourself every second.
- Pertaining in particular to BlogHer, knowing what to expect this year helped a lot. Last year I assumed (without thinking about it much, obviously) that BlogHer was a bunch of Conservative Mommy Bloggers just like myself. It isn’t. It’s a really great group of complete diversity. But because of that, some of the swag, sessions, and language that is used freely in all the sessions took me by surprise. Last year, I felt the language was unprofessional, but that’s probably because I’m Southern and Overly Sweet like that. But this year, I wasn’t surprised, so it didn’t phase me.
- Don’t go into a conference with an inferiority complex. Last year, I went thinking that every other blogger attending was a Pioneer Woman, a MckMama, or a Dooce. They’re not. Most of them are small to medium bloggers, as scared (and introverted) as I was.
- Don’t listen to the gossip about the cattiness going on. The gossip is just as catty, and chances are, unless you hear others talking about it, you won’t actually encounter such cattiness yourself. Obliviousness is blissful.
- GET PLENTY OF SLEEP!!
Those nine things completely revolutionized my experience – I loved and appreciated every minute of my trip this year! Hopefully my mistakes (and corrections of said mistakes) can help some of you in planning for a future conference.
13 thoughts on “Guide to an Enjoyable Conference Experience: for the Introvert.”
This post makes me want to go to BlogHer 2011. And have my own room.
I'm thinking that I will have to go to BlogHer 2011. It sounds like so much fun, especially with your tips.
"Don’t listen to the gossip about the cattiness going on."
Weird. As far as I know, the conferences I've attended don't have this drama. Don't know if I'd want to go to a conference with this kind of background chatter.
But, if I may be so bold to generalize and stereotype about my own gender,
you cannot – it is absolutely impossible – to have a majority-female conference without having cattiness involved.
But if you can avoid hearing about it, it's much better.
Sounds like you had a great time. I'm glad to hear that other people need personal space!
I have no doubt that I would totally forget going in that everyone else is an introvert also. You make great points!!
I don't know that I'll go to BlogHer unless they happen to have it in Atlanta. With as sporadic as my blogging is I can't justify the huge travel costs involved.
I'm hoping to swing Blissdom 11 but I'm not holding my breath.
I'm glad you enjoyed yourself more this time. I'd love to hear more about NYC from your perspective. I just finished reading the book, Summer at Tiffany and it made me want to visit NYC, although I think the NYC of the 40's isn't close to what it has become today…I'd still like to experience it one day.
Ginger – New York is absolutely magical. I LOVE visiting it and I would highly recommend it! I'd never want to live there, but visiting is just indescribable.
Micha – I've heard Blissdom is absolutely wonderful – I would highly recommend it!! I'd love to go sometime – the timing just hasn't worked out yet.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts this year! I remember talking to you when you got back last year & I had about decided not to ever go to BlogHer. But, now that I have met Lisa Stone, one of the 3 founding partners, she encouraged me to go next year & I just might do that. I think I would take my hubby with me, he would def. go to CA, so we could make it a mini-vacation trip too.
Totally agree with you on the women & catty thing. It is a fact of life that women are catty & it is impossible to get away from that at a mostly all women's conference. Our gender is notorious for that fact.
It was my first Blogher. I had low expectations on friendliness (I tend to think that bloggers who attend conferences are clique-ish), but it was fine. I was very overwhelmed–it was enormous–and I'm not a born networker, but it was fine. Not sure that I am going back next year…I go to Blogalicious too and since they are so close, not sure that I can justify the cost for both. And while San Diego is very attractive, it is also very far and not as easy to get to as NYC from Atlanta.
Great post! Thanks for the tips!