Guide to an Enjoyable Conference Experience: for the Introvert.

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:

  1. “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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)

  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

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.