Rolling into Dallas, Texas, the Wednesday before Blissdom the other Stephanie from Arkansas and I were full confidence, ideas, goals and most of all SASS.
We’ve both been to conferences before, and once you’ve been to one conference you are magically a veteran. Congrats. So… We’ve got this!
But you should know it wasn’t quite that simple. See, I am not as outgoing or confident as I must seem. Talking to people I don’t know is painful.
Phase 1: Awkward
My brain shuts down when I meet someone new and to whom I have no prior connection to speak of.
I stare at the floor, until I remember to ask, “Where are you from?” which happens to be the most. boring. question. ever. And usually ends in a one or two word answer, like:
“Oklahoma.” or “Here.”
At this point I’m thinking “Okay, you’re turn. Ask me something. Anything. No? Oh God. I have to come up with something else.”
Do you work?
How many kids do you have?
“One.” or “Two” or “Three” (I’m thinking, please say “seven”. I can work with that kind of answer).
How old are they?
And now we’ve both mentally checked out of this conversation.
At this point I have established that we are not blog besties. Yet.
Phase 2: Awesome
This is hard. But I am committed, and because I asked these terrible questions the next time you see me we will be old friends, and you will introduce me to others as if we’ve spent endless hours at the lobby bar talking about our childhood and our high school boyfriends only to discover we are long-lost birth sisters.
I know that all I have to do to feel “a part of” is get past Phase 1: Awkward. It’s like sales. Keep your funnel full. The more Phase 1 interactions I have the more Phase 2 awesomeness I will have.
Simple. But not easy.
I also know it’s easier to meet people when you already know people. So before Blissdom I sent out a tweet inviting local bloggers to meetup at a popular coffee shop. I tweeted specifically to some of the people I knew would be at the conference, knowing full well that not all of them would come to coffee, but those who did would be like “home base” in the sea of 700 Blissdom attendees.
At the conference I devised a hashtag for the local Arkansas bloggers so that everyone would have the opportunity to have that same “home base” feeling. There’s strength in numbers, and there’s comfort in numbers. We all need our wing man from time-to-time. By using this common hashtag we could all tap into a pool of 30 wing bloggers if we got to feeling lonely, overwhelmed or anxious.
I had no idea how helpful the #blarkie (Blissdom + Arkie) hashtag would be. At the end of the whole event when we were all just worn down and hungry with no dinner on the calendar I tweeted to that hashtag, inviting others to dinner. The funny thing is we had bloggers from Virginia, Texas, Arkansas and Canada who joined in the fun, making it the perfect way to wrap up a weekend that began with so much awkward.
The point of this is not to stick with the people you know, but to fortify yourself so that you have the courage and capacity to meet new people with the comfort of knowing you are never alone.
How do you handle conferences? Not just blog conferences, but any conferences: work, industry, hobby, whatever. How do you connect with others or at least avoid the terror of social interactions with strangers?
If you have better questions to ask please share them. I obviously need help in the conversation department.
Evolved Mommy is about tech and gadgets as the relate to family life. We talk about Apple products like iPads, iPhones and pretty cases for iPads and iPhones. We talk about gadgets for the home like Nest thermostats and Roombas. We talk about nonsense and life in Northwest Arkansas. Whatever.