Tips For Conference Newbies
There are tons of blogging conferences coming up, and because I know these can cause an unusual amount of anxiety in otherwise normal people, I thought I’d give you some more tips on how to make the most of your experience. Below are some of my tips for conference-going in the blogging arena. Please chime in in the comments if you have more that I’ve overlooked.
1. Go to lunch by yourself.
If you are going to a conference where you already know some people, it can be tempting to rely on those people and never let them leave your side. That’s one way of approaching the conference, but another way might be to force yourself outside of your confort zone and try to get to know as many people as you possibly can. As I wrote here, going to lunch alone is a great way of forcing yourself to stick your hand out and introduce yourself to people you might not otherwise meet.
2. There will be eighty million private parties, and you won’t be invited to all (or any) of them. And it doesn’t matter.
Nobody gets invited to every single brand event or party. (Nobody — not even the biggies, because some brands assume they won’t show up anyway.) There is a peculiar equation that is used to determine who gets invited to what party and when, and if you base your self-worth on it, you will drive yourself crazy. It just doesn’t make sense — some of the people invited will be “bigger” than you, some will be “smaller,” and each brand has its own theory as to why they want certain people at certain parties. The good news is that nothing really happens at these parties that will help you with anything, so unless you’re desperate for a swag bag full of Diva Cups and Fritos, it really doesn’t make any difference if you’re invited or not.
3. The person you are talking to is always worth your time, and you can learn something from everyone you meet.
I’ve covered this before, but for some reason, this is something that comes up at nearly every conference — there is always a story about some blogger who turned up their nose at some other blogger, or a “more important” somebody who cuts to the front of the line (this last one has happened to me on more than one occasion, in fact). Listen: the blogging world is always changing, and who is “important” one day may be insignificant the next, and vice versa. Even if you are so unfamiliar with the rules of common decency as to not find this behavior problematic from a moral perspective, I beg of you to think of your own self-interest: what are you going to do when that person you just snubbed is in charge of some project you want to be a part of?
Here’s an interesting thing: one of the most “important” and well known people in the blogosphere I have the pleasure of knowing is Jenny Lawson, and she is also probably the most welcoming person I’ve ever encountered at a blogging conference. Are these two things unrelated? I don’t think so. When in doubt, think WWJLD?, and you will probably be OK.
4. Every year it gets bigger, but it will seem smaller next time you go.
Unless you have been blogging for years and years before attending your first blogging conference, there’s a good chance that your first experience will seem overwhelming and anonymous. This is particularly true if the first conference you attend is BlogHer, Blog World Expo, or SxSW. Just accept this ahead of time and don’t let it ruin your experience — you probably won’t know that many people, you probably will have to stick your hand out a million and a half times, and because some people are always acting like douchebags, you probably will come back with some kind of awful story about a snobby blogger of whom you had never heard who refused to talk to you or something equally absurd.
Listen: that is just the first time conference experience at work. We all have to deal with it. Don’t sweat it. Because the next time you go, you will know a billion more people than you did the year before, and you will be laughing about how so-and-so snubbed you. And you’ll be the one reaching out to the girl who doesn’t know anybody. Look at the first trip as reconnaissance and it won’t seem as scary, I promise.
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