“Going to #Blogher13 for the first time, and totally nervous. #SociallyAwkward”
“I get really awkward around big groups of people. #Blogher13”
“There are 5000 people at #Blogher13. I'll be the biggest loner there. #Shy”
Get the picture?
We are ALL socially awkward. In our own minds.
My theory? I think it's why we're drawn to this blogging thing; these online communities where we control the environment. We have a moment to think before we “speak,” and are less likely to spout off something that, we realize later, was really weird/unfunny/rude/random.
How many times have you written out a Tweet, or commented on a Facebook post, or a blog post, or an email, and then deleted it? Held down the backspace key until several lines of your thoughts disappeared in the path of that left-bound cursor? Me? I can't count that high.
I think I'm pretty funny sometimes (hello, blog title) but often worry too, about how I come across online. I am a sassy, sarcastic kind of girl, and often think twice before posting something that I wouldn't even hesitate to say if we were face-to-face. It's why I think I completely overuse “LOL.” So people know I'm kidding.
But anyway, back to the socially awkward thing.
No, you aren't.
It's in your head. I actually had a conversation with someone recently (with whom, I cannot recall) but it was someone I had met online, and we were meeting in person for the first time.
“I hate small talk,” I said. “I'm terrible at it. I'm…” you see this coming, right? “totally socially awkward. If I don't know everyone at a party, I'm really uncomfortable and tend to gravitate towards the food table, just so I can shove food in my face if someone tries to strike up a conversation.”
She just did that thing where she looked at me and kind of blinked. “No, you aren't.”
I realized then, that she was right!
By opening myself up and forcing myself through it, I'm not as awkward as *know* I was.
Blogging has enhanced my life in so many ways, and this is just one.
So Blogher newbies, here are a few tips that I'll go ahead and suggest to make your conference experience the best it can be (Disclaimer: These are the things I tell myself and/or do for myself… you may have different results. I'll give you your money back if these don't work for you!) You just might find that some of these things leak over into your “real” life as well!
- “Is this seat taken?” is your friend! See a spot at a table in a session or meal? Go for it! Worst case, person is saving seat for a friend, so you move on. I promise, NO ONE will punch you for wanting to sit down.
- Business cards are the best opening line ever. Once you've used tip #1, and had a seat at the table, pull out your cards and say, “Have we already swapped cards?” and then start passing them, Vegas dealer-style, around the table. Seriously. As you collect the cards from your tablemates, take a moment to look at them; you never know when you might be sitting across from someone you “know” or admire! At Blogher11, a random person sat across from me at lunch, spilled her coffee all over the table, and then sat down. Introduced herself and handed out her cards. I looked at it; “OMG, Oh yeah you! You're @OhYeah_Her!” It turned out we had been chatting on Twitter for ages before we met in San Diego. You never know who you'll run into!
- The “big” bloggers are still bloggers. Don't be intimidated. Yes, I felt like a dork telling Jenny Lawson how much I adored her. But I also had Jill Smokler sit across the table from her without having any idea who she was, and she talked about how worried she was that no one would come to her session. (It was JAMMED, BTW. People sitting on the floor jammed) And you know what else? Someone said that she was excited to meet ME! Me?!?! Yup. Something I'd written had resonated with her, and she wanted to thank me in person. There's something to be said for that.
- Ignore the drama. I assume you like me until you give me a reason to think otherwise. This makes most of my personal interactions far more pleasant, and have found that it works well to avoid the craziness and drama that can happen in large groups. I literally had 2 less than totally positive first impressions of people at Blogher11, and one of those people I now consider a dear friend.
- Consider what you're wearing. No, I'm not talking about jeans vs. business casual vs. heels vs. sneakers vs. yoga pants. There is no “right” way to dress at Blogher. The only thing I'll suggest? Wear something you feel GREAT in. Self-confidence makes up for a lot when you're in potentially challenging situations, and walking into a room feeling your best? You're already ahead of the game! Some people have a signature “look” that they rock for the duration of the conference, some feel best in jeans and flats (I think I'd recommend against jeans; isn't it hot and humid in Chicago during the summer?) Me? I'll be playing it by ear. Probably mostly dresses and skirts for me, since they're comfortable and I think I look cute in them. But if you prefer slacks? DO IT.
- Most important: Don't overthink it! Just have fun. You'll have opportunities to meet more brands, and more bloggers, and learn more than you would have thought possible. Of the 5000 people at the conference this year, I can promise that you are not the only one who is feeling anxious and awkward about the whole experience.
Blogher11 changed my life. <– Changed. My. Life. And it can change yours, too.
I made amazing friends, formed an incredible support network, and eventually found a career doing what I love, all because I left my comfort zone and went to the conference. (Also? Had a BLAST!)
When in doubt, just look for me, and I'll be friendly!
I'm 6′ tall with a red streak in my hair. Hard to miss.