Yes, I’m the shy girl. You, in the back, that just snorted – I heard that.
People who have known me for a long time may not realize how shy I can be. But the truth is, especially in cocktail hour, conference-type settings, I’m awkward silence girl. These events stir up all kinds of anxieties in me. I sit there and rack my brain trying to think of something to say – and the harder I think, the longer and more awkward the silence gets, which makes it even harder to think of something to say. It’s a deep, and endless spiral. And that’s if I manage NOT to blurt out something stupid, or nonsensical, or inappropriate, or offensive.
Conversing is so different from writing. There’s no opportunity to edit while you are speaking. Time delays are built in to written conversations, and expected, even when chatting or tweeting. But when you’re in a live, real world conversation, all bets are off. You’re out there, on your own, flying without a net.
Wine helps. A little.
More wine helps a little more.
Even more wine helps me nap right where I’m standing.
Unfortunately, most conferences start before the cocktail hour. But seriously, I do need to learn how to participate in a conversation without that kind of lubricant.
How do you do it? How do you keep a conversation going? Even if it’s with someone you’ve been dying to meet for years. Especially if it’s with someone you’ve been dying to meet for years.
How do you bridge the gap between standing alone in the center of a packed room, and walking up to someone, or a group of someones, and saying “hi” – and then what do you say next?
My pulse is racing while I write this. It’s a terrifying prospect for me.
I spent the day Saturday at Bloggy Boot Camp Seattle, which was, in a word, Awesome. But it was also, among other things, a networking event: talking required. I learned a lot – but of course, one of the biggest benefits of such an event is the opportunity to meet other bloggers. That meant sticking my hand out, and walking up to someone to introduce myself. And I did it! Most of the time without tripping over my own feet, or getting too terribly tongue tied.
There were still those moments where I stood in the middle of the room and surveyed groupings of people deep in conversation. What were they talking about? Could I easily join this conversation? Was anyone else also looking for someone to talk to? Or were they, like me, pretending to look busy so they didn’t look pathetic in the middle of the room silently trying to figure out who to talk to and how to start a conversation?
One of the brilliant bits of planning on the parts of the amazing ladies who organized this conference, was assigned seating that changed with each presentation. This meant that every couple hours or so, I was at a different table with a different group of bloggers, and it made it so much easier to make introductions, start conversations, and meet a larger number of people.
And the people who attended this event were just wonderful. From the moment I showed up to check in, an hour late (another story for another time), I was overwhelmed by just how amazing and, more importantly for me, approachable, everyone was. Superstar-blogger MamaKat has been one of my blogging heroes for years, and she got up and gave me a giant hug when we finally met at the conference. JennyOnTheSpot sat down next to me at lunch, and actually got me to talk a bit about myself to the table.
So many amazing people, and I’m still a little start struck and in awe of the entire event.
I learned a lot, too. Not that I have actually applied anything I learned yet. For instance, Danae Handy and MamaKat led an amazing breakout session on writing. They didn’t just tell us to apply the narrative arc to everything we write; they actually showed us how to apply it to a blog post. For instance, this infernal post that you have been reading forever because it just wont end (thank you for sticking with me, by the way) would fit beautifully into a hero’s journey format.
I would be the hero (I like the sound of that), and my quest would be to summon the courage to make more connections (and maybe even friends) at a networking event, the antagonist would be my shyness and insecurities, my allies would be the other amazing people at the blog conference and the speakers who all seemed to do a great job of building my confidence as well.
I would build the story in ever increasing waves of tension as you follow along through my attempts to initiate and navigate through conversations, and triumph with me as I leave the conference with a head full of great ideas, a belly full of wonderful wines, fists full of schwag and the business cards of other bloggers, and most importantly, my confidence through the roof. In the end my anxiety would be vanquished, and I would be the queen of the bloggers (or at least the queen of CoffeeJitters.Net) and then my allies would be rewarded with loads of link love (which I’ll try to do anyway). Those things happened, I just didn’t write the post that way. But I can totally see now how that structure would improve this monstrosity.
See, I get it Danae. I really do. But, I also know myself well enough to know that any thoughts of rewriting this 1000+ word post are little puffs of nothingness that will never happen – especially while I”m in the middle of this 4000 mile road trip. So the post goes up as is.
The conference was worth every penny, and worth every moment of awkwardness. I feel a little more confident in what I’m doing as a blogger, no one bit me or gave me a why-the-hell-are-you-talking-to-me look while I was at the conference, I made some new friends, and now it’s time to put this post to bed and get some sleep. We’ve got a long drive ahead of us tomorrow. The next post will come from 600 to 900 miles away, and maybe from a different country. Not sure yet. We’re flying by the seat of our pants.