I came home from Blissdom feeling like a failure. Two days of isolation within a group setting combined with no outside air for two and half days left me feeling empty.
But I came back home from that experienced and signed up for BlogHer. I wasn’t eager to do a conference, alone, again, but I figured now that I was armed with more knowledge about what to expect, I could do it better the second time.
And I did just that.
I spent the past couple days in NYC for BlogHer’12, and, yes, I did it alone again, went in without knowing anyone, sat alone. But, I had a great time. And I did a few things differently. Here’s what I did:
I didn’t expect anyone to greet me. At Blissdom, I had this idea that it would be all kumbaya, that people wouldn’t be able to contain themselves from greeting strangers. No. That did not happen. So, this time, I went in expecting no one to make any overatures towards me. And I didn’t let it bother me. Instead, I greeted other people. When I found an empty seat in the conference room, rather than feeling shy and not making eye contact, I sat down, handed out my card and said “Hi, I’m Sarah, and I’m from outside Washington, D.C. What’s your name?” Everyone I greeted smiled back, gave me their card, and started a conversation. Some of those conversations were brief and friendly. And a few of those conversations let me create a more indepth connection. But unlike at Blissdom, I didn’t feel bad when I didn’t hit it off with anyone. I justed moved on.
I skipped the evening events. It’s awkward to stand around at evening events, nursing the same cocktail for an hour plus, while everyone else dances and sings and you don’t know anyone. So, I didn’t even go. Instead, my mom came up from D.C. one day, so she and I went to see a show one night. And the next night I met up with friends from the area. I am sure those BlogHer parties were a blast. But I knew that after spending eight hours surrounded by strangers, I’d be longing for a familar face and quiet conversation.
I got out of the conference area. At Blissdom, you can’t really leave the conference center. Especially if you don’t have a car. There’s no where to go. But at BlogHer, I just walked out the door and onto the streets of Manhattan when I needed a breather from the 5,000 women (and a few men) bloggers. I didn’t realize how trapped I felt at Blissdom since I couldn’t leave the hotel. At BlogHer, it felt so good to know I could just leave. I slipped out a few times for a breather, a coffee, a quick walk to take in the sights.
I didn’t let the information consume me. While some prefer to only hit a few panels, I am that girl that goes to every single one. I like myself some learning. I’m into it. I want to hear as many knowlegeable people speak as possible. But at Blissdom, I let the information overload me. And I felt I had to implement every new idea right away. This time, I still attended a panel every session, but I took away only what worked for me. And if someone’s advice/suggestion didn’t resonate, I left it in the room. I came back full of information and lots of ideas I want to explore over the next several months.
This sounds like a rag on Blissdom. And in some ways it is. But, really, I am grateful for Blissdom because it set me up to do better at other conferences. I found a girl at BlogHer looking completely shocked in the lunch line, and I asked her if this was her first BlogHer. She turned her stunned face to me and said this was her first conference, ever, and she felt dizzy with conference overload. I told her what she was feeling was completely normal. One’s first conference experience results in completely overwhelm. She wasn’t doing anything wrong. It’s just the way it is your first time. She squeezed my arm and thanked me, and I sent her on her way with a complimentary diet Coke.
A few days before BlogHer, I found myself trying to think of any reason I could conjure up to get out of it. My reaction to Blissdom scared me, and I didn’t want to feel like that again. But armed with experience, I packed away my fears and decided to enjoy myself without setting up any expectations. As a result, I had the best time. My time at BlogHer might not look like everyone else’s, but that’s the thing about these conferences. Everyone has a different set of motives and desires for what they want out of the conference. I just wanted a chance to get away from the daily grind of diapers and laundry, hear Martha Stewart and Katie Couric speak, hang with my mom, see my good friends, and get refueled so I can fall back in love with my blog. And to that end, I succeeded.