An introvert’s guide to surviving a blogging conference
If you’re an introvert, you can still rock a blogging conference…oh yes you can!
I’m an introvert. Someone once told me I was an extroverted introvert but I’m not sure what the hell that really means. I am not shy. I like people but I like them in small doses. Most of the time, I’m happy enough with my own company. The things I like to do for fun – writing, running, reading – are easily solitary pursuits. Large groups of people bring on my anxiety and highlight my awkwardness.
So, I think I’ll just go with introvert.
I have been to three blogging conferences in the past two months. I have done enough “peopling” to last me a good while. I just got back from BlogHer 15 in New York City where I spent three days in the constant company of a bazillion other fantastic bloggers, writers and other great human beings in the media world.
It was exhausting, overwhelming and wonderful.
Here are a few tips that helped introverted me survive, thrive and enjoy the flurry of conferences that helped shape my summer:
- Schedule downtime
This might be before, during or after your conference…or all of those. If large groups of people or social interactions overwhelm you, make sure you give yourself a break. That might mean tailoring your conference schedule to make room for some quiet time or thinning your obligations schedule on either end of the conference.
A weekend of being around lots of people is fun for me once in a while but it makes me tired and leaves me wanting to hibernate afterwards. Taking Monday off or deliberately not scheduling events for the next couple of weekends usually gets me back on track.
A word on conference roomies: it’s common for bloggers to double up to save money or simply to have a bed at a booked-solid conference hotel. While this is a great way to cut costs and get to know someone new and fun, it might not be the best call if you thrive on your quiet time.
- Connect ahead of time
Most conferences will offer some type of interactive, social media forum for registered attendees to network prior to a conference. Join up and get to know some of your new friends virtually before you arrive at the conference. All of the blogging conferences I attended this summer had dedicated Facebook groups and Twitter lists. This allowed me to find other bloggers with who I shared common interests and chat a little beforehand. The “first day of school” nerves were still alive and kicking each time I stepped into a conference venue but making those online connections in advance definitely eased my jitters.
If social situations are awkward for you, think about what you’re going to say when you meet a new person. While it might sound silly or artificial to rehearse your words, it does help to give some thought to what you might say when you encounter new people. When you go to a blogging conference, you’re in a situation that’s outside of your everyday comfort zone, especially if you’re an introvert like me.
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A lot of blogging conference veterans will tell you that you need an elevator speech – and you do! This is a twenty second speech that you should have in response to the question “so, what’s your blog about?”
Test driving some sample social interactions prior to a blogging conference may help build up your confidence or make you feel less awkward about meeting new people. For instance;
When meeting another blogger:
“Hi, I’m Jill, would you like to exchange business cards?”
When meeting a vendor/potential sponsor:
“I’m Jill and I’m a parenting blogger. I’d love to chat about working together sometime. Here’s my card.”
When meeting a blogger you’ve admired for a long time:
Awkwardly hug her in line for the toilets and tell her you have your Spanx on backwards. Okay, maybe not that.
I have a great resting bitch face, or so I’m told. When I’m in big groups, I have to make an effort to relax my face, make eye contact with the people I see and appear friendly and approachable. I mean, I am friendly and I’m not sure why I don’t give off that vibe as a first impression. I have stopped trying to analyze why my facial expression looks like I’ve just taken a big whiff of sour milk when I’m actually thinking shiny, happy thoughts.
But seriously…if you find yourself overwhelmed in a crowded room, take a deep breath and smile. Most people are going to smile back and if they don’t, screw ‘em and keep moving. Keep in mind that the other people attending a blog conference are also there to network and connect, which means they want to talk to you. If you’re introverted like me, you might have to work a little harder to approach and be approachable, but that’s okay. Just smile.
- Just do it
A lot of people who write for a living or as a hobby are introverts. If the site of big crowds of people makes you a little twitchy, know that you’re not the only one and that someone else in that big crowd of people very likely feels the exact same way. Take a deep breath and hit “submit” on that blogging conference registration.
You won’t regret it.
I was honored, proud, surprised, stoked, elated…okay, I really don’t have enough adjectives to properly describe the feeling, people…to be named a BlogHer Voice of the Year for 2015. I also had the honor of reading on stage on Friday night and it was a great experience…although I will admit to hiding in the bathroom doing breathing exercises five minutes before show time. You can read all the great work of the other voices of the year and see the amazing winners of the Femertizing awards HERE. Getting to read my work at BlogHer ranks up there with my wedding day and the days I had my kids…indescribably cool and scary at the same time.
If you have a “Blogging” or “Conference Survival Tips” board on Pinterest, here you go:
If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, I would love to connect on Facebook and Twitter. See you at #BlogHer16!
I’m a shy introvert, and this advice is spot on. I also had the pleaaure/terror of presenting on stage, and I needed to plan my conference up to that point around staying calm and relaxed. I kept the Do Not Disturb sign on my room and went back for some key little pockets of downtime here and there, and that really helped.
Your reading was fantastic! I had already read and admired your piece, but your reading added so much more–funny in all the right places, as well as anger-provoking. There were gasps from the balcony at some of the things people said in your piece.
Thank you so much! We should hang out next time.
I think you are very friendly, m’dear!
I would say I’m a shy extrovert. I really like being around people and don’t need too much down time. But I can be really shy and awkward, though strangely I do better at large conferences than small ones.
I’m glad you came out and I got to hear you read one of your pieces in person. You totally rocked it!
I am glad we got to see each other. It will be fun to see what conferences we bump into each other at next time!!!
Loved this, Jill! BlogHer15 was challenging for me for all these reasons- luckily I managed to escape for some downtime and had a great set of extroverted roommates that kept an eye out for me! Congrats- your story was one of my favorites.
Thank you, Jennifer!
We are so much the same. Introvert, how we can deal with people, resting bitch face…
The downtime is so important. My biggest mistake this year was in having 3 roommates. Even though they were all lovely, I will never again have more than 1. Or if I have 3- I will make sure I’m completely comfortable with all of them so I feel like I can go back to my room and just be me (which can mean not saying a word to anyone without worrying that makes me a giant bitch).
One of the best things I feel like I did was to go to a fabulous 3 hour lunch with a friend on Thursday afternoon. It was awesome downtime and I felt like I could go back and be social again.
I’m still bummed we didn’t get to meet. I had to leave on Friday around 2pm so I missed out on quite a few people, despite running around like a wild woman on Wed-Thurs.
I am so so so bummed, Shell. If I would have known you were leaving early, I would have made sure to find you. There will be another conference and we will meet and do our introvert thing.
Totally a shy extrovert here, as well and I love all your above advice. I was hoping to get to meet you at BlogHer, I had prior commitments for Thursday night and Friday, as well. But I only live 45 minutes out of NYC, so thankfully was able to come in for a bit on Saturday, but still sad I didn’t end up seeing you. But just wanted to congratulate you here again and honestly you nailed how to survive a blogging conference here 😉
Thank you, Janine! I am sorry we didn’t get to meet, too. So many people!
So proud of you for getting up on the big stage! You totally rocked it. xoxo
Congrats on the award!
And great advice. I’m a big fan of the “just do it” mentality (except maybe if the fear is telling me to not push a fork into a socket or something like that).
I’m totally with you on having my own room! I didn’t make it to BlogHer, because of our travel plans, but hopefully next year. Congratulations on your award!