The Dreaded Conference Fears!

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Yvonne-BlogPaws-smby Yvonne DiVita

"I often feel awkward when I go to a conference. Reluctant to sidle up to a stranger and introduce myself, I roam, like I did at college parties, self-conscious, seltzer water in hand, not fitting in. In the midst of a sea of people chatting away enthusiastically, I am uncomfortable and alone."

So starts Peter Bregman's article from Harvard Business Review. A short piece on how hard it is to attend conferences when you feel so out of place. Interestingly, he's a professional. He was speaking on a panel, at the particular conference he talks about. That didn't bother him. Speaking is easy. It's the mingling afterwards that is hard.

Do you feel that way? Are you stressing out about attending BlogPaws in June? Does the thought of all those people mingling and chatting and laughing and talking… while you huddle by yourself in a dark corner… make you reluctant to attend BlogPaws?

Here's what Peter says, "My sense of self is dangerously close to my sense of role. I'm a writer, a speaker, a consultant, a father, a husband, a skier, etc. But who am I when I'm not actively being those things? Who am I'm without my accomplishments — past, present, or future?" Robbi-susan-donna-celeste

Note the word "role". That's key. You play a role in everything you do. When you realize what your 'role' is in each circumstance of your life, you begin to relax and play the role.

For instance, at BlogPaws, my role is Co-Founder. It's my job to be visible. It's my job to meet people. It's my job to make sure the conference is running smoothly. My role is not necessarily who Yvonne is outside of the conference. It may encompass who I am outside of the conference – pet lover, animal advocate, blogger, Mom, Grandmom, etc. But, at the conference, I have a purpose and it's the purpose that dictates my actions.

Your role may be to meet new people, and connect with brands. If you're shy, if approaching people is hard for you, you're in luck. So many people bring their pets to BlogPaws, no one has trouble approaching them. Pets are a great ice-breaker!

Sit down and think about what 'role' you want to play at BlogPaws. Use Peter's advice, "I didn't tell people that I'm a writer or that I run a consulting company or any other role-defining facts. I just met them as Peter. And they met me as themselves." 

It's you, the person, we want to meet. Once we get to know you, we'll be equally interested in what you do and why you do it. But, person to person, BlogPaws is about making friends while you learn. Here's my last bit of advice – if you have a list of people you absolutely want to meet at BlogPaws, but you're unsure of how to approach them, never hesitate to approach me or Tom or Chloe or Caroline and ask us to introduce you. Even if we don't 'know' the person, it's in our role description to be approachable – we'll make those introductions. 

And, there will be other BlogPaws people at the conference to help you overcome your shyness. Don't stay home because you find conferences uncomfortable. Come, relax, enjoy, and I promise you'll be raving about it for weeks afterwards.

  • http://www.canidaepetfood.blogspot.com/ Julia Williams

    Great post. I’m not the best mingler at social events, but I don’t think I will have any problem chatting it up at BlogPaws, for the simple reason that I know everyone who attends obviously loves their pets. This common bond will be enough to spark good conversation, I think. Besides, I’ve gotten to “know” so many of them through their writings on their blog, that there will be a lot to talk about!

  • http://iloverescueanimals.org Ashley

    Haha, that describes me at the first BlogPaws. And I really wanted to meet Janet (About Vet Med) so you guys made sure you introduced us! Now, as a “veteran”, I get to be one of the people who can introduce people!

  • http://emmysits.blogspot.com Emmy Scammahorn

    Thank you, Yvonne, for bringing up an important topic.
    One of the people I wanted to meet at BlogPaws 2011 was Lorie Huston, with whom I’d corresponded on Twitter. I walked into the registration area and there was Lorie (I recognized her from her avatar). “Lorie!” I cried, and opened my arms wide. An uncertain smile came her face. “Hi,” she said, almost ending the sentence with a question mark. “I’m @EmmySits” I said. “Oh, hi!” she laughed, and we hugged. That’s a metaphor for the kind of welcome you get at BlogPaws.
    For the most part, it was easy to introduce myself at BP ’11 and join conversations. Approaching the animals was easy, and conversation often flowed naturally from there. A few times I walked around feeling a bit lost, but I that’s my natural tendency as an introvert (and as a self-centered person!).
    BlogPaws is casual, vibrant, interesting, warm, and informative. It’s the kind of conference where most gave a warm welcome to a stranger sitting with them at lunch or a workshop. If you freeze up, as I occasionally do, just introduce yourself to the next four-legged participant you see—no chatter required.

  • http://opcatchat.blogspot.com caren gittleman

    What a wonderful post!
    As outgoing (and obnoxious lol) as many have the impression that I am, I also have as many others have, TONS of insecurity!
    “What will they think of me?” Will the like me?” “Am I what they thought I would be?” all went through my head at my first BlogPaws last year.
    All of my worry was for naught. Of course I had the jitters on and off through the conference but the vast majority made me feel welcome, the people I had gotten to know through their blogs were even better in person, some far surpassed my expectations of just how wonderful they would be!
    The brands were all highly approachable (they want to meet US, as much as we want to meet THEM), the pets…ohhhh the pets and their unconditional love…marvelous!
    The “high” and knowledge that I gained at BlogPaws gave me an internal glow that will remain with me forever!
    Can’t wait to do it again….jitters and all!

  • http://thoughtsfurpaws.com JL Smith

    Thank you Yvonne for calming me down! I get so nervous before these events every time eventhough sometimes it may not show. I hesitate to go up to someone and shake their hand…
    I am not shy with brands but with people I am…
    And this is great advice; I love the last part – “making friends while you learn.”
    That’s EXACTLY what BlogPaws has been for me every time Ive gone…
    GREAT post 🙂

  • http://www.zuuzs.com Amrit K.

    Great post, Yvonne! I love the fact this conference is taking place AND allows visitors to meet face-to-face with individuals we’ve known online via email, twitter, facebook, etc. What’s even more awesome, how open you & the BlogPaws team is to facilitate those introductions to make it real!