"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?"
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.