If ever there was a level playing field, it would have to be the land of the world wide web; anyone with a computer and internet access can create a blog in minutes, develop their online persona in weeks and cultivate a following in months. Value is attached to words written, ideas generated, and conversation stimulated. In opposition to real life, little or no regard is given to our "book's" cover–personal appearance which we're so quickly to judge when meeting someone for the first time (whether or not intended).
Some bloggers suggest while they're interweb extroverts, they're "real life" introverts; others (like me) are more consistent with the image they project in writing, wysiwyg, online and off (although I think I've surprised people who EXPECT ME TO SPEAK IN ALL CAPS AT ALL TIMES!!!). It's easy to forget there's a face behind every blog page, flesh and blood…and feelings.
Tomorrow I leave for BlissDom '09, a blogging conference hosted by Blissfully Domestic in conjunction with One2One Network in Nashville, TN. There, I'll have the pleasure of meeting and spending time with 300 amazing women.
- Women of depth, inner-beauty and diverse life experience.
- Women who are writers, who love to tell stories, who make me laugh…and sometimes cry.
- Women who teach, challenge, inspire, sometimes provoke, and greatly encourage me.
- Persuasive and engaging women who are making a difference, who understand the power of their words.
- Women who are willing to learn, who generously give their time and expertise to help others, who share their personal gain and loss so others might know they aren't the "only one".
BlissDom's panel of speakers is phenomenal; it's no wonder the conference sold out weeks ago! These are accomplished bloggers, published writers, women who have achieved noteworthy success within (and sometimes without) their respective spheres.
They have reach. They have voice. They have influence.
And that, my friend, applies to you, too.
It can be an intimidating thing, walking "cold" into this arena. Glimpsing my twitter stream and skimming my reader, I'm hearing doubts and insecurities creeping in–"What if no one recognizes or (gulp) talks to me?" "I love reading 'her' blog, but she doesn't even know I exist." "What if fall short of their expectations?" "What if ________ [fill in the blank with your own insecurities]."
Perhaps this is your first conference; maybe you've never met anyone with whom you share online community; or maybe you're just quiet and reserved and have the fear no one will talk to you. You're dreading that awkward moment of walking into the room and not knowing a soul. You might even be measuring your value based on readership or awards, or I dunno what else, but you feel you're out of your league.
I'm here to convince you, to grab you by the shoulders and shake you silly, to throw an icy cold glass of water in your face to wake you up…to make SURE you understand and believe…
..."they" get to meet YOU!
YOU are one of a kind! You have reach and voice and influence.
After attending BlissDom's inaugural event last October, I came away with a sense of the larger community; that blogging is its own league of encouragement. While it can be competitive, while all of us are trying to establish our own distinctive voice, I really believe we're playing on the same team. There's a sense of camaraderie among bloggers, and unless there's just a sharp personality conflict, don't you celebrate the successes of those you know are working toward a similar end goal to your own?
Don't think established bloggers (read: the speakers panel) don't have their own share of insecurities; they know the rest of us have an expectation of them, and they feel the consequent pressure to deliver. I've heard from people on both sides, and really, it's little more than different stanzas of the same tune.
- Be bold–step outside your comfort zone and initiate conversation.
- Seek out those in the margins, invite them to join you (at BD '08, I was impressed to see this happen time and time again; it wasn't just a few people reaching out a hand of inclusion, it was everywhere I turned!).
- Sit with someone different at every session or meal; you'll hate starting over again and again, but a) it gets easier with practice, and b) you will have met a whole lot more people by the end of the weekend.
- Play to your strengths. Don't try to be someone you're not, be consistent with "who" you are at home.
- FORGET ABOUT THE STUPID CLOTHES! Geezaree, if there's one thing I could change, it would be that we all wear jeans and a white tee! Please don't worry about whether or not you have the "right" thing to wear! Do you really care what anyone else is wearing? Of course, you might like the outfit, but is an outfit the sole determiner of whether or not you read someone's blog? Or want to befriend them? If so, well…bless your heart…I don't have anything else you'd wanna hear, but for the rest of you? Fuhgetaboutit!
- You won't be able to meet everyone, so pace yourself. Be realisitic. Realize you won't click with everyone you do meet, so be glad for the introduction and move on. It's not personal, it's real life!
Most of all, have fun! BlissDom is a fabulous conference, in part, because it's a fairly intimate gathering. You're going to meet new people who will challenge and inspire you and who will give you vision for the blog you'd like to create.
Tell me what I'm leaving out or if you've read other posts that speak to conference going–I'd love to compile a list as a resource for others who would benefit from the counsel of friends. One of my favorites is Megan's post prior to BlogHer last year; it paints a clear picture of understanding "who" you are and realizing The Who You Are is pretty doggone awesome.
Carpe diem, girlieQs…I can hardly wait to meet YOU–walk up to me, extend your hand (or better yet, hug my neck), tell me you've never heard of my blog you read me daily, and then plunk a caramel macchiato breve a plate of fried okra a pack of Peanut M&Ms down in front of me. I shall follow you til the ends of the earth :).