I’ve been to a lot of conferences and have the pile of name-tags somewhere to prove it. The conferences blur together: large industrial-strength hotel, lots of people swirling through elevators and escalators, people talking to other people in small rooms and in big rooms. Mostly it’s people talking.
Talking is one key component. The other? Anxiety.
Conferences and anxiety go together. Are you job hunting, job hiring, presenting a paper, introducing a paper, meeting new colleagues, “networking,” dodging the person with whom perhaps you had a wee indiscretion at the last conference? Whatever your situation, there’s anxiety about it.
This year, I’m going to BlogHer, which started a while back as a small, intimate gathering of women who did this new-fangled thing called online web logs…and now it’s a gathering of about 4000 online writers (not all of whom are women), gathering to talk tech, writing, politics, sex, laundry, unicorns, pretty much everything. The conference is in New York (might want to avoid midtown that first weekend in August, lest you be mowed down by iphone-wielding folk instagramming everything in their paths), I’m going to be in New York, I figured, hell, I’m a conference veteran, I’ll just sign up and go.
But now? Less than three weeks out? Oh good lord the nerves. Who will talk to me? Who will I talk to? Will I end up making chitchat with some sad crudite platter at the cash bar?
I’m looking forward to meeting all the wonderful writers who have become friendly voices in the loneliness of my first expat year…but I’m worried, too: the great thing about online friendships is that no one can, you know, see you. Right, I know, that’s the entire principle behind match.com, but still. On the page I can be witty (or try to), or political (or try to), and I have a profile picture that doesn’t show all my chins. What if my in-person multiply chinned fabulousness falls short of my online fabulousness?
There must be scientific research out there demonstrating the link between confidence and new shoes, so maybe when I get to New York I should go shoe shopping? What about a new outfit? And oh my god I don’t even own a purse. I’m a canvas satchel kind of gal…but maybe a new purse?
Yeah. If I have new shoes, I would definitely have the courage to introduce myself to The Bloggess.
Even writing that sentence makes me all sweaty-palmed. I think I’ll just talk to the crudites, instead. I’m sure the carrot sticks have a really interesting story to tell.