I don’t know if you know this, but I also have a craft blog and video channel that I’ve been contributing to for years. I’ve been struggling with a lack of motivation after starting this blog, so I made the decision to attend a blog conference, which just happens to be about a thousand miles outside of my little introvert comfort zone.
“The best way out is always through.” ―Robert Frost
This was my first time ever going to any kind of conference as an introvert on my own, so I chose a “smallish” conference. I would recommend choosing a smaller “starter” conference for anyone who has never attended one before. I wanted to share both my wins and losses, hoping it helps you overcome some of the challenges introverts face at large, marathon-like events like this.
Have a Good Reason to Go
As an introvert, it’s important that you’re going to your blog conference for a good reason. It has to be worth it to you because you will have to do some things that make you uncomfortable, like engage in small talk, be in large crowds, and endure long (somewhat chaotic) days, so be sure you have strong goals to pull you through to the other side.
Inspiration: For me, I felt like something of this magnitude would inspire and reignite my passion for my craft business. Although there were plenty of business and marketing workshops, I would also have the opportunity to try some new crafts with like-minded bloggers that I follow and admire online, and who doesn’t want to meet a blog celebrity in their field?
Perspective: After doing something for so long, it can be hard to view things objectively or see things in a new light. Attending a conference allows you to hear all the different ways others have gotten where they are today. In most cases, you’ll find that all the speakers have found success through different paths, and it’s very empowering to hear their perspective.
Guidance: I’ve also been considering rebranding my business and doing collaborations with other blogs or brands, so learning more about these topics will help me feel more confident in making those changes and pursuing those relationships.
Networking: I’m not putting any pressure on myself to network or score a collaboration, since this is my first blog conference ever. My goal here is to just initiate conversation and see where it goes from there. As it turned out, I met a lot of very interesting and fun people!
The potential benefits for me and my business far outweighed the personal drawbacks for me, so I bought my ticket.
Make Yourself Comfortable
I so failed on this one because it was my first time attending a conference. In my head, I imagined everyone in their cutest or most dapper (for the guys) business casual, and became slightly depressed after giving my closet the once over. My husband, who is a conference diehard, told me me not to worry about what I wore, but I didn’t buy it.
Turns out, he was right.
There was an eclectic mix of people in attendance, including everything from retro and punk rock throwback attire to hipster casual and smart bow ties. It was wonderful, and put me right at ease. After my first day, I dropped down to a comfy sundress and sandals, which immediately had me feeling more like myself.
And just a side note, carry a comfortable tote bag or backpack with any personal items (water, snack, notebook, etc) you might need or want during the conference, for peace of mind (also a great place for swag).
Schedule Time to Recharge
Sometimes size doesn’t even matter. Going to any conference as an introvert can make you feel anxious or overwhelmed, so be sure to schedule in some downtime. Fortunately, this conference included 10 minute meditations and yoga sessions in between workshops, but that’s probably not the case for most. I didn’t think about scheduling downtime beforehand and found myself “no showing” a few workshops and opting for a walk on the beach instead. My schedule was just too tight, I was struggling with overwhelm, and it’s not something I can (or should) ignore.
Don’t be too worried about being late, bailing early, or skipping out on a workshop or session. You can’t attend all of them, so just prioritize the ones that are most important to you and skip a session if you start feeling like it’s just too much.
You can step out of whatever conference session you’re in and just take a 5-10 minute break in the lobby or bathroom, or step outside for a few cleansing deep breaths before returning. And although some conferences include lunch in their schedule, consider finding a quiet place to eat it, away from the crowd.
Another great idea is to plan ahead and schedule yourself a short massage before or after one of your longer conference days. It eases tension, improves circulation, and can feel very rejuvenating.
Networking and Socializing
This was probably the hardest part of the blog conference for me. Making connections is an obvious benefit at any conference, but since I was new and already struggling with some aspects of being there, I decided not to put too much pressure on myself, while still challenging my natural tendency to “hang back”.
I was staying at a hotel across the street from where the conference was held, as were several others, so we would gather around the crosswalk at the same time each morning. We all wore conference badges, so we all knew we were going to the same place. This instantly made it easier for me to start a conversation because I already knew we had similar interests – we were at the same craft conference! I always started with a question to initiate a response, and in all cases, the conversations went very well. It was a short walk, but I even found someone from my state I really got along well with!
During the conference, I usually sat at one of the tables near the back (by the exit) in case I wanted to leave early. My table always filled up with others, who were very nice, and often we’d be joking around by the end of our time together. I will say that I struggled with one workshop, in particular, where the speaker asked us to stand up and tell everyone a little about ourselves (seriously). My heart started racing and I felt like was back in high school, but I stumbled through it the best I could.
There were some conference mixers, including an “Introvert Meet and Greet” (really), that I skipped out on. Prior to attending the conference, I had challenged myself to attend it alone, but I just could’t get the visions of a sparse attendance of wallflowers standing around in awkward silence out of my head (I still can’t help but wonder if anyone showed up). Not attending was a regret for me, but hopefully I’ll have the opportunity again, and maybe a supportive friend at my side.
The bottom line is that attending a blog conference as an introvert is doable, and even enjoyable, if you set yourself up for success. Overall, this was a great learning experience for me, which is something I can recall on later, for confidence, when considering attending another large event. Not only will I be more likely to go, but I’ll broaden my comfort zone a little bit more with each new experience. Plus, it’s something I can now check off my bucket list. Ha!
Just know who you are, plan ahead, and take it at your own pace. Set reasonable goals, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach every single one. Just congratulate yourself on the ones you did reach, and always, always take care of yourself.