The post title is a bit of an understatement. I did more than “survive” the conference. I had a really good time, learned a lot and met great people.
I had some major social anxiety for the first few hours I was there. I arrived after the opening keynote started, so instead of creeping in and finding an open seat, I checked in to the hotel, picked up my name tag and then wondered around until the keynote finished, following along via Twitter. I felt uncomfortable and out of my element until lunchtime, which is usually how I feel in new situations.
I did wonder why this conference made me so nervous. I’m used to attending conferences and events. I’ve even presented a few times. Why was this conference so nerve wracking? I concluded that this conference was different because I was attending it for personal reasons. I wasn’t hiding behind my organization or my professional self, so what impressions and conclusions attendees made were conclusions about ME. I felt like an exposed nerve most of the time.
I did find my conference groove. I never ate a meal alone, and I did exchange business cards. I attended the evening parties but skipped the after parties because I needed some time to myself to decompress. And I decided that was ok. I found my courage and introduced myself to people I particularly wanted to meet and had only one reaction that wasn’t as … friendly… as I hoped. I realize that I am painting a picture of myself as a shrinking violet and not confident. What I’m starting to realize after the last few months is that I’m not confident in myself when I am all I have to fall back on.
I was able to take away something from every session I attended, and there was only one session that made me roll my eyes at the speaker. A few points:
- It’s a necessity to know what you are passionate about and why you blog
- No matter whether you have 1 reader or 1 million, your voice is important and powerful and never forget that
- Creating viral content is more calculated than serendipity. Think about your audience and what would capture their attention and be sharable (I’m disappointed about this conclusion. Also? If you have enough $$$, you can buy the means to make content go viral)
- Don’t simply write; tell a story. The most important relationship in storytelling is that between the reader and the story; leave room for them to have their own experience with the story.
I want to come back to passion. Two of the sessions I attended emphasized knowing what you are passionate about. In the first session, I was stumped. I wrote down “social media” and “manufacturing.” Then I realized they were professional passions. I couldn’t think of one personal passion. Granted, it was in the context of thinking of something about which you are passionate that you could turn into a speaking opportunity. I couldn’t think of one topic about which I felt confident on speaking personally. That’s really sad. I’ve got some work to do there. The second session relying on passion was about using your writing for good. This time when we were ask to think of a topic about which we were passionate and would like to bring awareness to, I immediately wrote down infertility and surrogacy.
I wasn’t happy about that. I could write every day on infertility and surrogacy, providing some caustic response to the latest infuriating news item on surrogacy tourism or stupid tv show (I’m looking at you, creators of The New Normal). But I don’t because I don’t want to be pigeonholed as an infertility blog (not that there is anything wrong with that. I realized, though, that just as I tell people infertility will always be a part of me, I need to own it. It’s a cause about which I care deeply and personally, and I’m ready to get involved in some advocacy efforts. There are a few local options that I am looking into, so hopefully there will be more to come.
Hands down, the best session I attended was on blog design co-presented by North Carolina’s own Melissa Culbertson, Brittany Vanderlinden and Laurie Smithwick. You may or may not have noticed that my blog lacks design and while I love to think that my writing is compelling enough to make up for that oversight, I know that’s not true. Their two-hour session was full of great info, and I think it pushed me over the edge to do something with this space. I’ve been stuck in a vicious cycle that goes something like this: I want my own domain (I actually own keanne.com but haven’t done anything with it) but if I move to my own domain and self-host my blog, will I need to come up with a new blog name and re-brand myself? And if so, what should it be? And then I sort of throw up because I’m talking about branding myself and that is so absurd. And repeat. Hmm. Maybe it comes back to that personal confidence I wrote about earlier.
So yeah, Type -A Parent Conference was great, and it was a perfect first bloggy conference. I highly recommend it. I returned with an overflowing brain and full of inspiration. Thanks to the hysterical Cindy for thinking I’m occasionally funny even though I’m not 46 like she thought. Angie, it was great to meet a fellow former English major! Jessica, I’ll be emailing you to schedule a play date for our boys soon! Tanis, I enjoyed our geopolitical discussion on Canadian – US relations and I’m sorry for my epic coffee breath when we met. Tonja, thanks for participating gamely in our inappropriate table talk. And thanks to the always awesome Fadra for being a friendly face when I needed one.