For many of us who have attended blogging and social media conferences in the past, each event is like a cherished reunion. It’s a chance to reconnect with friends who we only see a few times a year. We share experiences, make plans, and act silly. For those who are newer to conferences, there’s a lot more anxiety about who you’ll know, who you’ll have lunch with and how you’ll find your place in a sea of new faces. I got an important reminder at Blissdom to stay open to the possibilities and be careful not to miss out by being too focused on the comfortable and familiar.
On the last night of Blissdom, I was tired and a bit cranky. It hadn’t been the best of days and I was battling a cold. I sat down in the hallway with my roommate and was venting about a negative encounter I had experienced. Out of the blue, a woman walking by commented, “Whenever I see two people tucked away in a corner, I assume they must be talking about something important.”
Startled, I glanced up. “Not really,” I replied somewhat apologetically, before I turned back to my friend. I was caught up in the moment and not really open to involving someone new.
Later, several other friends joined our little group and sat talking, this time about lighter subjects. I noticed the same woman standing nearby watching. Since I wasn’t feeling quite as wrapped up in myself, it dawned on me that she looked a little lost. I invited her to join us and she did.
As it turns out, the woman watching was Wendy Scherer, one of the closing keynote speakers and a fascinating person in her own right. She is someone I follow on Twitter and have some common interests with. I felt bad, in retrospect, that I hadn’t invited her to join us the first time she walked by since I know how hard it can be to join a pre-existing group. Then again, sometimes you just need a few moments to recharge with the people you know! I’m glad Wendy didn’t give up on us after her first try and I’m thankful to have met her and to have the reminder to keep my mind open.
The following week, I attended the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in Orlando. While I knew a few people in attendance, I had to make more of an effort to find familiar faces. On more than one occasion, I found myself trying to sit at a table with all of the seats reserved. It reminded of me of my Blissdom encounter and made me wonder what interesting people I was missing out on and who was missing out on getting to know me.
This experience is one I’ll take with me as I attend future events. I typically make an effort to include new people at lunches and gatherings, both for their benefit and my own. But now I find myself more consciously seeking out new faces, introducing new friends and trying to keep myself open to experiences that might fall on the fringes of my comfort zone. It would have been a shame to have missed the opportunity to get to know Wendy a bit better, and I know there will be many more amazing friendships in my future if I’m willing to allow them in.