5 10/25/2012 life Work & Career

It’s not you Blissdom, it’s me

I attended Blissdom 2012 last weekend, a social media conference targeted at women. There were approximately 500 women and 5-10 men in attendance, a ratio I was comfortable with initially (bawdy mental high fives and all), but in practicality it was a bit overwhelming.

This conference does wonders for connecting women across Canada and establishing and growing a community of like minded individuals. These are bloggers, mad tweeters, entrepreneurs, professional writers of all topics and, according to a fascinating presentation from Susan Cain, the majority of them are introverts.  Including me.

I will leave you alone to guffaw now.

Unlike some of the other male bloggers at the conference, I hung around the edges. I was initially reluctant to attend because of my general anxiety about large groups of people and because somewhere deep within the confines of my tortured high school soul, I felt like I was crashing a party. Or at least succumbing to the ironic “Oh I guess you can come” kind of invite.

Now this is all in my head, because both the reason for me being there, thank you Jen and UrbanMoms, and the small group of long time writers that I have met in various incarnations were perfectly delightful with their bear hugs and reluctant cheek kisses.

And it’s not like I hid behind a theatre curtain, white sneaker toes peaking out, trying to eavesdrop on all the earthy conversations.  I participated in the micro sessions, offering a candid view through my own blogging lens. I smiled at the oncoming traffic, said hello in breakfast lines, offered pens when no pens were found, eye smiled and giggled as Jian Ghomeshi spoke, metaphorically removing panties with his creamy voice and completely self deprecating charm. I joked with the lentil sponsors, watched a Starbucks demonstration, ate 70’s style Kraft foods, chugged free wine, blindly reached out to pointy faced women with great laughs, hoop earrings and solid marketing ideas. And I tweeted my location and highlights from the wonderful speakers.  So, I was there, big boy pants and all.

But for whatever reason, my meekness, my maleness, my unintended malevolence, I did not feel connected to this crowd.  The edges encompassed me and I hung there, cradled in the comfort of my own self. Except the two times I snuck downstairs to have a bowl of soup and a Guinness at the hotel local and chatted with, get this, tourists.

I do not underestimate the value of this conference. After reading the post Blissdom posts from all the women across the country, I was blown away by the impact this weekend has, and how many great writers there are out there.

Perhaps its envy, I don’t know.

I do know that I met a few really nice people, saw people I liked in the past and will continue to like in the future and hung out with my UrbanMoms crew, one I had not seen in a long time and others I met for the first time. All meetings were almost worth the pangs of isolation I felt along the way.

So what did I learn?

I learned that I need to blog more about me and not worry about the audience so much.  If I offend, I apologize. But my writing has been a bit milquetoast lately and I want to change that.  If it gets too much, I will move it back over here.

I learned I need to write more and more and more and more.

I learned that publishing a book can be easy, but it can be really difficult to sell it.

book publishing.jpgI learned that maybe big crowds are just not my style.

I learned that trying to fake being an extrovert may not be too good for soul.

I learned that Michael Smith is one tall drink of water.

And I learned that an old friend’s wife, Ami Mckay, is one great story teller.

And maybe, just maybe my time to write is now.


Jen setting up the SheBlogs table on the Friday night.

jen sheblogs.jpg

  • Sara

    Whoa how did I miss this?? Didn’t hit the conference…just the wine party – with you – which was SO awesome! Even more awesome than my free pillow…(which I really loved)… And I think your feelings (as everyone is saying here) is so similar to many who attend.

  • Alice

    I find conferences intimidating, too, even when it’s among “my poeple” (the library conferences). Big crowds, not a natural networker, full-scale introvert, yeah. And to be honest, I find the “domestic” focus in the title doesn’t speak to me, either. That said, the one time I attended a blogging conference, I did have a great time, and I would have seen you at the UrbanMoms party, had I not been enjoying my first weekend away in a very, very long time.

  • Jen

    It’s funny, Jason, except for the “being a guy” part I feel that I could have written this. Could it have to do with expectations? Of ourselves? Of the conference? Of others? I don’t know. But, despite getting something out of it and in my head knowing that I am, by circumstance, a part of this crowd, I too felt on the fringe. What I realized after doing this for 3 years is that it must be me. The most comfortable I felt was hanging with a smaller group at the cocktail party after. Maybe some of us are just not able to feel that closeness and connection in a large crowd?
    Anyway, don’t be fooled. I think many people feel the way you do. Plus, I don’t think many people would have guessed that you felt that way. I was in awe of your openness and participation.
    I am glad to hear that you are planning to write more openly and be less concerned about the audience and more focused on your own voice. I look forward to reading.

  • mrswilson

    I met you briefly at the Microsoft party, and it was a pleasure. I have a social phobia, and I shy away from talking very long to people not because they are male or female, but because I am terrified I will either have nothing to say or I will put my foot in my mouth.
    I thought it was great to have more guys there this year. I really did.

  • http://www.karengreen.ca karengreeners

    I’m glad you went, and fwiw, I think that your feelings were less about being a guy and more about being a newbie at a conference, which, like you said, maybe just isn’t your bag. And it’s not just a conference, it’s a social outing, so yeah, there can be some anxiety/trauma/discomfort.
    But in the end, the takeaway is what matters, and it sounds like you got some of what you need. And it was great to see you IRL.

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