with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
If you’ve been around the female blogosphere this week you’ve likely noticed that there are a lot of posts about next week’s BlogHer conference. How to prepare mentally. What to wear. What to bring. Which parties to attend. And the angst; lord, the angst over it all. I feel like someone put me in a time machine and plunked me back down in my dorm room, circa 1989, when most of my fellow freshmen were freaking out about sorority rush.
Does the world need another “Stop freaking out about BlogHer!” post? Probably not.
Am I going to write one anyway? Why yes. Yes, I am.
Because, seriously, the level of freak-out I see happening around me is just making me sad for y’all. When I read these angst-laden posts, I wonder why people are even going, if they’re that anxious about it. So. Stop! Breathe! And then read this.
I’ve written about going to BlogHer before, and the truth is that I’ve always been very pleased to attend BlogHer Business and feel like it’s an immeasurable value-add to my career as a freelance writer and blogger. I’ve only been to the main BlogHer conference once, prior to this year, and I could’ve happily attended the business conference alone for years to come. But this year, they’ve combined the two events; BlogHer Business happens next Thursday, then the main conference Friday and Saturday. So this year I’m attending both, even though this will be the biggest BlogHer ever and I’m not really into huge crowds of people.
If you want some very practical tips about attending this conference, I refer you to wiser women than myself: Both Motherhood Uncensored and CityMama have offered up some great points in terms of preparing for and surviving a big conference like this. I just have a few things I feel compelled to add.
Don’t like Mean Girls? Don’t be one. For better or for worse, justified or not, women bear the reputation of getting all catty on one another whenever three or more gather. Fear it? Don’t like it? Don’t play it. Do not snark on your fellow conference attendees. It will get back to them. Act your age and take the high road. It’s never going to be the case that everyone likes everyone and approves 100% of everybody else’s choices. This is called life and your mother had a point when she counseled you to remain silent if you didn’t have anything nice to say. [I speak from experience. In my younger, greener days I've been both snarker and victim. Both were unpleasant. I learned my lesson, and now if I don't like you, I'll just be polite and keep that to myself.]
Don’t assume everyone operates the way you do. It seems like the assumption is that anyone who blogs about her life on the internet must be a classic extrovert and totally comfortable hanging out with a thousand other people. I hear talk every year about people wondering how all of the competition for “center stage” will shake out, and then a second contingent of introverts whimpering that they’ll be overwhelmed. Guess what! With over a thousand people, you’re going to have some extroverts, some introverts, and some inbetween. Embrace your tolerance levels (that means feel free to go hide/recharge if you need to, or boogie all night if that suits) and be tolerant of others’ as well. I’m a fairly social and outgoing person, but I’m not the extrovert I once was. Crowds sap me of energy. I cannot maintain three conversations at a time, and sometimes I just need to check out of the activity and be still for a while. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you or that I’m snubbing anyone. It means I’m taking care of me. Never assume a person’s motives in a setting like this; it’s overwhelming for nearly everyone.
Know your goals before you go (and don’t assume everyone shares them). I am still headed to this conference with the primary goal of business networking, even though I’m going to both the business conference and the main conference. What that means to me may not be the same as what it means to you, and if you’re just there to hang out and party, that’s fine. I promise not to judge you if you promise not to judge me when I’m not flinging off my jacket and rocking out at karaoke, mmkay? That said…
… drunkenness isn’t attractive on anyone. I do try really hard to keep the judgy-ness to a minimum, but I can’t help adding this. I am astounded every single year at the number of people who feel comfortable getting completely smashed in an unfamiliar place with people they barely know. Personally—if I’m going to be judgy about it—I find it horrifying and unprofessional, yeah. But on a basic safety level I also find it kind of frightening. Please be careful. If you’re going to drink to excess, make sure you’re safe—be with people you know, either in the locale where you’re staying or somewhere it’s easy to get back from. No, I’m not your mom. I just worry.
Dress to your goals. There are tons of posts about there about what to wear to BlogHer. Tons. Our own Susan Wagner is counseling folks on what to wear to meet Tim Gunn, and countless others are advising peers to dress up! Dress down! Dress funky! Look; I agree with everyone who says you should be comfortable and wear clothes that fit you well. That’s important. I also think you need to consider what you’re hoping to accomplish. I will wear slightly dressier clothing to BlogHer Business than I’ll wear to the main conference, simply because I believe in the adage about dressing for the job you want. I’m hoping to meet potential business partners and I want to look professional. And the reality is that even for the rest of the conference I’ll dress better than I do here at home, simply because I want to present myself well and because I have a closet full of clothes I don’t get to wear that often. But if you’re just going to hang out? Wear what you like. Seriously. You will see everything from business suits to denim cut-offs, and that’s fine.
Don’t forget to have fun. While I’m a huge proponent of goals and productivity, I don’t think it has to be your entire experience. I’ve met lovely people at conferences with whom I will never forge a business relationship, and I’m still delighted to know them. There will be people who will size you up and decide you’re not “important” enough to be worthy of their time, and then leave you in the dust. That’s just plain obnoxious and rude. Don’t take it to heart; it says nothing about you, and volumes about them. Do take the time to relax and enjoy and meet some folks you wouldn’t otherwise know. It will make the whole experience richer.
If you’re headed to Chicago next week, I hope you’ll find me and say hi!
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