Working a Work Conference (Part 1)

I’m terrified — and it’s not for the reasons you may think.

I am going to my first you’re-going-as-an-employee-not-an-intern conference tomorrow, where I will be speaking in front of nearly 200 people about what it is to be a social media professional. Strangely, it’s not the presentation that’s freaking me out, but everything else about the conference.

I have worked at my current position for just under three months, and am still relatively unknown across the international company. There’s someone doing the social media and writing these newsletters, but no one really knows who. That’s the whole point of me going to this big girl conference: to meet people.

It isn’t really a secret that I’m a shy person. I am a proud introvert. So the idea of going to a conference where I don’t know anyone for a few days is just nauseating.

Like, how do you in a totally non-creepy way approach someone and be like “Um. Hi. I don’t know anyone here. Who are you?”

I’d feel 80,000x more comfortable if I knew one person who could introduce me to people. I’d feel 80,000x more comfortable if I was on a somewhat first-name basis with any one of them. While I’ve emailed many people at my new job, I haven’t had the opportunity to meet many face to face. How am I supposed to find the ones I sort of know mingling in with the crowd?

Some research says I should look for how people are standing. Find open groups of people and enter in. Which sounds great, but THEN WHAT? Dilemma: How do you just enter into a conversation of people uninvited?

Probably my main course of action will be to remember that there will be others there in the same boat, attending the conference for the first time. Then again, a lot of people who work here are ones who have been here for years. It’s intimidating to be the new kid in the crowd and it’ll be difficult not to be the most awkward one in the room.

Don’t be a wallflower. Don’t be a wallflower. Don’t be a wallflower. This website gives good advice: “others might assume you’re not worth getting to know if you’re not putting forth effort [by being a wallflower].”

There will be cocktail hour, thank goodness, which I hope will help some.

Maybe they’ll approach me, or I’ll find some stroke of underlying confidence that’ll carry me through.

Or maybe (probably) it won’t be as bad as my over-anxious brain is making me think. After all, I made it through my first days of high school, college and several jobs without knowing anyone and I made it out alive, right?

But, for the sake of relieving some of these worries, do you have any advice? What is the best way to break the ice in these types of settings?

Lauren is a social media professional/web content manager/overall awesome editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.
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6 thoughts on “Working a Work Conference (Part 1)

  1. Excuse me, but is this being written by the woman who single-handedly spoke on behalf of an award-winning literary magazine, at a conference of 10,000 crazy and famous writers? For three days? Here’s my advice: try to remind yourself that several people were massively impressed by your calm, your eloquence, and your grace in interacting with strangers at a conference once before. And remember to breath.

    • Fair point, Laura. 🙂 There was something comforting about having you and the rest of the 4G crew there with me and behind my back (literally and figuratively). BUT! I have survived this conference, and if I may toot my own horn, did pretty good! Got some pretty good comments on my presentation and actually, surprisingly, had a little bit of fun, too.

      • I am not at all surprised! You are — despite what you feel inside or ahead of time — exceptionally polished and talented at this. I just want to give you that bit of reality check. If you saw a video of yourself, I hope you’d see what I see.

  2. I’ve suffered from the same anxiety about meeting people at conferences where I don’t know anyone. There will be extroverts who will make conversation with you. Just gravitate towards the gregarious people!

  3. Pingback: Working a Work Conference (Part 2) | Grammar. Style. Life.

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