5 Notes to Self for Coping with Conference Anxiety

by diannejacob on May 24, 2011

Remember the cool kids at school? I was not one, and that sometimes comes back to me at conferences.

As soon as we sat down, tears streamed down her face. At the last event of Blogher Food 2011 Saturday night, the 40-year old, successful food blogger had asked if we could talk privately. We found a room upstairs, away from the throbbing dance party music.

“Some of the women at the conference are so mean,” she said, wiping away tears. She had met them before, yet they walked right by her without acknowledging her. Feeling overwhelmed, she said she’d rather be home gardening, or spending time with her children.

“It happened to me too,” I said. I was talking to a Famous Person when another Famous Person came up and discussed who they were inviting to dinner. Right in front of me.

And just like that, we were two high schoolers again. We desperately wanted to be adored, part of the in crowd and part of the cliques that gather. We wanted the cool people to notice us. We wanted to be cool too.

Feeling bad about her state of distress, I said most of the people at the conference felt the way she did (resisting adding “aside from a few clueless rude people.”) We’re all in a stressful situation, even though we’re thrilled to be there. That’s why we gather. According to the BlogHer Food folks, the number one reason attendees come is for the “community.”

But we don’t know all these people, and we’re not used to gathering like this. Who’s used to spending 15 hours a day or more with 500 people you hardly know? Who’s used to other people evaluating whether you’re worth sitting next to, talking to, rooming with, or inviting to a private event? It’s easy to get annoyed.

Even though I’ve attended writing and culinary conferences for more than 10 years (see liveblog of my session on recipe etiquette at BlogHer Food), I can’t always escape the anxiety that accompanies them. I love it when people tell me how much my book meant to them, but I don’t always know what to say after that. I get tongue-tied when speaking to Famous People. I spend a lot of time with friends and people I want to know, because it’s easier or more strategic than being with people who want to know me.

So before I get into coping mechanisms, I want to apologize. I probably snubbed people at BlogHer Food too. Please forgive me if I did not spend enough time with you or appeared to blow you off. I did not mean to.

And for the next conference (see you at IACP in Austin next week?), these are my strategies:

1. Don’t take it personally. It’s rarely All About Me. So the next time someone appears to snub me, I will  consider whether I imagined it, because sensitive people are prone to thoughts like that, and I need a thicker skin.

I will keep my social circle open and diverse, and not take cliques personally.  Here is why cliques form, from a site meant for teens.

2. Take time off. I’ll retreat to my room or go outside for some quiet time when I feel overwhelmed or tired. There’s no need to maximize every minute by being with other people. Time off will be more useful and positive than bitching about other attendees, as I just did above.

3. Focus on the positive. I will focus my energy on what’s working:

  • How lucky I am to be at a conference where I get to meet people I admire and learn
  • The pleasure of meeting people who read this blog or have read my book
  • The unexpected joy of hitting it off with someone I just met
  • How much I enjoy being with people in the same field.

4. Stop comparing. Someone is always going to have a better book deal, more readers, more speaking opportunities, more ad revenue, nicer clothes, more prestigious freelancing gigs, better writing skills, and more hangers-on. I’ll never win, playing that game.

5. Get some perspective. I return from conferences inspired about new projects, leads, and ideas. I meet lots of fascinating people and learn from them. Then I come home to my husband, friends and family, and to my work, and I’m grateful to get back to it all.

Photo courtesy of Photostock

{ 66 comments }

Susan @ SGCC May 25, 2011 at 10:31 am

Thank you so much for writing this, Dianne! I think you said what many of us wanted to say, but didn’t feel comfortable about doing so. I read this post last night and it struck such a nerve that I had to wait until today to comment.

My heart broke for that blogger you referred to above. I know just how she felt. This was my third BHF, and the first that my closest few blogging buddies did not attend. I had a fabulous time at the first two conferences. I just assumed that things would be the same in Atlanta. I didn’t worry about making dinner plans, etc. in advance because I assumed I would hook up with people once I got there, as I had before. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

I too experienced several snubs and slights – even from some that I had met before and others that I enjoyed a healthy FB and Twitter relationship with. After the sessions on both Friday and Saturday evenings, I was in conversation with “friends”, when in mid-sentence they announced that they had dinner plans and just left me standing there. On one occasion, I was having a lovely time chatting with someone when one of the “Famous Persons” came up to her and dragged her off to make dinner plans. The funny thing is, that this particular blogger is someone that I’ve known personally for several years, yet she totally blew me off. I didn’t expect to be included in everyone else’s plans, but I felt that some of these people were downright rude. On both Thursday and Friday nights, I ended up having dinner from room service alone in my room. Thank heaven a lovely group of ladies took pity on me and invited me out with them on Saturday night!

I’ll admit that I am probably taking this too personally. I mean, no one actually spat in my face! In retrospect, I probably should have made concrete plans with people ahead of time. But, I found the clique quotient at this conference to be really high. Like many of the other commenters, I feel insecure in conference settings and am not comfortable insinuating myself where I haven’t been invited. I’m an established blogger with a pretty wide readership, and I felt completely insignificant. I can only imagine how the newbies felt!

I don’t think that most of these bloggers meant to be thoughtless. They were just caught up in having a good time. But, I hope that reading posts like yours will make people a little more sensitive to others’ feelings and reach out more at future events. As for me, I’ll never go to another conference without having every minute of my time scheduled in advance!

Now, I’ll exit the pity party and get back to my life. Thanks, again!

diannejacob May 25, 2011 at 10:36 am

Oh gosh, I hope this whole post doesn’t end up being some kind of pity party. I know what you mean about these events, and I’m sorry that you ended up eating dinner in your room, but all I can say is that things aren’t always what they seem, and yes, you took it too personally. But on the other hand, anxiety is high and we all have a hard time doing the right thing at the right time. I’m not good at inviting myself either.

I am always trying to make sure I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. I am not sure what more I can do. Sometimes people just take it the wrong way. I know this because I do it too. We all need to just step back and take a deep breath!

Rebekah May 25, 2011 at 10:51 am

Dianne, what a great post. I can only say that one great antidote to such stress, for those who have the option, is to accept your mom’s suggestion to join you at a conference, as I did last year. It has its drawbacks, but you will never doubt that someone finds you interesting and fabulous! (Although I met some wonderful people at IACP — talking to you, Sarah Henry and Cheryl Sternman Rule and others who I do not mean to be snubbing), I also will always treasure having had some quality time with my mom, a rarity these days.

diannejacob May 25, 2011 at 12:03 pm

That is hilarious to me — taking your mom to a conference. I hope she wasn’t bored out of her mind. It takes a special kind of person to hang out with all of us.

Allison Fishman May 25, 2011 at 11:02 am

Well put, Diane. Needed to be said. Thank you. And for the record, I was a bit too intimidated at BlogHer food to let you know I have a dog-eared highlighted copy of your book, and refer to it all the time. It colors my thinking and helps me every day Sort of sad that I was too intimidated to give you this compliment, but here it is. Next time I see you, I will say hello.

diannejacob May 25, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Ooh, I love to hear stuff like that! Thank you so much, Allison. And yes, I hope you will be less intimidated next time.

Stephanie - Wasabimon May 25, 2011 at 11:56 am

122 comments?! Apparently you hit on a hot topic!

There was one point where a few of us were sitting at a table for lunch and someone walked by and made a comment that “There was no room for them at the cool kids table.” I remember hearing that and thinking, “What? We’re the cool kids? Really? By what comparison?” But then I remembered my first food conference where I didn’t know anyone, and I thought back to how it felt to see what appeared to be so many people who knew each other already, and I was just another nameless face in the crowd. It was hard to swallow.

In the end I just ended up talking to people and got to know them, which is how I’m wired anyways, so it comes easily to me. In the end, maybe the only way to work around this is issue is to get over the social anxiety of being stuck in a room with a bunch of people you don’t know and just talk to folks until you meet those you click with (or clique with? ;). Just like in love, not everyone you meet is going to be your BFF, right?

Also, I was bummed that I didn’t see much of you this weekend when I usually see you all around. As these events get bigger and less intimate, it gets harder to connect, even with the people you know and love. I guess that’s the tradeoff on going from three hundred people to five or six hundred.

diannejacob May 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Yes, I’m surprised by how people are pouring their hearts out in the comments. It’s lovely, really.

You have formed some deep friendships with people you’ve met at blogging conferences, so it’s working for you. Re the comment on the cool kids’ table, that was kind of nasty. You could have sweetly invited that person to join you, I guess. Always easy to say what to do in hindsight.

Sorry to not have seen you much either. Fortunately, we live in the same town. Although it seems like I see local people more often at these big events, which makes no sense.

Jeanne May 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Terrific post, Dianne! And I agree with many of the sentiments in the comments. Snubbing doesn’t feel good, regardless of the fact that it is not about the snub-ee and more about the snub-er. (lol). I think it’s basically true that folks tend to gravitate towards folks they know. Same with the Famous People. I always try to be open to anyone I meet at a conference. I have to say that I’ve met some fab people at conferences that I have kept in contact with. If you’re not open to new people, I think you miss a lot of what these conferences can offer.

diannejacob May 25, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Agreed, Jeanne. And half of the people at this conference were new, so maybe that has something to do with it. Not sure if any of them are readers of this blog, but it must be hard to come to a conference where you hardly know anyone. I’ve been there.

Jeanne May 25, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Yes, so true Dianne! I think it is kind of my duty as someone who’s been to conferences to help welcome newbies. It’s horrible to feel left out. (this is coming from my former incarnation as a university orientation director). 🙂

Andrew @ Eating Rules May 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I find it deeply distressing that “being snubbed” is the topic of so much post-conference discussion. Not that snubbing doesn’t happen, and not that we shouldn’t be talking about it, but I wonder how much of this is real, how much is perceived, and how much is simply a function of the craziness of 500 of us in a room for far too little time?

Considering how incredibly gracious, considerate, and welcoming most of the food bloggers I’ve met are, I’m guessing it’s mostly the latter.

I think I may have been seated at the “cool kids” table, or at least one of them, which for me is rather mind-blowing. (Guess I’m a late bloomer — high school totally sucked, and really, I’m still so totally un-cool.) But just because there’s a group of friends filling a table, doesn’t mean that they don’t want others to join them. Hell, I’d have one giant table of everyone together if we could!

Perhaps it’s simply a function of having so many AMAZING people in one place. I try my damndest to be outgoing, friendly, and approachable — and to meet and engage with as many people as possible. As a result, I find myself bouncing from conversation to conversation like an amped-up, scatterbrained maniac. I’m so excited to see and meet everyone — truly — and I don’t want to miss a single interaction. (All the while, I’m trying to keep up on the twitter feed, too!) Sadly, with so little time, it’s simply impossible.

Every time I read a mention of someone’s being snubbed, I pause in horror and think, “Oh my god, I hope they’re not referring to me!” (Dianne, I’m pretty sure you’re not, since I do believe hip-bumping on the dance floor counts as a “meaningful interaction.” Ahem.)

On both Thursday and Friday evenings, I ended up being the dinner ringleader for a group of about 15 or 20. I wanted to include everyone at each of those meals, but that’s simply not possible, of course. So we have to whittle it down to a smaller group. Inevitably people will not be included. When I was trying to pull these groups together (and Friday, in particular, was quite impromptu), I did my best to keep it quiet, precisely because I didn’t want to be “that guy” snubbing others. I think I was mostly successful, but we’re all in such close proximity that perhaps I invited someone in front of someone else, and unintentionally hurt that someone else’s feelings.

If anyone felt like I snubbed them, I sincerely apologize. Please let me know, and rest assured it was most certainly not intentional or personal.

I’ll take you out to dinner next time, promise.

diannejacob May 25, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Andrew, this is interesting to me, because you are having the same response, in the beginning, as another male blogger did. So I don’t know if this is a coincidence or trend. I need more male bloggers to weigh in!

You sound like a sweetheart. How could anyone feel snubbed by you?

Thank you so much for mentioning that we hip bumped on the dance floor. I hope no one was recording it.

Gina Melton July 31, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Hi Dianne, Andrew IS a sweetheart- I had a chance to meet him at Camp Blogaway earlier this year! It was my first blogger conference and I had SERIOUS social anxiety about going since I’ve never really been a “joiner.” Your post is great for my perspective as I start to plan which conferences I will travel to in 2012. Any suggestions?

diannejacob August 1, 2011 at 7:33 am

Thanks Gina. Since I speak at many of the conferences, I can’t tell you one is better than the other. I’m always excited to get to a city I adore and hang out with the people attending the conference. Sometimes that is more satisfying than the sessions!

David May 26, 2011 at 12:09 am

I have to agree with Andrew. It’s just simply not possible to meet everyone and do everything you want to in just two (very, very hectic) days. Andrew is the perfect example of this – we were on a crowded elevator together and when we got off, we introduced ourselves to each other (which I think he initiated…), said hi, and then went off to do other things. I didn’t feel slighted that he had other stuff to do. As someone noted by another commenter, with this many people together in a conference, you’d have to meet 16 people an hour to meet everyone there. I thought it was a pretty great conference and met a ton of people, and made plenty of new friends and saw some old ones. (And I don’t mean “old” as in age!)

And Andrew, I might just say I feel snubbed to get that dinner with you… : )

(And honestly, in response to that person who said that Stephanie @ Wasabimon was at the “cool kids table”, anyone who knows Stephanie should know that she’s nice, open, and as friendly as can be. It’s too bad that person didn’t take the initiative to simply ask if the vacant seat was available – and to just sit down and meet some new people. That’s what conferences like this are all about.)

diannejacob May 26, 2011 at 9:08 am

Thanks David. Not enough men are commenting here, so I’m happy to read your perspective.

I also thought it was a pretty great conference too. I have a 3-inch high stack of cards on my desk as proof of meeting new people.

The first time I went to one of these things, I sat with the cool kids because I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know who they were in any details, and I thought I could keep up. Now that know who they are, it’s more intimidating. Silly, I know. And I also feel cooler if a cool kid speaks to me. Also silly. But I’m human, and at age 55, still working on it.

p.s. How come you agreed with a guy, with all the women posting here? Are you saying men are different from women about all this?

I loved your post. Still thinking about how you hauled back the tinfoil and collards for a friend. Fascinating!

Lana May 26, 2011 at 9:40 am

I have to jump in and confirm that Andrew is one of the nicest, kindest, and funniest people out there. I am afraid that a lot of us relied too much on his organizational skills, that going back to reality became a rude awakening:)
Food blogging world is dominated by women, and the male minority is, I think, cherished by all of us (“I will name him George, and I will hug him, and pet him, and squeeze him…”)

Susan @ SGCC May 26, 2011 at 10:42 am

Andrew – You were one of the nicest people I met at BHF! I can’t imagine you ever snubbing anyone. I look forward to meeting you again.

aida mollenkamp May 25, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Great post, Dianne. Looking forward to seeing you in Austin next week!

diannejacob May 25, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Thanks Aida. I hope even a hotshot like you can relate. See you next week!

Amanda May 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I wonder how much of this is a “girl” thing? Exclusion and isolation are the classic girls tools for bullying at school and perhaps we are just a bit sensitive to that sort of behaviour. As a mother of both a son and daughters I’ve watched my daughter utterly lacerated by behaviour from other girls that my son would be completely oblivious to. For most of us, being thrown into a room with hundreds of people we don’t know can be very intimidating and, if we are there without any of our own friends and are not feeling very confident or brave, it doesn’t take much to start feeling left out.
These 5 points are an excellent way to keep ourselves from becoming overly sensitive in any situation – thanks.

diannejacob May 26, 2011 at 8:54 am

I was wondering that myself, Amanda. I would like to think it’s not. But I agree, conference-going is a stressful activity, and those of us who are shy, insecure, introverted types need some help.

elwyn May 25, 2011 at 9:20 pm

What a culturally fascinating topic this was for me! The apparent need for personal affirmation, a heightened fear of rejection, acknowledgment and warm fuzzy feelings seems to be at the fore of many of the comments. We have all been involved with large groups where some people network extensively and work the room, others look at the occasion to re-connect with known friends and others take the opportunity to meet new people. On approach, some people may rebuff your overtures but perhaps the reasons were not as personal as perceived. Some people will like you, some will not – move on and retain your integrity.

Since this was a bloggers’ conference, surely the blogs speak for themselves. We may appreciate a writer’s work on a given topic, that does not mean if we met the author they would automatically like us or us them.

Mature acceptance of group dynamics would be a recipe to follow

diannejacob May 26, 2011 at 8:55 am

Mature acceptance of group dynamics. I love that. Would have made a strange headline, but something we can all work towards.

Jayne Georgette May 25, 2011 at 11:13 pm

WOW! I cannot believe I read every single comment on this post. I am way behind with my post due to health problems and here I am spending precious hours on reading comments. But you’ll be delighted to know that I loved every moment of it.

Although, most of the comments are one and the same – you all had the same experience, the same fears and came up with nearly the same conclusion, but there was something different enough in each of the comments that kept my interest in continuing reading, One of the reason is because I read it with a mind set of: “going down the memory lane”. Although I am yet to attend a “foodie” conference as a newbie food blogger, I have attended enough symposiums in my old profession (and that is not what you are thinking), so that I can certainly relate to these situations, as well.

Of course you could not meet many people in a conference of this size. Think about this way: you came to attend the educational sessions for three days; you had about 30 hours total (10 hours/day), including for attending social events and meet 500 new friends. You would need to meet 16.666 people/hour to complete this task. This would be an impossible task, even for the people that are preparing to run in the 2012 election against Obama (well, may be Schwarzenegger could do it)

All I can add here is that people do not go to conferences to make friends. You go to a conference to get yourself updated about your business, or profession. You want to review who are the presenters of workshops because those are the ones you hope will deliver what you are seeking to gain from the meeting. In summary, you want to know what is new and what you can do better like Flavia said ..” just want to get better at cooking, baking, writing and photography”.. And Flavia you are welcome to visit my blog as often as you wish, because I love to teach, and I am equally positive that I will learn from your site – because most successful people will tell you that learning is a life-long process. If so happen that you will meet new friends, or old friends you have not seen for a while, or lucky enough to sit next to someone that he/she is great at breaking the ice, consider it a bonus.

My concern after reading these comments is that you actually just reinforced my long time fear and obsession about age. All this talk about high school comparisons lets me believe that I was right all along in my conversation with someone – that most of you are between pampers and pimples and I would feel as if I was dropped into an uncomfortable time machine, where someone just greeted me as Professor Emeritus.

I must admit, however, that I also gained a lot by reading all the comments. I gained a large list of fellow food bloggers (without spending hours on the Internet to find you) and hopefully new friends, that will not be surprised to read my comments on their blogs daily (as instructed by my mentor, Dianne Jacob, to do); and please remember to reciprocate, because I know who you all are.

I better stop blabbering here before I will be black listed; although I am still trying to figure out what Lana meant in her comment…”several times I tried to gather courage and approach you during Saturday party, especially when the DJ played the 80s music…. Is that means that Dianne is getting near to my group of Depend people?

And just one last thing (and please do not bite my head off, I do not mean it in a bad way), but writers, please remember that any abbreviation used in an article, during the first time use you need to spell it out (I had to spend time to look up IFBS, IACP, FBC and EVO).

And Dianne, …..How come you never offered to sign my copy? And you are wrong about thinking that a meeting with 12 people is easier to navigate as compared to a conference with 500 food bloggers – there is nowhere to hide.

diannejacob May 26, 2011 at 9:02 am

Dear Jayne, I’m delighted that you read every single comment. I always say the comments, not the posts, are the best part of my blog.

I think we need some perspective here – although it’s hard to navigate these conferences, we still have a good time. I have met people who have become close friends as a result, so I don’t agree that it’s impossible to get to know people. After IACP I’ll stay with a friend I met through IACP, and when I get home, someone I met at IACP will visit with her husband. Those are solid friendships.

Re not signing your copy, I’m pretty sure you’re kidding.

bunkycooks May 26, 2011 at 8:56 am

Hi Dianne,

I enjoyed reading this and found it very well stated. BTW, I did meet you briefly and you were gracious. 🙂 I felt much of this “attitude” at the party Thursday night and almost did not go to the conference on Friday. It got better, but I still felt there were all sorts of special events going on for certain people behind the scenes and it does make you feel uncomfortable.

I worked with Jaden and Diane last year to bring Food Blog Forum to Atlanta and found that to be a much better venue where we all were together and had a real sense of community.

I must admit that I came away from BlogHer Food less inspired rather than more inspired to write, cook and do what I enjoy doing. It has taken me a few days to come out of the “funk” and recover. I think that says something pretty powerful.

Gwen

diannejacob May 26, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Well, that’s a relief, Gwen! Thanks for saying so.

Shorter events with fewer people are easier to manage, I think. And it does take a while to recover from these things. I am just now not feeling exhausted, and have a few days to get my energy back for IACP.

Winnie May 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I need to pipe in and say that Gwen I completely agree that Food Blog Forum was a much better conference! You did a terrific job with the venues and the food and swag were amazing. Especially for the price! Plus it was just way easier to talk to people at all of the FBF events, including Jaden and Dianne and Todd. I am experiencing the exact same funk as you this week. Brought on by the conference being completely uninspiring. It took me until today to get out of it. which I think is pretty sad. I am so glad I did not fly in to go to the Thursday night party- that might have sent me over the edge 😉

diannejacob May 27, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Hey, what Thursday night party? I am so not in the know.

Winnie, these events are different from each other. But why compare? What’s more important to me is to go into each of them trying to be the best person possible, to be grateful for the opportunity, and to do the best I can.

Jamie May 30, 2011 at 6:54 am

I want to jump in here and agree with Gwen. As hostess and speaker at Food Blogger Connect in London, I tried my best to speak with everyone and hoped I snubbed no one. But even with only 100 attendees it wasn’t always easy to sit and speak a long time with everyone and I know that there were people I didn’t even meet. The time for socialization was limited and I did want to spend a bit extra time with bloggers who I had gotten to know quite well through the internet but had never met face to face. I can only imagine how much harder that is with 250 or 500 people attending!!!

diannejacob May 30, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Maybe the size has something to do with it, Jamie. This is the first time they went for 500 attendees at BlogHer Food.

Jun Belen May 26, 2011 at 9:09 am

I vividly remember the time you sat beside me on the bus on the way back to the hotel in IFBC last year. If you don’t remember, I won’t take it against you. LOL. I was feeling quite relieved that nobody had taken the seat next to me. I could use the time away from the maddening estrogen-filled crowd to just enjoy the ride back to the hotel, I thought. But then you came and saw the empty seat next to me and asked if you could take it. I think you remembered my name from lunch when you signed my book. I instantly felt nervous. So nervous and worried. OMG. It’s THE Dianne Jacob. The bus ride would be fifteen minutes, perhaps double that in traffic. What would we talk about? Could we just sit and enjoy fifteen minutes of silence? It had already been an exhausting day for me, Jun the introvert, and all I wanted was some time alone. But you were very nice and started the conversation. We talked about Filipino food, we talked about my dad who passed away, we talked about the Filipinos caring for your brother (or sister, I forget now) who’s sick in Canada and the fried hotdogs they would cook when you visited. There’s more to Filipino food than fried hotdogs, I said emphatically. We said our goodbyes when we finally got to the hotel and then you wished me best of luck with my blog. I will always remember that, Dianne. It was the best moment I had (perhaps, next to my minute-and-forty-second-chat with James Oseland) in my very first food blog conference.

diannejacob May 26, 2011 at 9:14 am

Oh Jun, you are sweet. I remember that talk too, and I enjoyed it so much, even though I was tired too.

I made a point of sitting next to you because I didn’t know you. And look what happened — you came to my class on cookbook writing and we are still in touch. That’s what can come of an empty seat on a bus.

Kelly May 26, 2011 at 9:25 am

I can relate to this on so many levels! I struggled with social anxiety for a long time so I always had mixed feelings when my employer sent me to work conferences. On one hand, I always knew it would be a good chance to learn and catch up with people I had not seen in a long time, but on the other, I definitely worried about situations where I might not know anyone.

I have to say, the more I go to conferences the easier it becomes. I do think it is something where I’ve just had to do it over and over again to find more of a comfort zone. It doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of anxiety, but they are much more managable.

I would also say it helps to remember that there are others out there who are in your same shoes. Sure, there are the ‘cool cliques’ who already know each other, have strong bonds, and hang out together. But there are also a lot of people who are coming alone for the first time and may not know others there. I’ve found it helps to be open to meeting others and to not be afraid to strike up conversation.

I think the comparison game thing is huge for me though. It’s one of those things, better or worse, that I feel is made so much easier (in a bad way) by social media. There are just way too many people to compare yourself too.

diannejacob May 26, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Somebody finally mentioned comparisons! Thanks, Kelly. I feel so uncomfortable when someone asks me what my blog numbers are or how many copies I’ve sold of my book. I know we are all measuring ourselves against each other and it’s the word “against” that bothers me.

About half the people there came for the first time. I’m not sure if any of them commented here, but boy, we’re not exactly giving them a great message about attending more conferences.

Jersey Girl Cooks May 26, 2011 at 11:05 am

Wow! I am sorry you had a totally different feeling and experience than I did. Blogher Food 11 was my first blogging conference ever and I had the best experience possible. I thought the women I met were the most generous warm people! I, by no means have a blog that is well known and I thought the women at the conference were very inviting, friendly, helpful and tried to make everyone feel comfortable.

diannejacob May 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Oh and here we have a new person. Welcome! I was hoping someone who had not been to a conference before would comment.

Please don’t get the impression we’re a bunch of basket cases, Jersey Girl. This is just one part of it that we’re trying to deal with.

brhau May 26, 2011 at 11:16 am

{man post}

Will there be any rude people in a group of 500? In all likelihood, yes. But it’s sad to me that cliques and rejection are the dominant topic of discussion. I consider myself to be a fairly introverted person, and I didn’t know a soul the first BlogHer conference I attended. But you know what? People were, on the whole, incredibly welcoming and friendly to me.

I’ve now been to three large food blog conferences. Did I feel slighted at any point during those events? Maybe. But I feel that shouldn’t be the main takeaway. (1) It’s possible that the “snub” is a misunderstanding. (2) In cases where it’s clearly not… Maybe it stings a bit, but ultimately, my life will be OK if I am not friends with that person.

Bottom line: If you’re comfortable with yourself, then it really shouldn’t matter what some rude person thinks about you. Better to think about the people who DO appreciate you.

diannejacob May 26, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Thanks for another male perspective, Ben. So adult.

Agreed. The fact that we feel insecure is not the main takeaway of BlogHer Food. It is the dirty little secret that everybody talks about. That’s why I thought I’d bring it up.

Ivy Manning May 26, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Thanks for this, Dianne!
Honestly I sit out a lot of conferences because it starts to feel like a high school cafeteria. I’ve been meditating on the way the world is becoming so virtual and so centered around momentary fame and unique page views. I feel sometimes like we’re all sort of trapped in a whirlpool of ego-clinging. So it’s GREAT to read that others are having the same issues at food conferences! Reminds me of that Smith’s song, “How Soon Is Now.”
PS I met you at Greenbrier last year and you were very kind 🙂

diannejacob May 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Thanks Ivy. Good to hear that I was not a jerk.

Maybe some of this is societal, as you suggest, 15 minutes of fame and all that.

Melissa {The Fresh 20} May 27, 2011 at 10:58 am

Diane,

It would seem that nobody is cool and we are all walking around with insecurities leftover from one tragic day, long ago, on the playground. I must formally apologize for all of the assumptions I made about people who I didn’t connect with at the conference. I thought they were mean, turns out they were simply human. I guess we all have something in common. If we remember to take part in the human experience and not the personal experience, maybe we can ALL be friends.

I will be looking for you in Austin!

diannejacob May 27, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Good. I like this realization, and the idea that we can all be friends. Look forward to meeting you next week, Melissa.

cherie mercer twohy May 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm

how timely! just getting myself together for iacp austin, and thinking about all this.
i’ve been to conference several times, and while i always get a lot out of it (or i wouldn’t come back!), this social “strata” aspect frequently rubs me the wrong way.
i come by myself on purpose, because i’m there to learn and interact with new folks, not hang out with my buddies. i smiled to see you suggesting retreating to one’s room for a bit, dianne, as i find i need to do that sometimes. just pop the shoes off, sit and breathe with no chatter for ten minutes, strap the nametag back on and get the elevator speech ready for the descent back down into the maelstrom.
i also leave some evenings free of plans, so that if the pace of the day has been brutal, or the networking a bit overwhelming, i can just duck out for dinner on my own. (i’m not one who mids dining solo, so it can be a nice rest to not have to do the small-talk thing one evening.) otherwise, i may ask someone i’ve met that day if they’d like to join me, or grab a last minute spot on one of the organized dinner events.
thanks for giving me some points to ponder on the plane to austin, diane. see yu there!

diannejacob May 30, 2011 at 11:50 am

It’s brave to come alone, and I’m impressed that you don’t mind dining solo. Taking time off from these things is a healthy response, Cherie. I sometimes feel like I need to maximize every minute I’m there, which is crazy making.

See you in Austin. Thanks for saying hello, Cherie.

Rick Jaworski May 29, 2011 at 8:31 am

Dianne I’m glad you made this posting because it needed to be said. While I did not attend this particular conference I have attended other food blogging conferences, which seemed to be the same as you described. In addition I have attended many other types of conferences over the years so I feel I’m in a position to analyze the differences. Just last week I was at another conference attended by website owners/bloggers of all topics, not just food, and I think I see a trend here. At this conference I observed no such stress or high school behavior that I have observed at the food blogging conferences I have attended. The mix of female to males at this conference last week was about 50/50.

In my view the reason the conference I attended had no high school behavior, compared to the food blogging conference I attended that did, is because of the reasons the majority of the attendees of a conference have for doing their blog/website in the first place. From what I’ve seen people do a blog/website for primarily two reasons. They either do it for the social aspect, to make friends with similar interests or they do it for career/business reasons. I know many people will always say that they are doing it for professional reasons, but when it comes down to it, that’s not really their primary motivation. If they are honest with themselves they will have to admit that the social aspect comes first in many cases. In my opinion that is what drives the high school behavior. The need to belong, to fit in.

At the conference I just attended, all of the attendees were about improving their professional careers/businesses on the net. Everyone has happy to talk to everyone and they were quite open about things. There was no competition, no snubbing, just a free sharing of knowledge. Ironically this seemed to result in more real friendships than the high school behavior I observed at the food blogging conferences I attended.

So my conclusion was from all this was, everyone needs to be honest with themselves why they are blogging. Is it to have a social life, or a career? Because if its the latter, it won’t matter to you if you are snubbed by someone.

Rick Jaworski
Joyofbaking.com

diannejacob May 30, 2011 at 11:53 am

Thanks Rick. At BlogHer the co-founders said the primary reason people come is for the community, so you are dead on. And with community comes all these other desires that we try to push down: being liked, being accepted.

I’m curious to know the name of the conference you attended last week. Maybe we bloggers need to go to that one too.

Rick Jaworski May 30, 2011 at 12:27 pm

The conference I attended last week was the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) Long Tail Alliance annual conference. It is a conference for small online publishers that derive their income from advertising. Held in Washington DC, the first day is a day of sessions which included various speakers including one from Google talking about Panda (their latest search algorithm that has effected a lot of sites) as well as interactive sessions where all publishers contributed. The second day was spent visiting congressmen on capital hill to tell our stories and keep us in mind as they pass new regulations on the Internet. Held annually, any online publisher/blogger that makes income through advertising on their site is welcome to come at no charge other then travel expenses. Here is a link: http://www.iab.net/public_policy/flyin You will see my picture in Rep Roe’s office on that page. I would like to see other food sites in attendance next year as I was the only one representing the food world.

Also this type of meeting has been so successful that a number of us are planning other conferences ourselves at other times of the year because one like this once a year is not enough with all the changes happening on the net.

Rick Jaworski
Joyofbaking.com

diannejacob May 30, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Excellent. Thanks for letting people know about it, Rick.

Kristi Willis May 29, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Dianne – Thank you for this perfectly timed post as I’ve been having pre-IACP conference anxiety all weekend. It helps to know that someone as accomplished as you can even have jitters before heading in to a room of unknown folks.

diannejacob May 30, 2011 at 11:55 am

Hi Kristi,

If you’re not used to going to conferences, I can see why you have the jitters. Just remember you’re there to have fun, learn, and network. At least I think that’s why you’re going to IACP. At the very least, we can network together.

Re accomplishment, several high level authors emailed me privately to tell me they get the jitters too, so you’re definitely not alone.

Lisa May 30, 2011 at 10:02 pm

In regards to Rick’s post about the reason one blogs, I feel he left out a third. I blog about food because I have an incredible passion for it, and I love to share that with others who do. I’m not seeking fame or a career, nor do I have an intense need for people to like me. Sure, I love meeting fellow food bloggers and making new friends, but I love that in all aspects of my life..whether it be at a food blogging conference or the gym.

Food blogging not only feeds my passion and fills my soul, but it’s also a luxurious escape from the daily grind. It’s my own cozy, little nook in this world.

diannejacob May 31, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Passion is a huge driver, Lisa. I think at least half the people at BlogHer Food earlier this month blog for the reasons you mention.

Shef from Shef's Kitchen May 31, 2011 at 11:07 am

Dianne, how do you keep coming up with such interesting topics?! It was definitely interesting to me as an “occasional” food blogger and tweeter. I went to Camp Blogaway with my sister (Rabbit Food Rocks) as my first conference and we didn’t feel any of the negative sentiments that one may feel at larger conferences. We were glowing with excitement on our drive back to the airport and shared so many stories about actual people, not their blogs. In fact, we hadn’t even heard of some of the blogs-even the well known ones. Now when I read their blogs, I see them speaking, in their accents or mannerisms. Love it.
We felt we were able to meet most of the people, and we had been urged from the get-go to efficiently network and MEET everyone. Probably more do-able at smaller conferences. Curious to see how IACP will go. I’m usually an extrovert and will talk to anyone. I will come FIND you Dianne! Look for me in my “cute” volunteer apron 😉

diannejacob May 31, 2011 at 7:56 pm

You sound like someone I’d love to meet, Shef. I love your positive attitude. I will look for you in your apron.

Tracy June 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm

It’s funny, I’ve been feeling a bit left out because it seems like everyone is going to one blog conference or another. This post makes me feel a teensie bit better because I’m not good in rooms of 500 people. But maybe I’ll get up the nerve (and funds) one of these days.

diannejacob June 8, 2011 at 11:04 am

It’s easy to feel left out. Here’s the thing: You can feel left out when you’re there, because people are always forming groups and going off on spontaneous adventures or dinners without inviting you. You just can’t take this stuff personally. So yes, save up and attend one of them, Tracy.

Tracy June 8, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Maybe I will …. once the kids are through college. 🙂

JulieD June 4, 2011 at 11:43 am

Hi Dianne, I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you. Overall, the event was a success for me and I don’t regret attending. I met some wonderful people and made some great friends. I did see some of the cliques and did feel a little snubbed but I moved on. I felt awful for my friends who were really upset. I’m not sure what the solution is. I’m very extroverted and I can strike up a conversation with anyone but put me in front of a crowd of even just 20 people to do a presentation and I’m a mess. I think everyone’s so different and maybe some of it is high school cliquish behavior, some of it’s misunderstanding, some of it’s shyness but I hope the more people attend these kinds of events, the easier it gets.

diannejacob June 8, 2011 at 11:06 am

I hope that’s true, Julie, and I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet also. I think the solution is to take deep breaths, don’t take it personally, and don’t let it your fears and insecurities stop you from attending conferences. I had to deal with it again at IACP and I hope I handled it all better this time. Writing this post and reading all these comments has helped figure it out.

Ginny June 4, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Dear Dianne,

Thank you for this post. I just met you at the IACP meeting; we were in a couple of roundtable discussions together (I was the one who had a magazine use my photo without permission or attribution).

During the conference, I was a tiny bottom-feeding fish in a giant pond! Certainly no one was mean to me, but I definitely felt many people staring first at my name tag to see “who I was” before making eye contact. It sort of made me feel cheap and worthless since I am “no one” in the food world. Just a little blogger.

Therefore, I appreciate and am drinking in all five points of your advice in this post. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Respectfully,
Ginny

diannejacob June 8, 2011 at 11:15 am

Dear Ginny, yes, I remember meeting you in that round-table and felt bad about your situation. I hope you got it resolved.

Let’s clear something up: you are not cheap and worthless. People have paid a lot of money to attend the events and are trying to maximize their time. Everyone is looking for someone one step ahead of them, even the people at the top. Sometimes people are looking for their friends, and want to spend time with them. Please do not take it personally. Focus on your own success and what you learned there.

Tracy Whitt June 5, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Being an introvert, I could see this happening to me. That, and a thin skin keep me from many conferences I would love to attend. I liked your points though. I will just have to deal with it like I do the rest of my life. Put on a brave face, and remember why I am there. To get inspiration, and learn how to perfect a craft.
Thanks for the personal insight and vulnerability!

diannejacob June 8, 2011 at 11:24 am

Sure Tracy. We’ve all been there. This post generated some good conversations at yet another conference that followed, IACP. And some bitching about bad behavior. But yes, it’s best to get over it and learn that we can move on and take what was good about the conference.

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