How to Avoid the Post-Conference Blues.

I was more than a little frightened about attending my first blogging conference.  I mean, who in their right mind would pick BlogHer as their very first conference?  Insane, right?  I didn’t know a single attendee in real life and had NEVER traveled alone.  I had only been blogging for a year, so I was a total newb.  As the day came closer to leave for Chicago, I was riddled with a mix of excitement and nervousness.  Even after reading recaps of previous years at BlogHer, I still didn’t know what to expect or how the conference would treat me.  Would it be fun?  Would anyone know who I was?  Would it be hard to connect with others?  Was it out of my league?  I would get so angry at myself for worrying about such trivial matters, yet I couldn’t stop.

Although I made it to Chicago in one piece, it was a little rocky, socially, at first.  I had the desire to jump into groups of unknown people and introduce myself, yet something was holding me back.  The first few parties I attended felt so awkward and weird, yet I didn’t know why.  I wasn’t sure what I was afraid of?  I was actually starting to get on my own nerves, so I made a quick decision – I would not let ME get in the way of ME.  I was going to talk to as many people as I could.  Isn’t that why I went to BlogHer in the first place?  What did I have to lose anyway?  I honestly didn’t know anyone and most didn’t know me.  That was power.

Want to know what happened after that?  I had a blast.  I met many wonderful men and women.  I met with brands.  I made relationships.   I handed out 200 business cards.  I shared ideas with new friends and was inspired by others.  The sessions didn’t offer much for me, but the people did, and I never expected that.  My readership doubled in a mere 3 months after attending the conference and it has been a whirlwind since.  I owe this to me leaving my fear behind and just being me.  I had to get over myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I did met a few people who didn’t treat me nicely or seemed bothered by me, but that exists everywhere in life.  Mom bloggers are no exception.

When I returned home, I was honestly shocked to read so many negative posts about BlogHer.  There were many attendees that had a difficult time and took away nothing positive about the experience.  Then I heard it again after the Type A Mom Conference a few months after, then Blissdom, and so on.  I wondered, was it the conference or the attendee that had the problem? Maybe it was a mixture of both?  I obviously understood the fear of being a newbie, but the feedback I was reading was on a whole different level.  Attendees were feeling inadequate, discouraged, and questioning the very existence of their blog.  In a nutshell, they were experiencing the exact opposite of the conference’s ultimate purpose and message.  Interesting.

So, I reached out on Facebook and Twitter, asking the question, “Have you ever left a blogging conference feeling bad about yourself or your blog? Didn’t feel good enough, or smart enough? Contact me.” It wasn’t long before I started receiving replies.  Most wanted to stay anonymous.

“I felt like less of a blogger after the conference. I felt inferior to all the other bloggers.”

“I really felt stupid a lot of the time.  I didn’t know what to expect and some of the friends that I had connected with online, just were kind of rude in person.”

“True story from BlogHer 09.  A new blogger admired a ‘famous’ blogger and approached her.  Famous blogger looked at her card, snubbed her nose and handed it right back.   I was floored.”

Marcy Mcclelland-Massura from Marcy Writes told me, “The ass kissing on the mommy blogging circuit is reaching Olympic proportions. No one wants to be honest it seems. It is not ‘the bestest time ever’ and the spring break like binge drinking doesn’t always help.” Marcy then included a link to her after-BlogHer post, which describes the challenges she faced connecting with other attendees. Her post provided a great representation of the overall feedback I received.  Bloggers don’t feel wanted in their own community.   They feel there is a “pecking order” or a mom blogger status among the “famous” bloggers.

Does a pecking order really exist, or does it stem from one’s own insecurities?  Is it easier to blame the person who is having a good time and taking away something positive?  Kim Moldsky from Hormone-Colored Days made a GREAT point when she said, “I think conference newbies tend to be aware of ‘chicks who clique.’ It’s not so much that certain groups intentionally exclude others, it’s more a matter of certain women having developed deep relationships over the years.” This is SO TRUE.  It’s so much easier to assume the worst, though.  “She thinks she’s better than me.” I hear this a lot.  Instead, why not say, She may be nervous, or uncomfortable, like me.” One blogger I interviewed said, “I worried that at those times when I was catching my breathe between sessions, before meals when my sugar was low, etc. that someone might have mistaken a look or something as an example of the things that were fueling the conference Twitstorm.”

Guess what?  Some of us are introverts.  Just because we can express our opinions boldly online doesn’t mean we can easily speak face to face.  This is a HUGE issue that most do not consider before attending their first conference, and could also be a HUGE reason why expectations are not met after attending.  Some bloggers don’t even realize that they are painfully shy and introverted until they do attend.  Others may become overstimulated and emotional exhausted, like Maria Melee of Mommy Melee who recently experienced a breakdown at the Mom 2.0 Summit and wasn’t sure why.  Kim Daboo from Clumber Kim told me, “The simple act of handing someone my card is a leap.” Even rock star blogger Jenny Lawson, from The Bloggess, has a difficult time speaking to people.  We SHOULD give people the benefit of the doubt, yet our emotions take over.  We have to be careful.

So…..is there really a way to avoid the post-conference blues?  I think Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) said it best, “You can’t experience those strong emotions (whether good or bad) and not suffer (or celebrate) the repercussions. For so many of us it’s a heavy mix of highs and lows and the effects linger.” It’s no different than life.  There is positive and negative all around us.  It’s how we decide to react and move forward that counts.Do we want to hold on to bad experiences and have that decide our future?  Like I mentioned earlier, I was scared of the unknown.  I met some “not so nice” people, but you know what else happened in the process?  I met some AMAZING people.  People who I love.  People who have been extremely supportive and inspiring.  True friends.

Are you a newbie blogger?  There is tons of info over at www.blogconferencenewbie.com that is extremely helpful for beginners.  Also, feel free to post any questions in our comments.

Have you experienced the post-conference blues?  Why or why not?