NEPA BlogCon: The other side of things
One of the early presenters at the NEPA BlogCon asked, for a show of hands, of how many people there were introverts.
I would gather that at least 60 percent of the people — if not more — raised their hands at the question. I actually raised mine about half as I feel I’m about 50-50, so I’m somewhat in the boat.
On one hand, this was a shocking thing — that’s a lot of people who feel that way. An introvert isn’t always somebody who is withdrawn and such, so there are different levels. Some have bigger thresholds when it comes to comfort zones.
On the flip side, it didn’t shock me so much because that describes society as a whole now. There’s not a lot of face-to-face contact. We do a lot of communicating through computers or tablets or phones, which takes a somewhat personal touch away. Eye contact isn’t always there anymore, either.
This is where our society tends to go with the rapid growth of technology and social media. But is it good? To be blunt — probably not.
I realized going to this conference that there would be quite the mix of people there — from people in the tech world to personal bloggers to professionals to other types of bloggers etc. Everybody was likely looking to get something different out of the event.
When I go to any conference, my goal is to leave with a few things I feel I can use. I left here with a lot of ideas and thoughts. I enjoyed the speakers and presentations, even if some of it doesn’t really go with how I do my blog.
Still, after really thinking about things a bit, I walked away satisfied, but wanting a lot more interaction and such.
For example, I made up business cards for this conference with my social media and blog address etc. I thought that would be good for networking. In the end, I gave away three. I expected to give away a lot more and to have a lot more interaction. Toward the end of the day when I talked to a few people, I didn’t hand a card off to each of them and I should have. That’s my fault, without a doubt. Before that, though, I had hoped to have more opportunities to network, not just hand off a card.
How it worked
Registration went for an hour, with the conference starting at 10 a.m. Presentations followed, running until 12:30 p.m. Then there was an hour break for lunch, though for part of it, people were understandably eating. The second half went from about 1:30-4:30 p.m., give or take. People then cleared out to head home, somewhere else, or to the after party.
Your main options to network were during the registration hour, or during lunch. Though some people drifted outside during the conference and some decided they’d talk during the presentations (and some were not-so-quiet), the opportunities were somewhat limited. When you did have that chance to talk, you might be waiting to chat with somebody or feel rushed etc.
One other thing is this — the conference celebrated its fifth year. There were obvious people who had been to multiple as they kind of went into their groups. Though I don’t mind talking to pretty much anybody, I do have a hard time just walking up to a group and trying to interject myself. It’s awkward, at least to me.
As long as the date works with my calendar next year, I’m hoping to return to this conference. As noted, I took some good ideas away from it and feel I can branch out a little more and kind of get more out of the experience. Sometimes it takes going to something to get a feel for how things work.
That being said, it wouldn’t be me without coming up with ideas that I think could be beneficial for the greater good. Blame that on my journalism and PR background where I don’t necessarily think of things in a normal fashion!
So if this was a “perfect” world, what kind of things would I like to see added to this already excellent conference? I have a few thoughts — though I do realize that not everybody thinks the same way I do, some of these items might not be good financially, and these might be things long considered and not done for reasons unknown to me. This isn’t a slight at the committee or volunteers in any way — it’s just my thoughts on some things I think would be cool to have. There’s a wide range of people and bloggers — from personal to professional — that attend this conference, so these items may work for some and not others.
As a geocacher, I’ve dealt with many people who consider themselves introverts. It’s an outdoors game where people can do their own thing and enjoy being outside. Events, though, are spots where people do mingle. With that, we often have games that force people outside of their comfort zones.
Remember the conference has been around for a few years, so some people may have their “group” and others might have a hard time just talking to a full group. Networking is fine, but it’s a little daunting to walk up to a group of 4-6 people who are already in mid-conversation and just try and chat with them — especially if you identify as an introvert. I saw many people by themselves or with one other who kept to themselves for the majority of the conference. Though I talked to several people, there were times I felt like … what should I say?
That’s on me as much as anybody else, that’s for sure.
I would love to see something that forces people outside of their comfort zones. Maybe one of those bingo-style game where you have to try and get people to sign a certain thing (owns a tech blog; has won a NEPA BOTY award etc.) that makes people get out and talk to others. Have people fill out the card, put their name on it and submit it for a prize at the end of the conference (a random draw).
Break it up
Let me say I loved the presentations. I took something from each one, which is awesome. I’ve made some connections via Twitter and Instagram since the conference, which is great, but I also wanted people to maybe check out my blog — not just social media.
I noticed the crowd was smaller in the afternoon. I wonder if registration went an hour earlier and things started earlier if there would be a way to maybe do like three sessions, then take a 30-minute break for people to chat; followed by three more sessions and lunch; followed by three more sessions and a small break … you get the idea.
It’s just a thought to get people out of their seats more and talking and learning about one another as much as they are getting lessons from the presenters.
This could be the financial aspect of things — but what about a printed directory? First, somebody would have to be willing to undertake this (I’ve been known to volunteer my time for projects like this …) and then people would have to register/submit info by a certain date to make the cut (based on who was doing the printing), but how cool would it be to have a program of sorts that listed everybody coming with links to their website and social media?
My thought process is this — if there’s a directory with a story or two in it about the conference/history, as well as showing all the presenters (such as what is on the website), a tentative schedule and then info about attendees — it would be a popular item.
A spot for business cards
OK, so as I noted before — I handed out a whopping three cards. To that point, I almost wonder why I even had them made. So I wonder — could there be a table where people put their cards? Or, maybe if people are willing to send down — when swag bags are being put together, could people submit enough to have them in there? That might be a major pain, though, and it wouldn’t be fair to put more work in the hands of volunteers. So I’m not sure with this, but I know I was hoping to walk away with many cards this day so I could investigate other blogs and social media profiles. Maybe there’s connections via LinkedIn (which, honestly, I forgot and left off my card), or whatever else.
I can’t complain about the experience. I thought it was well worth giving up a Saturday to go to the event and see what there was to offer. I definitely would like to go back again next year and, hopefully, actually attend the after-party at that point. I’m sure there were more chances to network there as well.
The event is extremely well-run and is highly affordable. Though the things mentioned above would possibly enhance certain aspects of the conference, it might not be what everybody is looking for. Hopefully in future years, though, I’ll have to chance to chat with people a tad more.
For those of you who attended NEPA BlogCon, what are your thoughts? And if you haven’t been there, but have attended other blog conferences, how do they run? Let me know as I’m curious and would like to get a feel for this aspect of the blogging/social media world.