The Terror of Conferences

Kathryn Crawford Saxer Career Transition

I admit it. I was filled with dread.
I so regretted registering. I could have had a lovely, quiet day at my office.
Instead, I was driving to Bellevue, to the Meydenbauer Center, during rush hour, for at least eight hours of keynote talks, training tracks, networking breaks, and other horrors.
I’m fiercely introverted. It’s getting fiercer as I get older. But I had signed up and paid my money and organized childcare: I was going to that conference and I was going to network all day long.
I coach my clients on networking, helping them reframe it from a terrifying chore to something potentially energizing and interesting. Fun, even.
Driving east on I-90, I recognized that I clearly needed some reframing. Practice what I preach. Eat my own dogfood, as they say (a phrase I always found revolting).
I focused on my intentions for the day. Rather than sitting back and hiding behind my phone, I decided that I intended to:

  • Present as warm and approachable
  • Actively introduce myself to people I didn’t know
  • Connect with 10 people

I pulled into the parking garage at the Meydenbauer Center and had a nice chat with the cashier. Does that count?
Headed upstairs in the elevator, I tucked away my terror. As the elevator doors opened, I opened my face and my body language and, smiling, said hello to the nice person at the registration desk.
One down, nine to go.
I don’t know if I got to 10. What I will remember about that conference, full of presentations that have since blurred together, was texting my husband at the end of the day.
“Staying for drinks.” I wrote him.
“Still staying for drinks.”
“Staying for dinner.”
“Having fun.”