You pay for your ticket, hotels, travel and then spend the rest of the year excitedly awaiting being able to attend the conference everyone is speaking about. Having travelled halfway across the country, braving weather you’d never ordinarily leave the house for, you arrive in the unrecognisable city. You’ve left your family to be here, which is heart wrenching at the best of times and your lonely hotel room is no comfort (especially given the number of beds it has).
You hurredly beaver off to the first fringe event with butterflies in anticipation of the luminaries that are possibly going to be there too. On arrival, the room is bustling with faces from avatars you recognise. How exciting! You know so much about these people from following them day to day; even what they ate for breakfast, the bars they attended, who they hang with.
Yet these cheery personas are only facets of their real life. Chances are, any person you recognise is someone you admire in the industry – but what could you possibly have to talk about? Your lowly 9-5 pales in comparison to the waves these trendsetters are making, they wouldn’t really care what you do would they? Maybe we have something in common? Unfortunately, it’s always far easier to remain silent than waltz up to someone new or that you recognise and drum up a conversation. Inevitably, this more than often happens.
The organisers have done a fantastic job. “Talk with everyone else, make friends”, they prompt – if only you were able to. The conference itself is amazing, inspiring and useful, but others seem to get so much more from it. New friendships are forged, existing ones cemented. Are you the issue here?
Finding food is a problem. Do you venture out in the hope of finding people to talk to, or do you eat out on your own? It becomes easier to ask via twitter, than face to face. At least the conference day provides lunch for you, even if you choose to eat it on your own. You feel like a teenager.
The after-party is much like being back at a school disco. People stare longingly into their empty glasses, whilst propping up walls, longing for company. Why don’t you talk to them? Others circle back into their longstanding groups and attract fresh blood. Those in groups wear similar clothes. Maybe you should buy plaid? You return to the hotel at a reasonable hour, missing out on the later rawkus highjinks.
In the morning, you skulk back onto your bus, wishing you’d coughed up the extra to go via train just to get home sooner.