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Personal Connections at Blogging Conferences

For an extreme introvert like me, making friends, putting myself “out there”, and being in large social event situations can be terrifying. However, sometimes those quiet wallflower moments can lead to the most perfect memories and the real personal connections that I cherish most.

Disclosure: I don’t know if I need to disclose so I’ll just say this. I was not asked to write about SoFabCon or Collective Bias. I chose to write this post. Having said that, I worked for one month as a community greeter for Collective Bias in order to earn a free conference ticket for SoFabCon.

Personal Connections at SoFabCon

At the beginning of May, I went to SoFabCon in Northwest Arkansas in hopes of meeting and spending a lot of time with some close friends I have made online. Sure, I was going to network and learn how to be a better blogger, but secretly, I wanted to hang with some girls I have told some of my deepest dark secrets to in private messages on Facebook.

Online, I belong. I am hilarious and friendly and outgoing and opinionated. I have emotions about things going on in the world. I’m heard (or read?) and people respect what I have to say (most of the time).  Basically, you all love me (or at least like me a lot)! 

Once I arrived at SoFabCon, I learned that my introvert personality had stowed away in my suitcase with my size 30W clothes and my worn out silver, sequined shoes (that I wear every single day). I had brought some cute clothes, but suddenly I was not brave enough to wear them or at least not brave enough to stand up confidently and carry myself like I knew I could (and should).

@JanetGoingCrazy and @thecreatvprincess at cocktail party #SoFabCon 13

I made it through the cocktail party by connecting with a few familiar faces and thankfully I was encouraged by Brandi from The Creative Princess to find Kim and meet my new “boss”, Lauren.

{Oh yeah, I haven’t really told you all here, but I’ve been assigned my first Campaign Leader job with Collective Bias! That was totally one of my dreams and I was given the good news just before I left for SoFabCon. It was definitely a plus that I got to meet Lauren in person during the conference. It’s so much easier to talk to her on the phone and through email now that I know her.}

Personal Connections through Twitter

During March, I attended Blissdom and I haven’t fully written about my experiences there yet, but one of the things that I wish I had done while I was there was connect with people who were conversing on Twitter. I decided that for SoFabCon I would not have that regret.

There were two people that I knew I wanted to meet while at SoFabCon that I also knew would be the hardest for me to approach. I don’t typically get “star-struck” by famous people {except I would totally love to have a personal connection with Jon Bon Jovi sometime} but I knew these two people were going to be in high demand.

I have come to know these two online and watch their words carefully because each of them seems genuine in their own way. I never see an agenda behind their words and I can’t imagine some negative ulterior motive coming from either of them.

@JanetGoingCrazy with @CourtneyRix and @TedRubin at #SoFabCon 13

Ted Rubin, Chief Social Marketing Officer for Collective Bias, is who I would consider my polar opposite in that he is social (to his core). I’ll post in the next few days about this session about Twitter and why he had us skipping in the hallway of the convention center. Courtney Velasquez, Vice President of Community Relations for Collective Bias, seems like she is all heart and thoughtfulness and caring and loving, all bundled into this beautiful, strong woman with the best bangs ever.

During the first evening and part of the first day of the conference, I would see them in the hallways and smile. I think I may have waved at Courtney, not knowing if she knew who I was.

tweet to @CourtneyRix and @TedRubin #SoFabCon

During one of the sessions, I finally tweeted to them both. You see, I have found that if there is something that I think I really want, but I’m too timid to do it on my own, then I can sometimes push myself over the “ledge” by throwing it out into the universe. When I wanted to go to Graduate School and I wasn’t sure if I could handle it or if I would follow through, I forced myself to send in the application and put money down so that I felt obligated (to myself) to follow through.

Once that tweet was out there, I knew I couldn’t hide from myself, Courtney, or Ted and I would get that picture. I know it seems a little silly or “chicken”, but hey, they are both social media people, they get it! And they did…they got it…and they found me in the hall together for a picture!

 @JanetGoingCrazy with @MyCrazySavings at #SoFabCon 13

And just so I don’t feel completely weird about tweeting to Courtney and Ted for a pic, I’ll let you know that this is how I ended up meeting up with Courtney from My Crazy Savings as well. She tweeted me during one of the keynotes that we needed to meet in person…and so we did!

Personal Connections even during shy times

I don’t have pictures of the last few personal connections that I made during SoFabCon and these are the coolest ones. These were times when I was at my shyest, trying to be a wallflower or outcast myself from the overwhelming social event that was going on around me. These were times when I wasn’t trying, but people approached me (in a way) and I made a small connection. These are what happens to ME when I’m just being me.

Amy Callahan, COO and cofounder of Collective Bias

The three days of SoFabCon all run together for me and as much as I would like to say that this happened on Friday afternoon or Saturday during the day or whatever, the truth is I have no clue. I’m pretty sure that this first one happened on Saturday, probably during mid-day, but really who knows.

After having visited the brand salons a few times, talked to a few friends, attended sessions and keynotes and taken lots of notes, I found a moment in the day when there was a downtime. I took this opportunity to sneak outside for a cigarette in the cold air. I was alone this particular time and that was okay with me, even though I’m not usually one who likes to smoke alone. I didn’t seek out any others to join me because they were either too busy or I was too ready to be quiet for a few minutes.

Just after I stepped outside, Amy stepped out with me. I was having trouble with my lighter and she offered hers and we talked. She told me about how one year prior she was planning for her wedding day (the following day) and the temperature was in the 90’s. Her wedding was outside and she was worried that some of her family members wouldn’t like the heat. The reason this particular story came up was because we were standing outside, freezing, and looking at the snow that had fallen the past two nights in a row. (see, this is why I think it was Saturday)

I didn’t feel pressured to talk about my blog or my life or my business goals or my future with Collective Bias. We were just talking about weddings and weather and smiling about the irony of it all. We both agreed that overly warm and sunny makes for a better wedding day than cold, rainy, and snowy weather.

As we both headed back in, she thanked me for being outside because she doesn’t like to be out there alone. THAT is what I mean by personal connections that are memories for me.

Now, I could tell you that I made a personal connection with John Andrews, CEO of Collective Bias, during the cocktail party when he told me and a few others about the time he was flying and the plane cabin depressurized. Yeah, he told us all about how the masks fall down and he had to learn to breathe in it and then he just went back to reading his magazine… But, that was just a group of people and I just happened to be standing there as he was talking to all of us.

Jon LeMire, Senior Vice President, Business Development & Sales at Collective Bias

I was outside, again, smoking with a friend this time, when Jon came out to smoke as well. I have talked to Jon a little in the Social Fabric forum (the forum for all of the employees and bloggers who work for and with Collective Bias) but it has mainly been about campaigns and giving feedback on sales ideas. When he came out to smoke with us and started talking, I learned quickly that he is the most down-to-earth man.

Jon talked to us a little about his marriage and his work experience, but then he started telling us a story about how he explains to companies what Collective Bias really does. That story is a whole other post, maybe I can even get him to write it for my blog (or start his own already!), but it is a great story and involves Gorilla Tape, which is apparently really great tape for attaching your child to your bumper.

Anyway, his way of explaining sales and what bloggers do is so refreshing and exciting and I felt like I had to talk to him more about some ideas that I had. So…I blurted it all out. He loved the ideas (and so did my friend who was out there) and we started talking about it even more. He and I traded cards and I emailed him more of the ideas when I came back from SoFabCon.

Yes, this personal connection turned into business and blogging, but it didn’t feel pressured. It was us talking about our families and what we do to tell stories. I tell stories for you all on the blog. He tells stories to potential clients to introduce the stories we tell on the blog. It was real and authentic and that is what WE (Collective Bias, bloggers in general) are all about!

Personal Connections mean more to me

I didn’t come home with tons of business cards and phone numbers of my friends. I didn’t come home with plans of meeting all the girls again soon for a happy hour. I only met a handful of people that I didn’t already “know” from talking to them online. But, at SoFabCon, I learned a lot, I had fun, I pushed my own limits just a little, and I made the personal connections that really mean the most to me. 

Because this post is reaching 1800 words and if you made it this far, I totally love you for it, I am going to stop there. I haven’t even started on talking about Brandi from Mama Knows It All…and so many more ladies who may just deserve their own post.


  1. Looks like fun – can’t wait to attend my first conference myself!

    The Kitchen is My Dance Floor
    Samantha D recently posted..Saving Money Every Time You Wash Clothes (Giveaway Post)My Profile

  2. so glad the conference was so meaningful to you Janet you are a wonderful person inside and out.
    Kim @craftymamaof4 recently posted..The Day My Daughter Made Me CryMy Profile

  3. Fantastic post Janet. I really do wish I can express myself the way you do. I find it easier to write reviews.

    I’m a total introvert. I’m also a total worry wart. My biggest fear is that once people look at my cleft lip, the way I dress (or don’t dress), the way my teeth are, and my nervousness, they won’t like me any more. I worry about everything.

    I really do hope to meet you in person one day.

    ~ Barb
    Barbara Baker recently posted..Providing Survivors of Natural Disasters with a @SpareOnePhoneMy Profile

    • janet says:

      Barb, you are beautiful and when you write about your family, your words are beautiful as well. Just write like you were telling us a story and it will surprise you. I must have asked my husband a dozen times if he was SURE this post was okay and he kept saying yes. I love reading your posts so just believe in yourself!!

  4. Janet, thank you for the kind words. It’s the moments like this that make “the grind with clients” worth it all. I hope we all have more time to hang out togehter and get to know each other better. You are a wonderful woman, exactly the way you are. Thanks for moving my heart this morning with this post – amazing! Apologies on not replying sooner – lots of opportunity with clients (Disney, Microsoft, Nestle, etc.) and there just does not seem enough time in the day to answer all of the emails, build deals, pitch clients, train new peeps, and spend time with my wife and 2 boys…I need another 10 hours a day =). You just affirmed my saying (and I stole this from Steve Jobs….sort of – Steve said (at the launch of the first Mac) “The Mac is not going to change the world, it’s what creative people will do with the Mac that will change the world”). I like to tell clients “Social Media is not going to change the world…it’s what creative people [like you] do with Social Media that is going to change the world” – keep on, keeping on..and I have not forgotten the client you asked me to contact =)

    • janet says:

      Jon, no need for apologies here! I know you are busy and that makes me happy because it means I still have work as well. 😉 Thanks for stopping by and leaving me some kind words.

  5. This is awesome. I can totally relate as someone who is all over online but nearly paralyzed with shyness in real life. My favorite part of this post is the picture with Courtney and Ted. The look on your face is one of pure joy that comes when dreams (of any size) come true. Way to push yourself over the ledge girl!!
    Cristie recently posted..Talky Tuesday: Counting Our BlessingsMy Profile

    • janet says:

      Isn’t it strange, Christie, that this happens to us? I think if I could have half of my online confidence in real life, then I would be just fine!

  6. I love you Janet. That is all :)
    Christy recently posted..One Day…At SoFabCon…I Learned How to Code My Way Out of a Wet Paper BagMy Profile

  7. Great post Janet!!! Awesome idea to tweet it out! LOL!!! Wish we got to hang out more!
    Kristin Wheeler (Mama Luvs Books) recently posted..Boston Walgreens Flagship Store Recently Opened; A Store You Don’t Want to Miss!My Profile

    • janet says:

      Thanks, Kristin! I would have loved to visit with you and get to know you better!

  8. You rocked at SoFabCon making connections and getting pics- I never even asked people for pictures. I always feel like I’m being a burden trying to organize group shots even though I look back on them and wish I had. I am so grateful I had Melissa with me because I know I really would have chickened out of going if it was just me all alone because I would have come up with a thousand excuses why I couldn’t do this on my own. You inspire me that you did this and made such amazing connections and lived to tell the tales!
    Kelly @ Texas Type A Mom recently posted..Patriotic Quotes for Memorial DayMy Profile

    • janet says:

      Kelly, you know what was weird was that only one person asked me for a picture with them and that was Jasmine. When I came home and looked at my phone, I had lots of pics of other people having fun, but only a few with me and someone else. I have to admit that when you introduced yourself to me, I was a little intimidated because I had just recently started reading your blog and think you are amazing and it just warms my heart that you and I have so much in common. We need to meet up again sometime or start working on some projects together or something. My in-laws are near you so if we ever get back up there to visit, I will definitely have to connect with you then. I’m happy that we are getting to know each other!

  9. Amanda says:

    I totally understand being uneasy. SoFabCon was my first blogging conference and I loved it. It was great to meet you, even though we didn’t get to spend much time. I am so excited that you made it as a CL and know you will rock it!
    Amanda recently posted..Double Chocolate Almond Biscotti RecipeMy Profile

    • janet says:

      Thanks, Amanda! I was so excited when you came over to meet me and I really wish we could have spent more time together. I think SoFabCon could have been a two-week long love fest and we still would have felt like we needed more time together! There are so many rocking people in our community that it’s difficult to fit it all in. P.S. Your babies are so adorable! I saw your little girl crying and trying to talk on the phone one morning and I just wanted to scoop her up and hug her. And that was before I even knew she was yours. 😉

      • Amanda says:

        It was awesome to have my kids with me and I think several saw her crying when she fell and cut her lip :( Thanks, I am kinda partial!

        And we will have to plan to chat more at the 2014 SoFabCon for sure! I should have more energy (not being pregnant!)
        Amanda recently posted..Double Chocolate Almond Biscotti RecipeMy Profile

        • janet says:

          More energy and more babies for me to ooh and ahh over!

  10. Oh Janet,
    I know and have known who you are for a very long time and I think you are one of the most encouraging, heartfelt people I know! I am so happy you send out that tweet and we got a chance to stop and say hi. I only wish the weekend had been a day longer because I would have loved to spend more time with everyone! I’m so happy you came to SoFabCon and I can’t wait to see you again next year! PS. Good luck on your first campaign! Please reach out if you need ANYTHING!
    Courtney Velasquez recently posted..Fatal Errors Managers MakeMy Profile

    • janet says:

      Thank you, Courtney, you are so sweet! Next year (and anytime in between) when I see everyone, I will not be as shy…I hope. 😉

  11. This makes me so happy!!
    Jasmine recently posted..Don’t forget…My Profile

    • janet says:

      Jasmine, there are so many things that I could say about SoFabCon, but this was the one that meant the most to me. And honestly, your keynote was the biggest push I needed to really FEEL and WRITE the way this post came out. Thank you for being you!

  12. Janet this is such an awesome post. I’ve tried for years to relate the relationship building side of social to folks vs the technology. From now on, I’m just going to share this post. Thanks for all you do to make Social Fabric great!

    • janet says:

      John, what an amazing compliment! Thank you for your amazing ideas for Collective Bias and Social Fabric and for bringing so much more to my life and my family than you will ever know.

    • janet says:

      You are definitely going to be missed at cbias. :-(

  13. Janet,I can totally relate. I’m an introvert too and have to pull all the stops to pull out my extrovert self at conferences. I usually spend late nights and my plane ride home in a very quiet state. I’m so glad you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone! The next time I see you, we’ll hang out and we can be introverts together. :)
    Thien-Kim Lam recently posted..Proud to Be a PBS Kids Very Important ParentMy Profile

    • janet says:

      Kim, I’m always up for meeting other introverts! We can wallflower together and people will think we have all the secrets! 😉

  14. Mimi says:

    I loved your honesty in this post! It’s so good to know that you were able to make some good connections! Yay to steppin’ out, even if it’s via Twitter! =)

    • janet says:

      Twitter is a really fun platform. It’s like text messaging anyone you want without having their cell phone number! 😉

  15. Ellen says:

    What a great post, you were my saving grace with your generosity!

    • janet says:

      Ellen, it was so cool that I could help you out! Thanks for the compliment!

  16. Great post Janet. I don’t have an introvert personality, but I sometimes shy away because of my hair or size or whatever else pops into my mind at the time. SoFabCon was so welcoming, I couldn’t help but talk to everyone. I am glad we chatted a bit and followed up from our Instagram and Twitter convos about our jobs and your son’s artwork. It was a pleasure meeting you!!
    Michele Brosius recently posted..Day #2 Declutter Boot Camp – Progress!My Profile

    • janet says:

      It was great meeting you, too! Someday you and I will work from home and make the big bucks and then we’ll go on vacation together…or something like that! 😉

  17. Beth Zimmerman says:

    Between headaches and shyness I stayed in my shell far too much at SoFabCon. I guess another part of it was that everyone seemed to know each other and I felt like an outsider … a welcome outsider but still. I think I’m my own worst enemy some times!
    Beth Zimmerman recently posted..My Oklahoma HomeMy Profile

    • janet says:

      Beth, I’m so sorry that you didn’t feel well during the conference. You know what I thought was interesting is that people knew you because we were all praying you could make it there (and then cheered when you won the ticket!) but you felt like you knew nobody. I should have spent more time with you and helping you meet people and that would have helped with my own shyness!

  18. Love it! Glad you were able to come and CONGRATS on the SoFab community leader stuff! Love it!
    Courtney Solstad recently posted..Printable Coupon Round UpMy Profile

    • janet says:

      Thanks, lady! I’m so glad that we got to meet finally!

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