Today, I have a guest post from the amazing Theresa (@GertieTheDino and @AspirantLiving on twitter) on her experience at Disney’s Social Media Moms Celebration On the Road Event in Bethesda, MD and some lessons she learned along the way.
Be sure to follow Theresa on twitter and check out her site, Aspirant Living for more about her On The Road experience!
Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the Disney Social Media Mom’s “Disney On The Road” Celebration as they arrived in the Maryland-DC area. This travelling conference, which started last year as an off-shoot of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration (a.k.a., what my friends and I call “the big show”), takes place in several different cities around the country giving those interested in blogging, social media, or developing their brand an opportunity to connect with others who share similar goals and passion.
As soon as I saw Disney on the Road was going to be making their way to the District, I knew I had to sign up, and I was ecstatic when, a few weeks later, I received my invitation to participate! That’s not to say that I didn’t also have some concerns about attending, namely the fact that I am a relatively new blogger and even more so…I’m not a mom. In the days leading up to the event, as I watched others who would be attending growing more and more excited about what was to come, I could feel myself becoming increasingly anxious. As if going into a new social situation with people you only kinda-sorta know from the internet isn’t daunting enough, I had very real concerns about whether my childless status was going to have an impact with regard to how well I could connect with the other attendees and with the information being presented. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely understand this was marketed and designed with the focus being on moms, particularly since the event was sponsored by Disney and they’ve shown that they highly value their mom demographic. But I kept wondering if I would be able to relate to the keynote speaker and get something valuable out of what she and the other panelists would be sharing, and if other attendees would wonder why I, someone without children and who had only recently started blogging, had decided to participate in the conference.
As it turns out, all my worrying was for nothing, and I had an absolutely AMAZING day. I’ll admit that when I first arrived, I didn’t recognize any of the women in the waiting area as being someone I had chatted with leading up to the event, so I got my name tag and then went and hid in the bathroom for a few minutes, hoping that by the time I returned, there would be at least one familiar face. When I finally pulled myself together and out of the ladies’ room, I was excited to not only connect with a few of my acquaintances, including Disney’s own Gary Buchanan, who made me feel right at home by shouting ”IT’S THERESA! HEY EVERYONE, IT’S GERTIE!! ” when he saw me (referencing my Twitter handle, @GertieTheDino89), but by also getting to know many of the other bloggers, many of whom were also attending their first conference.
I’ll have a more thorough recap of the actual speakers and panelists on my blog soon, but I want to touch on a few important notes for any other individuals who may also have their own apprehensions about attending a blogger or social media conference, or even just participating in something where you feel as though you may not fit in.
- Don’t let fear of the unknown be what holds you back. If I learned nothing else from this experience, it is that taking that leap of faith is what enables you to grow, both personally and professionally. It may be cliché advice, but nothing is more accurate than “If you always do what you have always done, you’ll always get what you have always gotten.”
- Networking can be powerful in many ways. It gives you the opportunity to connect with individuals who share your interests and can relate to you in a different way than those who are a part of your life offline. One of my favorite parts of the conference was going to lunch with some of my tablemates afterward, and having a chance to talk about Disney, Twitter and blogging without cramming it into 140 characters or overthinking how I wanted to phrase something to make the biggest impact.
- On the flip side, networking also gives you a chance to interact with people who are vastly different from you and who you would never have met otherwise, but can become a great source of support and inspiration, challenging you to approach your life and particularly your struggles from a different perspective.
- Being the outlier can be very advantageous, particularly when you stop focusing on your differences as a negative. The response you generate from people has more to do with how you present yourself than any factors about what demographic into which you may fit. Use who you are and what you know as a source of confidence, rather than getting stuck on comparing yourself to those around you.
Now that I’ve attended one conference, it has me eager to not only search for and attend my next conference, but also making even more of a dedicated effort to blogging and supporting my fellow bloggers!