“The story I’m making up in my head; the story I tell myself that fuels my anxiety is, ‘everyone has someone here but me,’ that’s what conferences feel like to me.”

Those are words from Dr. Brene Brown who would want to just be called, “Brene.” You shouldn’t be surprised if you are familiar with her work on vulnerability and her latest book, “Daring Greatly.” I just finished the audio version of Daring Greatly and loved it. It got 2 snaps and a bow tie tug (that’s a good thing). (Feel free to Tweet that).

The video talks to the experience of meeting Brene for the first time and what brought about the opportunity. Just in case you were wondering, she is just as cool in person as she was on her TEDTalk.


Below is a rough sense of what we spoke about when I interviewed her at the Massachusetts Conference For Women:

It’s so funny that conferences are supposed to be about 2 things: 1. The exchange of information, but they are also supposed to be about Connection. And very few people feel connected at conferences.

“As someone who suffers from CAD, Conference Anxiety Disorder, it’s about getting to a new environment; a physically new environment, that I don’t know. Being with people I don’t know. They are usually overly large venues and I’m trying to figure out, where am I going to belong; where are my people.

What role can social media and the thought of turning Hashtags to Handshakes play in all of this?

The thing I think social media can do that is great, is help people to start cultivating connections and belonging before they get to a conference; “Hey, I can’t wait to meet you;” “let’s meet here,” “let’s do this together.” And so to me using technology, especially social media helps people get things in advance; especially when there are 50 breakout sessions and we are trying to figure out which way to go and how am I gonna get everywhere. Many times there are threads in conferences and people try to follow them, but it gets really overwhelming. And people have to make very hard choices, “do I go see her or do I go see him.”

I think all people need to do to enjoy conferences is have a sense of belonging; I always say social media is communication not connection, but I do think in this case the communication that social media can help to facilitate connection.

As a speaker at one of the biggest conferences for women in the U.S. I’m scared to death, but I’ve been reading the hashtag, #MassWomen, for the last 2 weeks and people are like, “hey, can’t wait to see you,” or like when I met you (referring to me–Ambassador Bruny), “I was like, I recognize you from twitter–hey.” We have an immediate connection and we have something to talk about and we have something we share in common. For me I’m interested in meeting the people I’ve seen on Twitter; cause I feel a sense of connection already and I think that is neat. So I think that is the power of social media as primarily as a communication tool that can lead to connection if we follow-up. It’s about the conversion. The conversion rate of using communication(Social Media) to convert to real connection. I think we can help facilitate that as conference programmers.

If someone like you could use social media to create tweet-ups and say “let’s meet here,” and connect people interested in a certain thing, that would help. <--That's where my work with "The New Art of Conference Networking: #Hashtags to Handshakes," comes in.

What keeps people from fully embracing the conference experience?

The thing that keeps me up in my room paying too much for romantic comedies, is the scared 7th grader inside me, who doesn’t want to walk into a room full of people. The story I’m making up in my head; the story I tell myself that fuels my anxiety is, everyone has someone here but me; has a group, has belonging. And it’s the sweaty palm 7th grader with the heavy tray in the cafeteria; that’s what conferences feel like to me. I have been recommended to look into medical marijuana before going to these events, with dispensaries in lansing, and other areas, available to get what I require, however, I still need to think this over as I am not too sure yet.

What’s the difference between connecting with someone on Social Media and connecting in person?

The difference is, when we communicate using social media there is not a vulnerable bid for connection. If I call you on the phone and say, “hey this is Brene, would you like to meet for breakfast tomorrow,” that is a vulnerable bid for connection. If I tweet you and say, “I can’t wait to meet you at this thing,” it’s safe.

Parting thoughts?

Give people a place that they can go. It’s all about belonging.

Thank you Brene!

Remember, Long after the conference has concluded, it’s the connections that continue.

Are you interested in learning how you can build more of a sense of belonging at your next conference? I created a course that you can take at your own pace and get 1-on-1 coaching with me. Learn more HERE.

Mike Ambassador Bruny
Mike Ambassador Bruny

I have a deep desire to help spread entrepreneurial thinking as the solutions to many of our problems today. I am a project kind of guy who loves to get things started. When I'm not in search of contract work (projects) that I can do during the nights and weekends I can be found working as a mild mannered Digital Content Manager for Babson Executive Education.