This is the second essay in a three-part story of self-discovery that coincidentally culminated with my attendance at the World Domination Summit (#WDS2013) in Portland, Oregon July 5- 7, 2013. Click here for Part I in this series.
I ran into Jeff, a friend from North Carolina, at the Zoo. We had talked a little before I left to mingle with others in the crowd. I have learned to force myself into the discomfort of small talk, so I am not perceived as a wallflower at parties. It would have been easy to sit down with Jeff and not engage anyone else. It would have been easy for me to be a wallflower at the World Domination Summit. There were so many people.
I am not “shy,” the word most extroverts think is interchangeable with the word, “introvert.” I’m outgoing, and I make friends easily. I work hard not to come across to others as aloof, although I am certain those who may not know me well have used the word to describe me.
As an introvert, I draw energy from being alone and reflecting; crowds suck energy from me. As much as I like people, large events like WDS can be particularly draining because I put myself into “outgoing-introvert” mode for hours of constant interaction. If I could have visualized my energy levels through the evening, I would have seen a cell phone battery light, slowly discharging from the constant engagement of others.
I made some new friends during the opening reception. I met, in person, a few long-time Twitter friends. I even did something I never do: I stayed until nearly the end of the party.
The next morning I ran into Jeff again on my way to breakfast, and he asked me to join him. Afterward, we walked to the meeting hall for the day’s sessions. Jeff and I sat together at the end of one row in the balcony, only to be encouraged by conference staff to move toward the middle of the row so others could find a seat more easily. The row filled quickly, leaving two seats beside me. Just before the program began, a couple came in and asked if the seats were available. I looked up to answer, and I felt an unexplained connection with them. We offered polite introductions, including the obligatory WDS question, “How far have you traveled?” and then the program started. After the morning sessions had been over, we took a short break. I did not see Jeff, or the couple, for the rest of the day.
I intentionally set the bar low for most conferences, hoping to find only one nugget of information I can take away and put to use. I was confident I had found my nugget in the very first session, with communications strategist Nancy Duarte. Still, I listened intently to the other presentations, and although interesting and entertaining—especially Jia Jiang’s presentation on Rejection—much of what I heard reinforced concepts I know and have applied in my life and work for a long time. There was little new content for me, but I enjoyed being in the company of such passionate, interesting, and fun people.
After the day’s closing session, I took part in photo-walk in downtown Portland for a while before breaking off for drinks and dinner with my long-time Twitter friend Heather, and her friend Anna. It’s always interesting to connect in person with someone I have known only through social media. Sometimes social media allows a person to project a façade, but everyone I met in person at WDS, like Heather, seemed warm and authentic.
I turned in early the first night and reflected on my day. The reinforcing words of the speakers and the passion and openness of the attendees were on my mind. I thought more about the energy I felt from the couple and the courage I heard in the voices of those seeking to be somehow “remarkable in a conventional world.” I considered my frequent encounters with Jeff in a sea of 3,000 people.
My “spidey-sense”—the feeling I get when my brain is working overtime to find patterns among the random inputs and connect those seemingly unconnectable dots—began to tingle. It seemed the Universe was up to something. Maybe even something magical. Whatever it was planning, though, I hoped it would wait at least until morning.