The Best of 2009 Blog Challenge
December 6 Notable Workshop or conference:
Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?

Anyone who knows me well knows I’m actually a pretty shy bloke when it comes to public speaking. I attend most large social events with the regularity the British visit the dentist: rarely and only if I have to. I dislike most public PR events for their artificiality and the overcharged need to mince words. I also have a strong aversion to public speaking, mostly because I hate preparing for them and only like to speak when I truly have something to say and know a great deal about the topic.

But this November I was invited to be a guest panelist by one of my Apartment Therapy writers, Rebecca Orlov, who co-organizes special events called Blog Out Loud. They’re intimate, smaller group meetings where bloggers and would-be bloggers connect, discussing topics that range from getting started as a blogger to more serious issues like intellectual rights. The panel included:

    * Emily Goligoski of The SanFranista and Notes on Design
    * Laure Joliet of Apartment Therapy, At Home At Home and Dwell
    * Alissa Walker of Fast Company, Gelatobaby, GOOD
    * Haily Zaki of Curbed LA, Inhabitat and Secret Agent PR

I admit I came to the event at the Santa Monica Design Within Reach unprepared in the sense I didn’t bring a preplanned set of points to discuss. I was there to speak about the topic of blogging, something that seems to come as naturally to me as appreciating images of beautiful naked women, enjoying delicious variations of pork products or pantomiming various rutting animals, so I appeared armed only with my experience and opinion. I had attended a previous Blog Out Loud event where former AT colleagues spoke and I noted how casual, friendly and extremely informative the event was, so I was confident I could throw in my two cents with an additional couple of cents of value if given the opportunity amongst a panel of similarly experienced bloggers. For gosh sake, I’ve been blogging for years now, I could at least make a stab at telling people I do what I do in a semi-proficient manner.

Anyway, I avoided any sense of worry or nervousness that normally hops onto my back, grabs me by the ears, and slaps my ass until I crawl into a ball of worry that preludes public engagements beyond poker nights with comic book loving friends (oh wait, that even made me nervous, since I didn’t know how to play poker until recently). That was until I sat down, faced outward and noted to myself, “Hey dimwit, you’re about to speak to a bunch of people who’ve come to expect expert advice, from you!” Ah, here’s where the little nervous monkey mounted my back and yelled “giddyup”.

Emily noted while watching nearby that at the start of the workshop my demeanor changed with the subtle cues only someone who knows me as well she does could pickup (or was it the spit bubble and vacant stare?). On the outside everyone else thought I was fine, but inside I began the panel with a tightened chest, clenched butt cheeks that could have transformed coal into a symbolic matrimonial piece and experienced a rapid heart rate that would have made a slamming drum ‘n bass track.

But a few minutes into the panel discussion, with the aid of some solid lead-in topics by Megan Arquette, I found myself finding more confidence about discussing topics that truly do matter to me as a figure in the world of online media; I ended up speaking more often and longer than I would have initially suspected. My ever perceptive Emily later mentioned I tend to vocalize in a very serious and authoritative tone when speaking publicly, a characteristic not attributed necessarily to any seriousness and God knows not due to any authority, but simply rooted in the process of reining in my nervous feelings (akin to tightening and pulling in your gut when a lovely lass passes by). Anyway, the workshop ended up flying by, I met some wonderful folks from both the panel and the audience afterward (thanks to everyone who came over to say ‘hello’), and I felt like I made some strides in toppling my fear of public speaking. It was a small victory on a personal level and a fulfilling one from a professional perspective, so I’m very pleased I forced myself out of my bubble.

Yeah, I’m a blabber mouth online and a complete wallflower in person. Just remember that if you meet me at a party. Or offer me some bacon and a copy of Helmut Newton nudes.