I arrived in Nashville yesterday for Blissdom, and am already settling into “conference mode.” This morning I was chatting with my roommate about the general nature of these conferences and how they have some very unique characteristics I’ve never found at any other conference.
Blogging conferences are a blend of business, inspiration, and – I’m going to say it – a bit of competition. And those three things? Can all happen within the same conversation.
Years ago, I was studying anthropology (thanks to the advice of my writing mentor who said the fastest way to being a great writer was to study people) and I learned about the Markedness Model of Code Switching.
What is Markedness Model of code switching? Here’s a definition that refers to the behavior at mom blogging conferences.
…speakers project their intentions through ostensive communicative acts, and listeners infer speakers’ intentions as part of their communicative competence. The data show that a speaker’s intentions are made manifest not necessarily by the referential meaning of an utterance, but by the code the speaker selects. The intention is derived from the extent to which it deviates from the established unmarked setting for the interaction.
Of course, the language and behavior “switches” we do at blogging conferences are not nearly as intense as what’s described above. But I do find myself at conferences flipping between sharing stories about my daughter, discussing the implications of SEO and Google+, talking about the incredibly inspiring work someone is doing in our community, and pitching my blog or my sponsors. The line between professional and personal is blurry at these conferences, and working to avoid being “inappropriate” requires a certain kind of watchfulness that can be exhausting – while also being incredibly enriching and valuable.
I’ve never experienced anything like it at other business-oriented conferences (because, contrary to some opinions, mom blogging conferences at the core ARE about business). At other types of business conferences I find myself looking forward to getting to my hotel room at night so I can drop my “professional” demeanor and relax (much like shedding my bra at the end of the day). Mom blogging conferences are completely different.
So how do you guard yourself against the mental exhaustion that comes from rapid-fire code switching? I make myself take an hour or so mid-day alone in my room. I work hard to remain positive and upbeat. I make sure I have time with trusted friends where I can relax and be fully myself. I make sure I sleep plenty, that I eat well, and that I call home often. It helps.
Plus, I take the time to revel in the amazing collective power of all these smart, beautiful, and talented women. You can’t go wrong with that.