Orlando TweetUp: nobody told me this was a professional party

Last Thursday night, I attended the Orlando TweetUp hosted by the Orlando Sentinel in… wait for it… Orlando.

Let me tell you about how I wanted to die.

First of all, thank GOD I was meeting Shash, Susan from EggMarketing and Melanie from ModernMami there. The three of them were the sum total of the group of People I Knew. They also, more importantly, were the sum total of the group of People Who Knew Me.

the girls

Of course, I’ve gone to blogging meetups before and have met lots and lots of new people. This would be fun, I assured myself.

This was not a casual meetup for many of the people there. This? Was a networking event. It took me about fifteen minutes to realize that I don’t do networking. The first time a woman walked by me, handed me a business card and said “let’s be friends” before moving past me, I knew I was out of my element.

Like any good Internet addict, I turned to my iPhone for comfort.

I checked my email, updated my twitter page, and verified my bank balance hadn’t changed in the last 30 seconds. I was engrossed in these coping mechanisms when I caught the fringes of an interesting conversation.

Shash, Susan and Melanie were standing around me – giving me a good disguise of someone who belonged there – chatting with a woman who apparently worked in PR. To be honest with you, I have no idea what they were talking about. Something about the clients she represents, perhaps. What I did hear was “and then there is this one mommy bloger, I don’t know, she’s just very much off in her own world and…”

“Who is it?” someone asked. It might have been me, but I doubt it.

“Oh man, I can’t remember.. um… oh yes, Miss Britt!”

I looked up from my iPhone and without thinking, the words fell out of my mouth.

“Hi. That’s me. I’m Miss Britt.”

In a rush of words, the woman who was 2 seconds earlier bitching to a group of friends about how I wasn’t attentive enough to her pitches began telling me how great it was that I did my own thing and how I was so funny and she liked that and no, really, that’s great.

(On a side note, because this little detail pisses me off: I asked her where she got the impression that I was “in my own world” and she told me I didn’t respond to email. I explained to her that as someone working in sales, I always respond to emails I get that are clearly not SPAM – even if it’s just to say no, I’m not interested.)

Needless to say, I was feeling more and more out of place as the moments ticked by.

Susan and Shash let me follow along behind them as they worked the room. They shook hands and handed out business cards and introduced their friend, Britt. They laughed at me for feeling out of place and encouraged me to just go talk to people. I desperately wished I had an angle to sell or a third arm or something that would make me interesting.

I was in a room full of Internet people and suddenly “oh, um, I have a blog” didn’t mean anything.

Let me stop for a minute and clarify that my feeling uncomfortable had nothing to do with the people there. I wasn’t surrounded by snobs or cliques. I was, in fact, in a crowded bar filled to the brim with people who were eager to meet other strangers. The difference was, it seemed like they were all there with a purpose. They had done their research on who would be attending and who they should meet. They had 30 second elevator speeches on who they were and what they did and why they were important people to know. Or they didn’t need elevator speeches because everyone in town knew exactly who the hell they were.

I was just there for a good time.

I thought I might meet some other cool people based on little more than the fact that we all “got” the idea of sending random updates to the Internet. But I spent the first half of the night lost in the details of how I didn’t fit and pinned to the wall by my own insecurities.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve felt so paralyzed by feelings of inadequacy.

The night, however, was not a total loss – thanks to a few people who were willing to look past the wall of my awkwardness and reach out to me.

I cannot say enough about the people of IZEA. The blogosphere knows IZEA as “that company that did pay per posts”, but they’re local to Orlando so I’m privy to a lot of the really cool stuff they do here. (And will be doing more with them on a new site in the as soon as I am caught up on my life again future.) They get my brand of social media – emphasis on social.

Britt and Ashley

Ashley Edwards approached me, camera in hand and a huge smile on his face, and instantly made me feel like less of a loser. He made me laugh, introduced me to his friend, and really made it OK for me to just be myself.

Carri Bright is another IZEA person who I’d never met before but was absolutely beaming “I’m a good time.” I’m sure she’s very professional and great at the job they hire her to do, but I swear I wanted to hug the shit out of her right there just for being so fun and relaxed and making me feel like it was OK to breathe. If that’s her job (and I think it might be), she deserves a raise.

James and Keleigh

Do you see these two people? These two people are even hotter in real life and they were probably the highlight of the night for me. I sent out a twitter along the lines of “I’m the only person twittering at this tweetup and also probably want to die” – and James not only responded – he came and found me. He and Keleigh (who are business partners, not a couple), sat at a table and just talked to me for over an hour (I think). They listened to my jokes and didn’t run away when I got loud and babbly (which, um, I tend to do.)

They aren’t bloggers so they’ll probably never see this, but if they do – thank you. Both of you. You met and exceeded every expectation I had for the night.

Over 1,000 words into this and I still haven’t told you the most ironic part of the night.

I was featured in a video about that night.

I think my answer to “What’s a TweetUp?” compared to everyone else’s perfectly epitomizes the night.

If you can’t watch the video now, allow me to sum it up for you.

I’m the only one who said “crap”. But in the end, I’m also the one who laughed.

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