It’s 2017, and I just finished my Junior year of high school. My young self was very politically minded, but had never taken action by going to a conference or joining a campaign. I was virtually a stagnant politico. Around that time, I signed up for a young women’s conference that would take place less than two hours from my hometown in Texas. I was excited, but not even sure if I would end up attending because I didn’t have any friends going or know a single soul who might be there. A few days later, I found out about another conference that would take place in about two weeks in Washington, DC. The speaker list was outstanding and I had never been to DC before, but I had the fear of not knowing anyone and being alone. The thought of thousands of other young people swarming around frightened me beyond belief. “They will all know each other,” I thought, “No one will want to include me, and I won’t make any friends.” Despite my fear, I signed up and booked my plane ticket. 

Upon arriving at the conference venue, I got in line for the luncheon with President Trump. I started examining the crowd. The two people in front of me were from my hometown. They were currently interning for our Congressman in his DC office. I was never close friends with these people, but they were sure a welcoming face to ease my nerves. 

As I entered the beautiful ballroom, I sat down with the three girls to whom I had been randomly matched to room with during the conference. At the same table was one of their close friends. I had heard of this guy because he had created a popular Republican Instagram account, and I introduced myself but didn’t talk to him much beyond that. Keep this person in mind for later!

After the activities for the day were over, I walked down the street to find somewhere to eat. At the crosswalk, I ran into a group of people who were also conference attendees. They seemed friendly and invited me to go eat Chinese food with them. I happily agreed. The two girls in the group immediately included me and seemed genuinely interested in my life. Remember these girls, too!

Once we got back to the hotel, the group that I had eaten with decided to reconvene later in the evening to hangout. One of the girls had heard about a larger gathering with other attendees, so we decided to go. At the mixer, I met a number of people. Everyone was SO nice. I never felt nervous or judged by these people, but they made me feel welcomed. Later that night, the same girl who had the idea for us to go, introduced me to one of her friends she had met earlier in the day. He was very nice, but we didn’t talk much. We exchanged social media and went our own way. This guy is very important.

The conference continued. I hung out with the same group, gleaned invaluable wisdom from the speakers, and then the conference ended.

After the conference was over, I did not expect to ever speak to any of these people again. Boy, was I wrong! Do you remember the guy that sat at my table who ran the popular Instagram account? He just attended my wedding, and I see him every few months. The two girls who invited me to Chinese food dinner? They are two of my very best friends and were bridesmaids in my wedding. The guy I hardly talked to at the late night event? He is now my husband.

What I learned from facing my fears and going to this conference alone that I can share with you today. 

Face your fears

Being scared is okay, but letting it hinder your dreams can be detrimental. These conferences can provide opportunities you could only dream of. You never know what can happen!

Other people are alone, too

I met so many people, who like me,  did not know a single soul. They were just as scared as I was and wanted to make friends. 

Listen to what the speakers have to say

Speakers at a conference are not just a celebrity to grab a selfie with to post on your social media. They are intelligent and bring wisdom beyond measure. I would encourage you to not skip out on lectures but go and listen. That’s what you came for after all! 

Introduce yourself!

Being bold and introducing myself to a complete stranger was one of my biggest fears. I was scared of judgement and being rejected. These conferences are created for networking purposes to make friends and connections. Do not miss an opportunity to meet a new face. The people you meet might make a huge difference in your life like they did in mine.

Go! Attend. Face your fears. I have been there, and trust me, I know it is scary. If you are signed up to attend a conference in the future, use the tools at your fingertips. Most conferences will have a social media page or app that you can join to start making connections even before it starts. This is a fantastic way to ease your fears or already make friends. 

The conferences that I attended over the past two years changed my life. Encouragement and wisdom was breathed into me by the speakers. Connections and friendships were made through networking. But most importantly, confidence was grown within me.

Makenzi C