First a rather long digression. When I reached a certain level of prominence in my career, I started receiving invitations to speak at seminars, conferences, and Esperanto congresses. My CV astonishingly lists almost two dozen such instances.
At some point, I discovered that being an invited speaker transformed my experience of attending a conference. As a attendee — or even a regular speaker — I would have a tendency to sit off to the side by myself and, if people came over to talk to me, that was fine. But I might attend a whole conference where I literally spoke to no-one.
Even that was a success for me because I’m rather painfully introverted. Just making myself attend at all was a huge success. Even sitting in the corner and watching everyone else network and not just running screaming from the room, was a win for me.
Being an invited speaker made a huge difference. All of a sudden I had a role! I was there for a reason! There was an expectation that everyone would want to meet and talk with me. It was wild!
In point of fact, my behavior didn’t really have to change. Even if I sat in the corner, people would come over to me to chat with me. But I found that I didn’t need to. The added confidence of being the invited speaker was enough to enable me to put myself out there. I could just walk up and introduce myself to people! I could mingle and chat with people just like a normal person. It was amazing!
At some point, I realized that my earlier difficulty was entirely in my head. If I could get my head into the right place — even without an invitation — I could behave the same way. I could walk in, introduce myself to people, mingle, etc. just like a Real Boy.
That’s totally not to say that this is what I actually do when I’m not an invited speaker. If anything, I’m even worse than I was before. I know that I could put myself out there, but I don’t. I still have a tendency to go sit in a corner and just wait for people to chat with me. Some people have accused me of waiting for people to come “kiss my ring.” Whatever. And I mean that in the best way: Whatever it takes for me to get myself there is what works.
But now I’m a published author. And as I’m preparing to head to my first Worldcon — and first face-to-face conference as an author — I’m steeling myself to put myself forward. And I’m reflecting on how to leverage all my experience as an invited speaker to not just sit on the sidelines but, instead, be a full and active participant.
I’m really excited. It’s a kind of reverse imposter syndrome where I’m pretending I’m a normal, well-adjusted person who belongs in the spotlight — and not some freakish troglodyte that should stay in the shadows. Yeah. Yeah! I’ve got this.