I do have a story to share with you about my experience as a volunteer at BlogHer. Several months ago, when BlogHer announced their BlogHerships, I signed up enthusiastically for the title of "microphone wrangler." In exchange for holding a microphone at a few sessions I'd get a free ticket to the conference.
THAT'S A MILLION DOLLAR VALUE. Practically.
What I didn't know at the time, however, is that microphone wrangling is no fucking joke, okay? My time in those rooms, full of women with VERY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS, was the most nerve-wracking of my time in San Diego. It was, in fact, the only time I erupted in anxiety hives, I'll have you know. And, while there was a brief training session the day before, all I'd taken from the meeting was "make sure they wait for the microphone before talking", "don't stand near the speakers, you idiot", "try to get to everyone because otherwise, they'll give you death threats with their eyeballs", and "don't let them hold the mic, in case they're long-winded and won't shut the fuck up."
Easy enough, right?
(Well. They left out the part that prepped me for when the audience turned into a bunch of ravenous zombies, wherein my microphone THAT I SHALL NOT LET GO OF is a plate of delicious brains.)
Scene: Friday, Day 1 of the conference, in a session about PR and the like. The panel spends roughly 30 minutes talking about brands and I'm mostly paying attention, noting that I'm clearly not professional enough to be participating in things like "pitches." Then they open up the room to questions.
Panel Woman: [Gesturing to me.] So, with that...I think we'll open it up for some questions from you guys...
[Six THOUSAND hands go in the air.]
Me: [Making my way toward the closest woman with a speed that could only have been fueled by fear of death, and placing the microphone before her mouth.]
Audience Woman #1: [Grabbing the microphone, then noticing that I'm not letting go.] Oh...
Me: [Awkward smile. Gripping the mic.]
Audience Woman #1: [Gripping the microphone even harder, her hand squeezing mine. She yanks it toward her mouth and for a moment, I lose my balance and imagine faceplanting into her lap.] ...well, okay then...[Awkward smile. She then proceeds to ask her question.]
Me: [Standing there for the duration, at one point using my other arm to support my microphone-bearing one, 'cuz girlfriend IS CHATTY. Aaaand, she's squeezed my hand numb.]
I tried not to make eye-contact with anyone in the room for the rest of the session, scanning the crowd only for hands rather than faces. The only thing occupying my mind was that this entire session was being recorded--which is the whole reason I was there, to help capture the audience's questions--and that my awkward exchange with Audience Woman #1 was probably captured, and would be up on the BlogHer site within a few days.
Scene: Saturday, Day 2 of the conference, in a session about...[redacted]. [Ahem.] Prior to arriving I have chugged a margarita at the bar.
Me: [Arriving at session chewing 16 pieces of gum because I'm paranoid the panel will smell it on my breath AND THEN I'LL BE GROUNDED.]
Panel: [Speaking really beautifully about [readacted]. The audience is already chomping at the bit with half-raised hands BEFORE IT'S TIME.]
Me: [Crumpled eyebrows, trying to establish a mental queue of the hands...quickly gives way to blank look of defeat and terror.]
Panel: ...so let's hear from the audience then. I think there's a hand up over here...[pointing toward a woman in the front]
Me: [Elated that I don't have to choose amongst the hands, I dart over to the woman, concentrating on not tripping along the way. I hold out my microphone without a struggle.]
THINGS ARE SUDDENLY GOING SWIMMINGLY! WHY WAS I SO WORRIED?!
After the woman is done asking her question, I head coolly toward another woman nearby. This process is repeated without incident. However, I'm quickly starting to realize that, after about 15 minutes, I haven't even gotten to the other side of the room. AND YET THERE ARE EYES STILL UPON ME ON *THIS* SIDE OF THE ROOM.
I'm feeling panicky, and gesture to someone in the far corner that she's next. But...it was too late...
Panel: [Interrupting, looking at me, possibly with imagined contempt, but I'm no mind-reader] Um, I think we need to get to some people on the OTHER side of the room. [Continues talking amongst the panel and to the audience about the current question.]
Me: [HER MIND BULLETS HAVE KILLED ME DEAD.]
I'm frozen for a moment when a woman approaches me in a crouched position. Presumably, it's to avoid the camera behind us, but I'm not unconvinced she is posturing for an attack.
Her: [Whispering, crouching] You know...at another session, they had people line up to avoid this kind of problem.
Me: [The word PROBLEM is echoing through my brain and I'm disoriented. I shrug in her general direction. I run to the back corner, mortified, and position myself next to the woman on the other side of the room.]
I've just been scolded. Twice. On audio. At BlogHer. LET'S GO TO THE VIDEOTAPE!
Audience Woman: [Smile.]
Me: [Weak smile.]
Audience Woman: [Reaches out for the microphone.]
Me: [Whispering.] They're not done with the other question yet, so...[weak smile.]
Audience Woman: [Hand still out for microphone.] Yeah, I know, but I'll just hold it.
Me: [OMFG.] Well...[Dropping to a nearly imperceptible whisper]...I'm not supposed to let go of the microphone...[awkward smile.]
Audience Woman: [Face wrinkles in disbelief.] [NOT WHISPERING.] WHAT?!
Me: [OMFG. PANIC HIVES. I WAS NOT TRAINED ON HOW TO DEAL WITH A MICROPHONE CONFRONTATION FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.]
Audience Woman: I was at the same session as you. I didn't hear them say anything like that. [Steady, fierce gaze into my soul.]
It's around this time that I start weighing options. Certainly I cannot launch into a debate about the transcript of the goddamn training session. So, do I just give her the microphone and slink out the side door? Bonk her on the head with the microphone and stun her into silence? Break the microphone in half over my knee and summon the room into a group fucking hug?
Audience Woman: ...
Panel: ...okay, and the next question? [Scanning the crowd and spotting us in the corner.]
Audience Woman: ...
Audience Woman: [UNWAVERING] ...
Fade to black.
I fucking caved and just handed her the fucking microphone, alright?
But, I'll have you know that, in doing so, I'm pretty sure I single-handedly saved all of BlogHer, preventing it from devolving into a state of utter microphone chaos.
If you listen hard enough, you can probably hear it on the audio tape.
BONUS: Here's a picture of me and Lexa the night before we left. As you can see, I'm incredibly photogenic.
|I'm on the left. With the striped breast.|
And Mandy is a hell of a photographer.