Standing out

I was at a dental conference last weekend. It still sounds a bit strange to me when I say it out loud (or write it down) that I work in the dental industry, although I have done for the past 6 years!

A lot of what I do requires me to be brave. Working for myself is not in my comfort zone. I’m mostly very shy and introverted. It takes quite a lot of ‘psyching’ up to speak to people at professional events like this one. For the most part I feel awkward, clammy-handed and self conscious inside. But I’ve learnt not to give those feelings any airtime in my work. The more you acknowledge them, the more you give them legroom to take over.

Introducing myself, telling someone what I do, asking well-known thought leaders for an interview, striking up a conversation with a stranger…the very thought of this makes me feel ill. But once I get over that initial feeling, a little trapdoor opens in the pit of my stomach and a rush of exhilaration floods through me – and then I get in the zone! In just a few years I’ve learnt that the times I’ve been the most brave, have led to the most amazing things. It pays to be brave :)

When I was invited to a 1950s glamour themed fancy dress cocktail reception that was held after day 1 of the conference, I wasted no time in getting an outfit sorted. Where I come from, you don’t show up at a fancy dress party without wearing fancy dress. It’s very much a go big or go home mentality. And for me, there is nothing worse than being under-dressed at an event.

So that evening, off I trotted in my Marilyn Monroe get-up (a la Some like it hot circa 1955) to the lobby and around the corner to the bar. There were people everywhere. Sitting, standing, talking. Nobody had dressed up. Never had a platinum blonde wig stood out so much in a sea of grey faces! It felt like everyone was staring at me. To say I died a thousand deaths inside would be an understatement. It was a fail of Bridget-Jonesian proportions.

Thoughts that went through my mind included:

  • whoops! somebody didn’t get the memo the party was cancelled!?
  • whoops! wrong venue!?
  • you should have worn your glasses. There must be someone here that you recognise?! no?!
  • RUN. back up to your hotel room and never come out again
  • casually slip off the wig, put it in your handbag and pretend that nothing happened
  • order a very large glass of wine and find somebody, anybody, to speak to

Like Bridget Jones would have done, I took the last option. I figured it was the least humiliating thing to do at the time. I somehow thought that the longer I stayed the more I would blend in. My black gloved hands clasped desperately onto a massive Merlot as I spotted two ladies who had also dressed for the occasion. The relief to find fellow fancy dressers was immense. It was a very easy introduction…before a word was spoken we had a lot in common! A little while later a few more fabulous 1950s dressers arrived and I soon realised there was a small group tucked away in a far corner of the bar, that had been there all along. It turned out to be a fantastic party and I quickly forgot about my earlier nerve-wracking experience.

And there were in fact many familiar faces in the crowd. Many didn’t recognise me at first, I think some were slightly shocked to discover who Marilyn was! Perhaps it was a good thing to stand out. And yes, I would say skipping back to my hotel room, wig slightly askew, at 4am, was a sign of a great party!

lessons learnt:

  • there will always be a sea of grey faces in every crowd. you don’t need their approval
  • never pass up an opportunity to dress up and let your hair down, or in my case, pin it up
  • you are never alone. there are always kindred spirits lurking about, you just have to look for them in the right places
  • when a fellow business owner throws a party at a professional event – show up, dress up and show your support! (thanks Kelly!)
  • don’t wait. celebrate!
  • perhaps partying till 4am is not the best thing to do if you have a full day of working the next day (will remember for next time to turn in at 3am)…

What have you done recently to stand out? How did it go?

  • Karen Martin, The Smile Spa

    Hi Marita I remember that feeling, but you found us! Lynn and I from the Smile Spa felt exactly the same, but who cares, we need people to stand out sometimes, and we had some great fun doing so :-)

    • Marita

      And how relieved I was to find you! You guys looked fabulous Karen! Sometimes it’s good to do something completely different :)

  • SarahFidd

    Hey Marita – it was fab !!!! I used all my FactFinder skills to research, then my lack of Quick start got in the way. I was one of the many who “missed” you at 1st glance. Will be there with you next year in full fancy dress – Promise :-) Can’t guarantee an early finish though – thought anytime before 4am might be interpreted as rude ?
    Stay true to you – and keep sharing xx

    • Marita

      thanks for your comment Sarah! glad to hear you’ll be joining us in fancy dress next year. and yes, it is rude to leave a party before 4am :)

  • http://www.seminarsthirtyeight Wil Watts

    Hi Marita,

    Great blog post! As you saw on the night I was one of the shameful people who didn’t follow the dress code and I felt very embarrassed at the time when I saw the effort so many people had went too!

    What struck me about those who had dressed up was they did stand out and you did want to go and speak to them and get to know them. The party was a great way to connect again with everyone that I had met before and connect with those who I knew on FB and Twitter but hadn’t met in ‘real life’.

    Looking forward to the next one!

    PS…You looked fabulous!

    • Marita

      Ah thanks for your comment Wil! I’m glad we got to hang out. looking forward to the next fancy dress party already :) …perhaps we could have one at the fabulous seminars@38 at some point – just putting it out there! have a lovely weekend!