You open your eyes. You’re in a giant tungsten-lit room filled with people. A slight air-conditioned breeze disturbs the lanyard around your neck, as you scan the room for a familiar face. Nothing. All strangers. Probably founders or co-founders, or rock-star developers with Red Bull running through their veins. Whoever they are, they’re much more important than you.
Your heart drops into the pit of your stomach, as a stream of perverse thoughts enters your brain: Why is everyone talking but me? Am I broken? You remember some song lyric about how strange it is to feel alone even when you’re surrounded by people, and you wonder if that songwriter had ever been to a tech conference.
But a figure approaches! He walks confidently toward you (no he doesn’t walk, he strides), his lanyard hanging perfectly straight over his blue polo shirt, immaculately-positioned despite what you’re sure has been a furious morning of Networking. You take a deep breath, heart-pounding, and look into his eyes which, to your shock, are fixated on you. Is he coming over to introduce himself?
You try to pull meaning from his face. He looks happy. Happy to see you? But wait, he doesn’t know you. And if he did, he probably wouldn’t want to. He’s probably walking to say hello to the person behind you and you’re merely in his way. How could you be such a fool?
At the last possible moment, you bail. You take out your phone, the lights and shapes on the screen a blur, and you pretend you’ve seen some important text message, about a deal or something. And without looking up, you walk into the hallway, the din of the conference room reduced to a vague murmur. Your heart-rate slows and you can finally breathe again.
But you feel defeated. No one’s going to hear about your startup. No one’s going to invite you to after-conference karaoke. Why did you come here? What did you expect?
And as you head toward the exit, there’s only one regret running through your mind, something that might’ve given you a much-needed confidence boost before entering the belly of the beast…