Next week I have the privilege of attending the WPP Stream (Un)conference (Stream) in Marathon, Greece. It’s a hot-ticket event that has been described to me as the Davos of the ad industry. Among the 300 attendees will be many of the ad industry’s A-listers along with many influential people in technology. My sense is that it’s a bit of a “who’s who” of advertising and technology.
For the last few weeks I’ve been getting very excited about the conference. I’ve emailed everyone I know who will be there, planned my travel and arranged for the time out of the office.
And most importantly, I’ve been preparing my bio for the event.
Stream is a unique event in that each participant has to submit a 140-character bio that will be printed in the conference program. Each participant is expected to learn about the other people coming to the conference and prepare discussion topics. Given this, it’s important to have a good bio. Many of the people in the industry that I deeply care about will see my short bio as a representation of me.
It’s actually very hard to sum yourself up in just 140 characters. I thought about it for several hours. Finally, after much wordsmithing, this is what I came up with:
“Product at AppNexus; blogger at andreweifler.com. Deeply believes in the value of media planning. Fan of disruption and subversive thinking. Metalsmith on the weekends.”
Sums up my passions, my professional beliefs and my hobby all in one stroke. It’s not perfect, but I was pretty happy with it.
Earlier this week the program for the conference was published and I started glossing through the attendees, studying the pithy bio’s of the people I’ll be meeting next week. The invite list if filled with C-level executives, co-founders and a few celebrity level figures in advertising. Since the list is organized alphabetically by first name – I quickly stumbled on my own profile.
This is what it read:
“Product strategist for AppNexus’ Agency & Advertiser business. Weekends spent crafting jewellery and metals in my studio.”
(complete with the British spelling of Jewelry – which looks misspelled to some viewers)
It took a second for the confusion to settle down, but I quickly realized that there must have been some problem posting my bio (not sure how it happened – was probably my fault).
At first this made me feel devastated and embarrassed. I cared very much about making a good impression to this very affluent crowd and now it looks like I don’t even know how to spell. All of the people who I’ve emailed asking to meet up will now see my erroneous bio that projects a very different image of myself than I had intended. A mild feeling of paranoia has haunted me for the last few days.
Then, I thought about it more.
There are really two ways to look at embarrassing events like this. You can let them own you and hide behind a veil of embarrassment. Blame others, try to deflect responsibility and somehow otherwise dodge the issue (this was my first instinct). Or, you can embrace the embarrassment. Lean into the discomfort and find a way to own what has happened. Picture your future self telling a story about it and how you succeeded in spite of it. Find a way to move forward despite the setback and remember that no one else really cares because embarrassing things happen to us all.
This week I’ve learned to choose the second path. So – if any of you are going to be in Marathon next week for Stream, look me up. I’ll be the one with the misspelled bio.