One of the funny things about being a self-help writer is that people assume you take your own advice. I try to. I wouldn’t write it if I didn’t think it was effective. On the other hand, there’s the old adage that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And there is no annoyance like when you know you should do something...and don’t.
I have been quite adamant on the subject of not taking conference swag. Swag just clutters up your life after a conference and, more importantly, it weighs you down while you’re there. If you’re a busy person with a career and a personal life, the reason you’ve taken time to go to a conference is to network and make professional connections. Lugging around a tote bag of stuff works against that. Either you’re heading back to your room to drop it off, or you’re encumbered at receptions and between sessions. Either way, you’re less likely to walk around making conversation.
I know this. Yet at BlogHer in New York City this past week, I found myself with...a tote bag full of swag. Heavy swag. I dragged it out to drinks with some people, and dragged it around to the Friday evening parties, but wound up leaving earlier than I might of, mostly because I was tired. Why was I tired? Partly because I was sick, and partly because I had this giant bag. Sure, I could have just ditched it. But having carried it around all day, I succumbed to the sunk cost fallacy (also known as throwing good money after bad, etc.) and felt I needed to hang on to it until the bitter end.
I’ve pondered how this happened. Partly, it’s because BlogHer has a lot of people who write about home and family. Thus, a lot of the swag was useful household items. I am a recovering frugal sort who has a hard time passing up free toothpaste. I also love books, and one of the booths was sponsored by a publisher, whose rep casually suggested I take any books I like. Oh dear. The place looked like a pleasing aisle in Barnes & Noble where someone had just invited me to go on a shopping spree. And so, soon, my tote bag filled up.
Of course, when I got home, I faced the realization that I already have a lot of toothpaste, thanks to my Costco habit, and my queue of reading material keeps getting longer, not shorter. While I do think I will enjoy the books, the correct thing to do at that booth was to get the press contact’s name and email him or her on Monday to ask for review copies of the titles I wanted. The rule still stands. I shouldn’t take the swag.