In Praise of the Nobodies

In Praise of the Nobodies

It seems to happen at every conference: there’s a moment when I see someone I know, say hello, and they blow right by me in a rush for a 10-second exchange with someone “big” who won’t remember them five minutes later. Then: onto the next conquest.

Maybe they thrust a business card into the person’s hand and say, “Listen to my podcast!” or “Read my blog!” Sometimes it’s genuine — telling the person, “I love your work.” But in many cases, it’s all about trying to buddy up in the hope that they will somehow be brought into the inner circle and become big themselves.

At best, it smacks of desperation; at worst, it reeks of, “What can you do for me?!”

What is the Goal of a Conference?

I get it — a conference is at least partly about making connections.

But if you zip past the people supporting you right now in a race to get a handful of seconds with a bigger personality, you’ve just established that you’re in it for yourself no matter how genuine you claim to be. No matter how many times you tell those around you that they matter to you, it becomes clear they don’t.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather have an experience like this (or this), instead of desperately trying to put what I do into the heads of a bigger guests.

In Praise of the Nobodies

So here’s to the nobodies just doing their thing, in spite of all the obstacles…

Here’s to the girl getting together with her geek buddies to talk about Dungeons and Dragons because they all love it and don’t care whether or not they can monetize their passion…*

Here’s to the guy with a podcast about novels only a handful of people may be reading; by curating things for that small following, you’ve given a voice to those who often feel silent…

Here’s to the people talking about quirky passions, the invisible outcasts who will keep talking even if only four people listen to or read what they’re doing…

Here’s to the people doing a thing simply because they love it — not because they want to claw their way to “guru” status…

Here’s to the non-“Rockstars” and “Nope-I-Am-Not-A-Ninja”s; people who are so much more than a buzzword..

Here’s to the real people who don’t just say they are genuine, but truly are.


Wine glasses - cheers!



  1. Well said, Chris. My strategy is to say “hello” to the “big” names at a conference, but engage with the regular folks. It’s the regular folks who will surprise you with the better stories. It’s the regular folks who are more likely to connect with you. It’s the regular folks who are more likely to listen to your podcast. Speaking of podcasts, have you heard my new podcast about…

  2. Christopher Gronlund says


    It always interests me when people talk about certain periods in time when you see groups of people rise up doing creative things. Just how people say, “Man, can you imagine being there, then, when all those writers knew each other in college and then how they all got big?” People see the “big” in that and seem to forget that most movements were nothing but nobodies at a time. It’s not like the French Impressionists were being driven around in the finest coaches and showered in riches at the time. They were a group of like-minded people doing their thing.

    So many people who don’t have big followings don’t realize they are sometimes a part of something bigger than themselves — that just by doing their thing and hanging out with their unknown friends and acquaintances, they are paving the way to become big one day. In the late 80s/early 90s, you could walk up and chat with Neil Gaiman at a comic book convention. He wasn’t a nobody, but people weren’t lining up to see him. At a local convention, he was sitting in the dealer room of all places, with Heroes Comics (that used to be in Hurst). He was accessible. Just a couple years later, he did a signing at the store and there was a line. And now…well, he’s rather known; you don’t get that kind of time with him anymore because he’s so big.

    That big-named guest is slammed, but you never know who that nobody is going to become. I think it’s great that Scott Sigler will be at Podcast Movement this weekend — he’s one of the reasons I recorded Hell Comes with Wood Paneled Doors, and I love what he’s done with all he does. But I really look forward to chatting with the people you see who are kind of shy and able to chat for a bit.

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