For introverts, attending a conference can seem utterly exhausting and daunting. Avoiding conferences altogether – or not talking to anyone while you are there – has the potential to harm your personal brand or business. The good news is that you do not have to sacrifice your personality or alone time to get the most value from conferences and other networking events. To strike a balance between the two, here are a few simple steps to keep in mind when attending a conference.
1. Take time to recharge.
One of the most intimidating aspects of a conference for many introverted individuals – and some extroverts – is the notion of being energetic and socializing with people all day long. It will be very important for you to utilize free time to recharge when taking in novice stimuli. Whether you take 20 minutes here or there, time that you take for yourself will allow you to fake it ‘till you make it. While you may feel exhausted, taking some time for yourself each day of the conference will allow you to present a genuinely engaged and bubbly appearance to others at the event. This technique may even allow you to get more out of the experience then if you had pushed yourself too far out of your comfort zone.
2.Attend conferences that you are genuinely interested in.
It is important to put your time and effort into events that you know will be worth the extra effort in the long run. If you are genuinely interested in the subject matter, you will be less likely to become as drained. At the end of the conference, if you feel genuinely engaged and interested in the material, this will make it easier to discuss topics that you enjoy. Let your excitement surrounding the subject speak for itself, and people will be less likely to notice that you actually feel exhausted on the inside.
3.Think of networking as a learning experience.
The thought of attending a meet and greet after a keynote presentation is just about the last thing an introvert would want to do. It is a very personal decision when trying to decide which holds more precedent for you as an individual; the keynote, the meet and greets, or maybe a combination of the two. Introverts are known for being very curious and open to learning new material; think of the meet and greets as a new learning experience. When talking to someone new think to yourself: “what can I learn from or about this person? What is interesting about this person? What can I add to the conversation?” At the same time, it is important to strike a balance between making valuable connections and knowing when you have hit your threshold. When you feel that you have made a few quality connections and feel satisfied with your accomplishments, head back to your hotel room or a quiet restaurant to recharge for the next day.
4.Build upon existing connections.
During the first few days of the conference, try to branch out a little at first, but when you are satisfied with these initial connections, begin to build upon them. Branching out for introverts can be a very daunting task, but knowing that you will be able to relax later on may help ease this fear. If you recognize someone that you met earlier in the conference, and see them at the keynote, sit with them and discuss the presentation at the end. Ask them what they thought of speaker and if they might use any of the new tools in their practice. According to research conducted by Zajonc (1968), showed that repeated exposure to particular stimuli is correlated to a more positive mood associated with the stimuli as well as a more calm mood overall when presented with the stimuli. If a particular contact interacts with you a repeated number of times during the conference, both you and the other person will begin to feel calmer when they see you. This sense of calmness will spill over to your feelings about the conference as a whole, and then you may wonder why you were so worried about meeting new people in the first place. This repeated exposure will also set you apart; the person who was exposed to you a repeated number of times will be more likely to remember you after the conference, compared to someone they only saw once or twice
5.Make yourself a home away from home.
It will be important to make your hotel room into a mini-sanctuary; a place to go and relax at the end of a long day, as well as adding some familiarity to your routine. It will be important to incorporate little pieces of your normal routine into your time at a conference, especially if you are going to be in the same place for an extended period of time. In Laurie Helgoe’s book, she discusses the importance of adding comfort items into your suitcase, such as your favorite slippers or tea, “those kinds of things can be anchoring. They’re a reminder of home. They make the place feel less cold” (Helgoe, L., 2013). If you typically go for a run in the morning or love to eat the same thing every day for breakfast, try to sprinkle your familiar routine in with your new routine at the hotel.
6.Don’t feel guilty for bowing out early.
Don’t let yourself become a victim of “introvert guilt”; the guilt that many introverts may feel for bowing out of a networking event early. Know that many others at the conference are there for work purposes; many other individuals will want to rest up before another big day of attending presentations. Be purposeful and set a goal for the number of people you hope to meet at an event. If you set a goal to meeting 10 people, and you met even 9 or 12, know that you met your goals and you can bow out feeling guilt-free.
Just because you are introverted does not necessarily mean that you have to push yourself to your wits end, or that you can’t get the most out of the experience. Being an introvert does not have to be a curse, but you may have to navigate networking in a different way compared to your other colleagues. Be purposeful by setting goals for yourself, and try to view a conference as a fun learning experience.
Do you see yourself as introverted? Are there some techniques you have incorporated into your routine at a conference to get the most out the experience? Let us know in the comments below!
Helgoe, L. (2013). Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Hidden Strength. Illinois: Sourcebooks, Inc.
Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal Effects of Mere Exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(2), 1-27. http://www.morilab.net/gakushuin/Zajonc_1968.pdf