What could be worse for an introvert than the thought of attending a conference packed with hundreds, or even thousands of others, and having to interact with them on top of it all?
While it may not be their favorite situation, introverts can actually get just as much out of a conference as anyone else.
All it takes is a little bit of thought and a slightly different approach.
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Do Some Prep
Look up the list of attendees online and figure out who you’d like to connect with. Either contact them via an email or LinkedIn message or, if you have a mutual acquaintance, ask to be introduced before the event.
This reduces how much work you have to do at the conference itself, as you will already have the beginnings of a relationship.
It’s also a good idea to prepare your elevator pitch, seeing as you will almost certainly be asked, “So what do you do?” more than once before this thing is over.
I know it’s rehearsed and I know you’ll have to repeat it heaven knows how many times, but, if you can, don’t just repeat it robotically.
If it’s boring to you, it likely will be for the other person, too.
Conversations won’t stop there, though, so try to think about a handful of topics that can get things moving again if the conversation slackens.
Once you’ve attended a few sessions, they also make great topics. Shared experiences are great for building a rapport.
If idle chit-chat is something you’re particularly concerned about, read some tips on making small talk.
Look Good, Feel Good
Make sure to pick out outfits that you look good and feel comfortable in. That will give you a natural confidence boost and make it easier to go about approaching strangers at the event.
Know Your Strengths
Be honest with yourself about when you’re at your best. It might be first thing in the morning or you might shine over drinks, but, whenever it is, be aware of it in order to use it to your advantage when making new connections.
Pick and Choose Your Events
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to attend every single thing that’s going on at a conference. Doing that would burn anyone out.
It’s much better to have a look at what’s on and decide which events are most interesting or could be most beneficial for you.
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Become a Speaker
Hear me out. This may seem like the last thing you want to do, but it means you won’t have to introduce yourself to people individually.
Instead, attendees will know who you are and may seek you out, saving you from having to be the one to strike up a conversation.
Look Out for Your Fellow Introverts
Look out for people standing by themselves. They are likely also feeling daunted about approaching people.
If you go to them, it’s win-win. It’s easier for you to approach a single person than a group, and you’re also doing them a favor.
Allow Yourself Some Time Out
Plan some time for yourself during the conference. This could be as simple as watching TV in your hotel room, or it could mean going offsite to see the local area.
Whatever feels good for you, and lets you recharge your batteries.
You can even fit in a quick recharge without going anywhere if you use this strategy from Dharmesh Shah, Hubspot founder and CTO.
He says: “Come into the session just a minute or so before it’s scheduled to start. This minimizes the chances you’ll have to engage in conversation.”
Set Yourself Some Goals
This could be more general, like, “Exchange contact details with X number of people”, or it could be more focused, like, “Meet X number of people who are really strong leads”.
Give Yourself Rewards
When you hit your goals, reward yourself with some time alone doing what you want to do. Make sure you define these rewards in advance.
Planning what the reward is and when you can give it to yourself will help you to avoid being tempted to indulge in your chosen reward earlier than you really deserve.
You Don’t Have to Close the Bar
Especially after a full day of talks or workshops, it’s OK to admit to yourself and others when you just want to leave. When you reach that point, just say, “I think I'm going to head home/to my room. See you tomorrow.”
Nobody will mind. Rather than forcing yourself to stay longer than you really want to, focus on making the most of the time you do spend there.
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Steer Clear of Dutch Courage
While we’re on the subject of the bar, don’t rely on alcohol to boost your confidence or make the enforced socializing more bearable.
Armed with these tips you should be ready and raring for your next conference.
Well, perhaps not quite raring but at least better equipped to handle a situation you’d prefer to avoid altogether. Good luck!