Big conferences in any branch are exciting, filled with business possibilities and networking opportunities. However, if you are an introvert these conferences can be overwhelming, exhausting and quite damaging to your self-worth and overall feeling of social competence .
If your natural instinct is to stay by yourself, enjoy your own company and not really be the center of a conversation, crowds and networking functions are naturally extremely stressful for you.
However, there are some basic tips you can use to survive any conference as an introvert.
Make time for breaks
Despite common reactions, it is not rude to give yourself some space in between seminars and networking occasions. Get away from the crowd, go and drink a coffee, read part of a book or simply sit in the sun in order to return to your inner happy place. These little moments of solitude will recharge your batteries and you will be able to brace yourself for some more interactions with colleagues or unknown people.
Have conversation points ready
Networking can be especially tricky when you have no idea what to talk about. A good way to diminish the dread of talking to people is to have conversation points prepared before you even have the chance to say hello to a single person.
When brainstorming about topics to mention in interactions, you can think of anything from talking about your business branch to pets, children or hobbies.
However, the best kept secret in that regard is to ask lots of questions. People love to talk about themselves. So, if you are not ready to share about your own life and work, ask others what they are doing, what moves them and what they are currently inspired by. Those few questions alone will keep the conversation going for quite some time and you hardly have to tap into your own life.
I always like to make difficult situations part of a game as I am a highly competitive person. And once challenged, I cannot help but do everything within my power to win. So, I usually set goals like walking up to five unique people in one day and start a conversation with them.
Or I promise to myself that I will not back out of a conversation after only five minutes and instead keep at it for at least half an hour. I have also recently randomly sent out a tweet asking fellow attendees of a conference about their plans for the evening and then had dinner with a few amazing girls whom I’d never met before.
These challenges help to grow your self-confidence and they hold you accountable at the same time.
Remember the mantra: Nobody belongs here more than me.
You do not have to be an extrovert to be successful or allowed to take part in discussions. You can be present, but listen more than you put in. You can be part of a group, but be quiet. It is not rude, it is your personality. Remind yourself of this fact and you will see how you relax more and more throughout difficult and nerve-wrecking situations.
Practice, practice, practice. The more often you go to a conference, the better you will get at it. You will notice when you need a break. You will feel when your batteries need to be recharged and you will be able to handle situations where you`d once felt uncomfortable and on the verge of unraveling.
Your interactions will get more fluent, your hesitations to walk up to people and start a conversation will fade away and you will slowly start to really enjoy being part of a huge group of attendees.
These simple steps show that conferences can be fun, invigorating and exceptionally motivating, even for introverts.
(Photo credit: Portrait of a Thoughtful Man via Shutterstock)