The Introvert’s Guide to Conferences
Okay, so you notice there’s no shortage of advice out there about how to make the most of a conference. But what about those of us who are introverts? It can be even more difficult for us to navigate these social situations. Oh, how we envy our extrovert friends! Are there any special tips for people like us?
Well, yes, there are. Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Change your mindset from “me” to “them.” You’re at the conference to learn and to network, but paradoxically, the best way to do that is to focus on the needs of others. Set your own discomfort aside, and look for others who may also be uncomfortable, and see how you can make things easier for them. Even if you’re talking with an agent or editor, focus on them instead of yourself. Ask questions about their experience. See if there’s anything they need. This is one of the best ways for an introvert to get out of their shell.
2. Research before the conference. If there are authors, editors, or agents you’re interested in talking with, Google them ahead of time to get some ideas for possible topics of conversation. They won’t seem like total strangers, and you won’t feel like an idiot in trying to have a conversation.
3. Reach out before the conference. There may be some people to whom you can send a quick email or Facebook message, inviting them to coffee, asking if they’d like to sit with you at a meal, or otherwise planning ahead for some of your social interactions. This is especially important if you’ve had online communication with people but don’t know them offline. You’ll feel more comfortable if you have some planned meetings with others.
4. Have some questions or opening lines ready. Think through the range of people you will likely meet, and write down a number of conversation openers that will help you overcome any awkwardness when meeting someone. Try to avoid yes/no questions, and make sure you listen carefully to the answers, which will give you clues for continuing the conversation. Some possible conversation-starters:
- What’s your favorite part of the conference so far? (Or, what are you most looking forward to at the conference?)
- What brings you to this conference?
- What do you find most valuable about these conferences?
- What did you think of today’s keynote speaker?
- Can you tell me a little about your work?
5. Also, have some answers of your own ready. Plan some concise and fascinating answers to questions like, “So, what do you write?” and “Tell me about yourself.” You don’t want to be tongue-tied at those moments!
6. Prepare your book pitch. Make sure you’ve organized your thoughts about the book(s) you’re pitching, so you can easily give a 1 or 2 minute spiel when asked.
7. Approach it with a friend. Make sure you and your friend encourage each other to talk to new people. Be each other’s wingman and moral support—DON’T use each other as a crutch and don’t just talk to each other. You each may know different people, so plan to introduce your friend to people you know, and she can do the same for you. You can also highlight each other’s accomplishments in a conversation.
8. Be a part of the conference. Volunteer to help! A great way to overcome introvert tendencies is to put yourself in a place where people are coming to you for help or answers to questions. When you’re volunteering, be as friendly and outgoing as you can, allowing for serendipitous connections.
9. Rejuvenate yourself as needed. If, as an introvert, you need solitude to get re-energized, plan time for this. Whether it’s quiet time in your hotel room, a half-hour in the hotel gym or a walk outside, make self-care a priority in your schedule.
Readers, anything to add? Any questions about conferences?
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