Are You an Introvert? Here’s How to Make the Most of Your Conference Experience

The following is a staff post by Melissa Batai. Please join me in welcoming her to the site!

Sony Taiwan VAIO Experience 2008 Press Conference.

Sony Taiwan VAIO Experience 2008 Press Conference. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Attending conferences in your professional field is essential. While you will likely learn valuable information and new strategies and tips from the sessions you attend, there can be even more value outside the sessions. Conferences can offer your tremendous opportunities to make contacts within your field, to form partnerships and to even find new jobs.

If you are an extrovert, you likely thrive on conferences and interacting with strangers. If you are an introvert… not so much.  A mild introvert is likely to feel discomfort in a conference, while the setting can be terrifying and stomach churning for a serious introvert.

However, if you are an introvert, there are some ways you can make your conference experience more fun and productive:

  1. Learn the list of attendees before the conference. As an introvert, approaching someone you don’t know can be uncomfortable. Take the time before the conference to learn who will be attending and to look at the photos and websites of those you think you would like to connect with. Sometimes just matching a face with a name and learning a bit about the person through her website can make you more comfortable approaching her. (By the way, this also works well for job interviews. Instead of walking into a room of nameless interviewers, you can feel a bit more like you know them if you have done your research beforehand.)
  2. Spend some conference time with an extroverted colleague. If you know some people who will be at the conference with you, find them and spend some time with them at the conference. If they are extroverted, they will likely be able to introduce you to several new people. Of course, this isn’t your only solution; you must also make your own way through the conference, but having someone else introduce you to a few people can be a nice way to break the ice.
  3. Exercise your acting skills. Many actors are introverts; acting allows them to become someone they feel they could not be in real life. If you have acted before, use your acting skills to pretend that you are an extrovert attending the conference who is confident and loves to meet new people. This little mind game can make meeting people a bit easier.
  4. Don’t skip the meals. If the conference provides lunch, take advantage of it. Introverts often do better in smaller settings, and sitting with 5 to 7 other people at lunch can be a great way to introduce yourself and get to know a few other conference goers. Do this for a few meals and you will have connected with 15 to 20 attendees over the course of the conference.
  5. Introduce yourself in sessions. Many times people come to a session 5 or 10 minutes early and just wait quietly for the session to begin. Take advantage of that time to introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you and to ask them a bit about their business as well as exchange business cards.

What Not to Do at a Conference

Although it can be tempting, avoid staying with the same person through the entire conference. Typically, an introvert might meet one or two people and then seek those people out throughout the conference. While this is great for an introvert’s comfort level, and it allows them to develop a deeper relationship with one or two people, the introvert is missing out on all of the other opportunities to meet new people and make connections with them. As uncomfortable as it is, you should try to make yourself meet more than a handful of people.

Sometimes it can seem like the business world was designed for extroverts. Certainly, in social situations such as conferences, extroverts seem to thrive. However, there are plenty of steps that introverts can take to make the most of their conference experience instead of being the proverbial wall flower.

What strategies would you recommend for introverts attending a conference? As an introvert, myself, I have used these strategies to become more comfortable at conferences.

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  1. says

    I’m not really an introvert- I’m also not really an extrovert. But I would say I lean more toward extraversion. Conferences are hard for some people so these are great tips!

  2. says

    I love these tips, and I think conferences are intimidating even for a self-described “people person” — finding a good table at lunch is a great idea. I try to go through the line after people have already sat down and find a table with just one seat available.

  3. says

    Good tip. A conversation with a man at a conference years ago led to my best career opportunity when he called a year later and offered me a position managing mortgage backed securities. Every contact is important because you never know.

  4. says

    Great tips. I am the extrovert that everyone is more than welcome to spend time with. Then we’ll all know each other and there is no introvert/extrovert thing with friends. 😉

  5. says

    Some of my close friends may say otherwise, but I am definitely an introvert. I do tend to gravitate and stick with people I know. I’m not very good at just going up to people, introducing myself and striking up a conversation. That type of thing really makes me nervous and self-conscious.

    Although I am a part-time instructor and I get up on stage in front of a class and teach, its like acting. I put on a performance and when the class is done, I go back to being my introverted self. lol.

    • says

      I was a teacher, too, and somehow it is different in the classroom. As soon as I had learned all of the students’ names and matched them to faces, I was completely at ease. Isn’t that funny how it works?

  6. says

    All that is written in the article sounds right to me.

    One tip from me is that I made a deal with myself not to attend the Saturday night party at last year’s bloggers conference. After a day of social interaction, it was too much. So I permitted myself to just go to my room, watch a movie and go to bed.

    I missed out on fun stuff, I am sure. But I don’t know that I could have gotten through the entire conference if I forced myself to work through every opportunity for social interaction.


  7. says

    I’m terrible at conferences – I have a hard time making small talk and people often find me reserved (at least until I get to know them better). I try to have a drink before these situations to relax myself, and then make small talk while waiting in line for food or drinks, and introducing myself to people at the same table at conference dinners.

  8. says

    Great tips! Attending a conference (or any other type of group get-together) can be such a stressful, anxiety inducing event for introverts. Having a plan on how to cope with it will make it so much easier to manage.

  9. says

    Very timely article! It was really cool last year meeting all kinds of bloggers at FINCON, and I couldn’t help but notice that many of them were introverts. I wonder if that’s what made blogging so appealing to them:).

  10. says

    Great and useful tips! Love the advice about acting. If you can’t do it yourself, act like an extrovert! For a guy, you could always use the, “What would James Bond do?”

  11. says

    Thanks for all of the comments, everyone. Very timely post given the proximity of the conference(s). Let me know if they work out well. 😉

  12. Edward Antrobus says

    “Avoid staying with the same person through the entire conference.”

    This would be an improvement for me. Past events I’ve attended usually find me wandering around aimlessly while everyone else networks.

  13. says

    I am aware my introvert nature, and have slowly learned to ‘force’ myself to interact in social/group situations.
    Kevin, Good tips in the above article. I will need to utilize these tips as I am attending, later this month.


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