10 Tips for Introverts at Conferences (Blogging or Otherwise)

I am not sure when I became a conference junkie.  But in the past nine months I have attended 4 conferences and will be leaving for my fifth (Type A—can. not. wait!) on Thursday.

Oddly, I am most nervous about this one.  At each of the others, I’ve either known a lot of the people attending, had my husband with me, or both.  This time, I have met, in person, only two people who will be attending.  I know a few others (including one of my roommates, the lovely Sarah aka Mainline Mom) from Twitter.  But basically, I’m flying solo here.  And I am more than a little nervous about it.

I’m not the girl who will just jump into a conversation with strangers.  I’m the girl who keeps her eyes down on the elevator.  (Unless the elevator gets stuck and I’m in between floors with several other women and a nursing baby like at Relevant last year.)  Generally speaking, I am far more comfortable in a room full of books than a room full of people.  I’m shy and, as an introvert, gain my energy from time spent alone.

tips for introverts at conferences www.terilynneunderwood.com

In effort to prepare myself—and encourage any other introverts out there—to head to Charlotte this week, I thought I’d share 10 tips for introverts at conferences.

  1. Make at least one connection before you go.  I’ve got dinner plans Thursday night with someone I’ve met before and her friend, who I have not met.  Plan to meet for coffee or dinner or even just a quick hug in the hotel lobby.   Just having at least one person you “know” can make a huge difference.
  2. Sit by someone new as often as you can.  In breakouts, general sessions, and at meals, find someone you don’t know and introduce yourself.  I figure by the end of a conference, I’ll have introduced myself to at least ten people.  That’s pretty good!
  3. Practice your introduction!  Since I’m going to a blog conference, I’ve been working on my “elevator pitch” about my blog.  But it’s also a good idea to have a little personal introduction ready.  Just something simple, “Hi! I’m Teri Lynne.  I live in North Alabama.  Where are you from?”
  4. Trade business cards.  You’ll be glad you did.  I like to put a note on the card of where I met the person.   That way when I reconnect with them on Twitter or through their blog or Facebook, I can reference the breakout or meal or whatever when we met.
  5. Slip away.  If the busy-ness and noise are too much, give yourself a break.  It’s okay!  Conferences can be very draining and knowing your limits will help you have the best time possible.
  6. Be accountable.  I’m likely to hide out in my room if I don’t have someone to attend a session with or am not sure what is going on next or where I should be.  Ideally, find someone at the conference who will go with you.  But, if you can’t, ask a friend to text you and make sure you are not spending all your time in the hotel gift shop being lonely.
  7. Accept who you are … but remember that everyone is different.  Don’t assume that just because a group of people are laughing and seem to know each other since birth that they don’t want anything to do with you.  Say “HI!”  Who knows, they may have just met too.
  8. Find an extrovert!  Ideally, I need a conference buddy who is very outgoing and will initiate conversation with the people around us.
  9. Don’t chatter.  My defense mechanism against shyness is constant talking.  It’s annoying.  I hate that about me.  I always vow not to do it but I do it every time.  Be okay with silence and don’t force a conversation.
  10. Smile.  People like that.

So, what tips do you have for introverts who attend conferences?  And tell me, are you introverted like me or do you thrive on having people around?

linking at top ten tuesday

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  1. Thanks! I don’t have any tips. Am about to attend my first writing conference in a few months so I really appreciate these tips.

  2. Oh, I chatter when nervous too. Lee and I still laugh about how much I talked to the nurses and doctors when giving birth to my boys. We were BFFs by the end of my delivers because I wouldn’t stop talking! 🙂 Great tips, Teri Lynne! Thanks!
    Sandra recently posted…Almost SummerMy Profile

  3. Well now, thank you for the mention roomie. I CAN NOT WAIT. Here’s the deal…IF you want…I will drag your butt around the whole conference and introduce you to all kinda people. If you don’t want that, or just need a break in the room, just let me know. My hubs is an introvert and I’m totally aware that conferences can sap the energy out of many introverts. Thankfully I know quite a few women there, although of course there are tons I don’t know. But I am an extrovert, although not usually one to accost people I haven’t met in conversation. Keep in mind you have a lot more in common with these women…bloggers…than you may realize. Also you and I are sisters in Christ and that means the world 🙂
    MainlineMom aka Sarah recently posted…Haiti and the Hague ConventionMy Profile

  4. Well, you can feel free to chatter as much as you’d like with me. I’ll be the hormonal {darn, pregnancy} commuter with the preschooler in tow with drink tickets to give away. 🙂

  5. Great tips and right on the money! Used most, maybe all, when I worked in education administration at a community college. This is one of those posts where I am saying, ” I wish I would have thought to write that!”

  6. These are all fantastic tips!! I usually try to pair up with a “conference buddy,” so I know there will be someone around to be my “anchor” through the weekend. That goes for attending, or co-hosting! 😉

  7. This is good stuff…that I have learned also to practice in social situations as an introverted extrovert, which I find myself in quite often as a woman who has moved often.

    Someday I will get to go to a conference again! I hope! Till then, I will keep hoping. And saving my money for those expensive plane tickets to the lower 48… 😉

  8. These are awesome TL. 🙂 And my biggest problem right now is that I really want to go to a conference, but I don’t know of just the right one, and I’m afraid I can’t do 4 … I can probably/hopefully do 1. Any ideas?

  9. Um, yeah…the babbling or silent modes, I know them well.

    If you are nervous talking with people you have just met, have a short stock of open ended questions to ask. For example, I’ve been trying to meet more people at the new church I’m attending – asking, “How long have you been coming to Mercy Hill?” and “How did you find this church?” have been great starters. Tailor your questions to the conference. After all, at the very minimum you have common ground in the subject matter of the conference!

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