I attended the SCBWI Annual Winter Conference in New York City this past weekend. This was my first time attending, and my first time in New York City! The conference itself was an amazing experience, but as I sit here at home, I realized the only thing I want to talk about is the people and my experience as an introvert.
The weekend turned out to be a great opportunity for personal growth. I work best when I have some time to myself in the day. When I listen to someone, I like to have time to think about what was said before I leap in with my thoughts. I like making friends and getting to know people, however, each interaction takes a blow to my Social Hit Points.
I was completely unprepared for the incredible number of people who would be attending the conference. I knew it was a large event, and I knew there would be a lot of people but THERE WERE SO MANY PEOPLE. There is no downtime. You are constantly talking to new people, making introductions, and sharing stories. You’re standing in line to get a cup of tea, you’re sitting next to a stranger, you are walking to the next session, you’re getting lunch, you’re in the elevator, you’re at a social hour, you’re standing in line for something else. The entire day is talking and introductions and pleasantries. Then it’s time for bed and wake up and start over. “Hi how are you? What’s your name? Where are you from….”
The hectic pace caught up with me Saturday afternoon. I suddenly felt lightheaded and it felt like the room was swinging around me. That’s when realized I couldn’t remember the last time I ate or drank anything that day. I skipped the afternoon keynotes, drank 4 bottles of water, ate half a sandwich and took a short nap. I felt so much better! I returned to the conference with the goal that I wouldn’t think about how many people were there, but would try to just focus on the people directly around me. I started to have conversations that extended beyond introductions, getting to hear some amazing stories, and making friends with really great folks.
Next time, I’ll be better prepared and do the following:
- The night I arrive, take time to prepare everything for the next day, and quietly sit and get mentally prepared. Feeling rushed doesn’t help and sets a frantic tone for the day.
- Bring tea bags from home. Even though the tea at the hotel was fine, I missed my lemon tea, and having that small comfort would help me relax.
- Plan Introvert breaks. There are times when I would’ve felt a lot better if I had taken even 15 minutes to hide my room and just recharge a little.
- Keep water with me . The hotel rooms were hot and dry and crowded and constantly introductions, my voice started to crack like firewood, and I was clearly dehydrated when I felt light-headed. Drink lots of water!
- Breath deeply before saying hello and focus on learning about the person right in front of me. Everyone at the conference was friendly, and most of us are introverts and understand that even an awesome conference can be tiring. Next time I won’t worry so much about if I’m saying the right thing, and will focus more on the good company of those around me.
- Don’t have anything on my calendar the week after the conference. Down time is important!
During the next post, I’ll share more about the fun bits of the conference!