It’s such an odd thing to think that an introvert will tell you how important it is to socialize at conferences, but I would argue that it’s one of the most important things about attending a conference. Taking a deep breath and allowing yourself to meet someone new opens the door to potentially wonderful friendships.
While you’re sitting at home in front of your computer, it’s easy to say “YES. I am going to TALK to people!” but then suddenly you’re standing in the middle of a room while people are networking and talking. You are an awkward island and you don’t know how to move (what do I do with my arms?), make eye contact (am I staring? Don’t look at anyone! AH! I JUST LOOKED AT THAT PERSON AND THEY LOOKED AT ME!) , and the panic is rising up your body until you flee to your hotel room and eat a sleeve of cookies.
It may not be cookies. That might just be me 😉
First, take a deep breath. I know I said this before, but taking a deep breath will let your body know that you’re not being chased by tigers or zombies, OR ZOMBIE TIGERS. That will signal to your body that it can calm down a little bit. Keep breathing. Let yourself feel your feet on the floor and repeat this in your head:
“Everyone gets nervous. I’m worth meeting. I can do this. I got this.”
Some great places to introduce yourself:
- By the water jugs. Everyone gets thirsty. People actually talk about getting thirsty.
- In line for food. “What’s that? Mashed potatoes? Oooh I want to eat that!”
- Sitting next to someone at a session or before a keynote. (I know, you can do it! Be brave!)
- Looking at portfolios during the show case. “Whoa, this is beautiful work! Look at this image!”
If you get really stuck, you can always fall back on these subjects:
- Music (“What kind of music do you like to listen to?”)
- What someone is reading, at this conference, it’s safe to assume everyone has a book they really enjoy
- What part of the conference they are most looking forward to, or if it’s later in the weekend, what part they really enjoyed.
- Where they are from. I love hearing about people’s hometowns and what it’s like there. But if someone looks different from you, dont’ ask “Ohio? No, where are you REALLY from?” (I’m looking at you fellow white people. Don’t be that person)
If you don’t have plans for lunch, be bold, find a friendly group of people and ask “May I join you?” Most people will say yes. Don’t monopolize the conversation but also be proud of who you are and don’t cower within yourself when someone asks about you.
And if someone invites you to have dinner or drinks with a group, go for it. Yes, it’s going to be exhausting if you are an introvert , but it will also be FUN! You’ll make friends, and pretty soon, you’ll find yourself a part of a group of people who are just amazing, and you’ll be making plans to come back to the next conference so you can hang out with them again.
And because, what is a post without pictures? here are some cat studies I did last week.