Today’s guest post is by fellow introvert and Founder of Twisted Sleeve, Jo L K Moore
The introverts were, I assume, at home hiding under their duvets on the day that conferences were voted the business world’s preferred form of networking. But despite our clear handicap in this area, we’ve have had a good crack at it. A quick Google search reveals pages and pages of survival guides, top tips, and plans of actions to help weary introverts power through the seemingly never-ending “nice to meet you”s.
As a multi-passionate person, I’ve attended conferences on a range of topics. At academic conferences, I put my awkwardness down to my inexperience and lowly postgraduate status. At activist conferences, I blamed my overwhelm on the other attendees’ overzealousness.
But last year I finally had a ticket to a conference for people exactly like me – the World Domination Summit (WDS) in Portland, Oregon. The attendees, the speakers, the break-out sessions – they were all spot on. This was it.
Except, less than half a day into the conference, I found myself hiding in my hotel room, having to sit out the break-out sessions I’d been so excited about. It was all too much. I was gutted.
It was time, I decided, to admit that my awkward conference history couldn’t be blamed on the conferences I attended. The problem was me. I was just too introverted. I decided I was done with conferences.
And yet, less than one year after making that decision, I’m already dreaming of going to a new conference. Taking place in Berlin, Alive is closer to home than WDS. It’s in a city I love. The speakers are inspiring. I’m passionate about the topics. I want to go.
But, knowing the emotional rollercoaster conferences take me on, is it worth it? Or, as introverts, is it time to hang up our name badges and ask ourselves if conferences might actually be doing us more damage than good?
THE CASE AGAINST CONFERENCES
1. We don’t enjoy small talk
Networking at conferences is like starting university – everyone asks and answers the same two questions over and over again:
- Where are you from?
- What do you do?
In my experience, this kind of conversation doesn’t go deep enough to lead to new relationships or new ideas. Of all the people I’ve spoken to at conferences, I’ve only stayed in touch with one. I’ve also never had an “aha” moment over a canapé.
However, when I’ve met individuals through social media or the blogosphere and met up with them for a coffee, I’ve had fascinating, personal, and productive conversations. I can’t count the number of ideas, collaborations, and projects that have come out of these discussions.
As introverts, we get so much more out of deep, one-on-one conversations than we get from small talk, so why bother with the chit chat?
2. Socialising drains us
In-person events wear us out. Smiling and talking all day is tiring. The ups and downs of getting excited about a speaker only to end up too overwhelmed to hear them speak or ask them a question is exhausting.
Even when conference organizers go out of their way to make their events introvert-friendly, you can’t escape that over-ambitious part of yourself that doesn’t want you to miss out. There’s also always that well-meaning attendee who comes to check on you when you’re taking a breather.
Surely it makes more sense to keep our energy levels up and to get the same information from books, TED talks, and podcasts than to wind up miserable and unable to function?
3. We’re good at networking from home
The internet has made it possible for us to sit at home, snuggled up in our pyjamas, and meet people from all over the world. Indeed, my interaction with likeminded folk online has led to work experience, collaborations, and jobs. There’s no way I would lead the location independent lifestyle I lead right now were it not for my having a web presence and using social media.
But it’s not just that virtual networking is possible. Introverts tend to be better writers than speakers. We like to take our time, mull over what we’re trying to say, and choose our words carefully. Many of us express ourselves better by typing than by speaking. Why shouldn’t we play to our strengths and network in the environment in which we excel?
4. We can’t compete with extroverts
Just as we tend to be more talented with a keyboard than with a microphone, extroverts thrive at conferences. They’re in their element, introducing people, building new relationships, and learning new things.
To be blunt, how can we compete with that? As fascinating as we may be, we tend not to communicate that very well to crowds of strangers. Why don’t we just let the extroverts get on with it?
It seems to me that conferences are often more stress than they’re worth for introverts and that it would make more sense for us to focus our efforts on forms of networking which play to our strengths. Indeed, opting to sit out on conferences could be a perk of being an introverted business owner.
That said, the head and the heart don’t always agree. I still find myself wanting to go to Alive and I’m sure I’m not the only introvert who longs to enjoy conferences. So I won’t rule them out quite yet. I just won’t make them the focus of my approach to networking.
OVER TO YOU…
Do you get a lot out of conferences or are they more hassle than they’re worth? Do you think introverted business owners should make themselves attend conferences? Leave a comment below!
About the Author:
Battling her British social awkwardness, Joanna L K Moore runs Twisted Sleeve, where she helps shy girls get the confidence they need to do what they were born to do. A multipotentialite through and through, Jo’s also a content co-ordinator, an illustrator at hey, there blogger, and a writer currently working on the second draft of a young adult novel. You can find out more about Jo here.