I’m an Introvert – Help!

people raising hands in a crowd - I’m an Introvert – Help!

How to avoid the “Help, get me out of here” moments

I never do this – attend conferences alone. 

But I attended the National Speakers Association’s Influence Conference solo because my girlfriends aren’t in this line of work … and no one wanted to come to Orlando in the middle of July just to stay in a hotel.

On the plane ride down, I couldn’t help but ask myself: Why are you doing this, again?  You know you like a wingman at events!”

I then had to laugh at myself – Come on, Angie.  Be a big girl.  You love people – stop acting like the shy little girl you once were.”

You see, I grew up painfully shy – so much so that my sister would have to talk for me in certain situations. (Oddly, I would bite people, but I wouldn’t talk to them … but that’s a separate story!)

When I walked inside the kickoff event set for 1100 people, I made the strategic choice to sit at the end of a row – just in case I needed a quick exit.  What a relief it was when a woman sat down next to me, another solo attendee, and said, “Mind if I sit here. I’m slightly overwhelmed.”  And there you have it, friends – I found Conference Buddy #1.

Right after the opening act, I went outside during the break, and you’ll never guess what happened?  A woman standing near me pointed out a salamander and said, “Look at that?  I guess I’m always surprised when I see them.  We didn’t have them in Michigan growing up.”  I introduced myself to my fellow Michigander, and when she shared her name I stopped in my tracks.  “Gina, I know you – we ran track against each other in high school.”  And just like that, Buddy #2.  What a surprise! 

Pretty soon, I no longer felt like a new student at high school.  And I’ve got to admit: all of this seems so silly to write.  I’m a Marine for crying out loud.   I’m not afraid of dying for my country.  I’m also an entrepreneur.  I’m not afraid of investing in an endeavor.  But put me in a room full of strangers, and I’m afraid of chit chat??!! 

It’s ridiculous.  But it’s honest!  And I know I’m not alone, that’s why I’ve written this:

An Introvert’s 5-Step Guide to Conference.  Ready? 

1. Know Your Why.  Understand why you’re entering into a networking experience.  Know the value of the experience and don’t let your nerves talk you out of it.

2. Meet People 1 by 1.  You don’t have to make friends with everyone on the first day.  Find a person, then another person.  Build your network throughout the experience.

3. Tap Out When You Need To.  Catch a breather from time to time – step outside, be alone, get your energy, and go back in there.

4. Be Vulnerable.  Just as my Conference Buddy #1 did to me, be honest with others about how you feel – it’s a great conversation starter and you might discover you’re not alone.

5. When in Doubt: Ask Questions to Draw Attention Away from You.  This is my secret skill.  I like to make the other person talk.  I ask question, upon question, just to keep the conversation off of me – this works best with an extrovert, of course.  For my introvert connection, I try not to make them feel that they’re being interrogated.

Overall, I left the experience feeling quite fulfilled by all that I learned, as well as inspired by all those I met.  It would’ve been a tremendous shame to have missed out on such an incredible experience just because I was too chicken to go at it alone!

Do you have any networking tips?  Send them my way!! 

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