Conferences for Introverts: Big Events for People Who Like People In Small Doses

Huge groups of people! Yay?

Often, extroverts (and there are far more of them than introverts, which makes sense — who is more likely to get out and find people to mate with?) think introverts don’t like people, or don’t like to go out.  They don’t understand that being an introvert has nothing to do with liking (or not liking) people. It’s about energy — what charges you, and what drains you.

Extroverts are energized by being around people. They need to be around people as much as possible. This doesn’t mean they never like to be alone, but they don’t need to be alone.

Introverts? We like being around people, but it drains our batteries. To recharge, we need to be alone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been running on fumes and really needed some alone time, only to be asked what was wrong or who made me mad. Nothing. Nobody. I just need to fill that battery — and being an introvert, that means some alone time.

So how to cope with crowded events, like conferences and conventions? I’ve been going to more conferences lately, and having to think about how to get the most out of them (they’re expensive and you want to feel you got your money’s worth, which means identifying what take-away would be satisfying).  How to not drain my batteries to the point where I can’t take in any more input, or worse, Dr. Bruce Banner becomes The Incredible Hulk.

The first step sounds obvious, but when you try it, you realize it isn’t. Accepting that you are an introvert, what you need to be at your best, and that it’s okay not to be an extrovert. Extroverts make up more of the population. The world is thus geared toward them. Like being left-handed in a right-handed world, introverts bump up against expectations that they want and need what extroverts do, and operate the way extroverts do. Nope.

Where extroverts might look see, “6:30 PM: Cocktail Mixer” and think, “Hey! People! Fun! Drinks!,” your average introvert thinks, “Ooh. More people after a whole day of people. Trying to make conversation with strangers. Standing around feeling awkward. Meh.” This is because extroverts will get charged up and introverts will get more drained.  And if you say you just want to go to your room and watch tv, prepare to be asked if you’re okay. Several times.  It takes self-knowledge and self-acceptance to withstand well-meaning pressure to conform.  If you want to go and it sounds good, go and enjoy, and leave whenever you feel like it. If not? Don’t go, and enjoy, and hear the stories about what went on the next day.

If you’ve met a few interesting people, you can also see if anyone wants to have dinner together, just a few of you. Then see them off to the mixer with your blessings. Best of both worlds. You get to really talk to a few people instead of making small talk with a lot of people, and then get your alone on.  Getting coffee is also good.

Personally, I’d rather really enjoy and make a connection with a few people than try to paper a crowd with my business cards. The people I do chat with remember me, and I remember them.  Introverts tend to be good listeners.  I can’t give 50 people my full attention at the same time — but I can give 50 people my full attention one, two or three at a time.

The next step is to plan a bit. Have those ear buds available. Have a book on you. Look at the schedule for a few minutes you can retreat from the crowd. The classes are usually too close together to give you a break. Get the feel of the event. Is it okay to be a few minutes late for something? Is there one you really can skip? It’s often not necessary to do every single thing available to you — and better to be really present for what you do attend.

Really, the secret seems to be doing it  your own way, in whatever way works for you and most promises that you’ll be able to get the most from the event. My mom and I had a saying, “Better to be a really good donkey than a sub-par fake horse.” We’re all weird. Be weird in your own way and rather than trying to be a fake extrovert, be a really good introvert.

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