Updated: Apr 10
Amy is an extreme extrovert. She is energized by people. She throws the best birthday parties for herself. And yet, she is struggling anticipating going to her first conference in two years.
Beth loves people and is happy getting together with them in small groups, as an introvert. She accepts invitations if she knows several people also attending. And she is struggling anticipating going to her first conference in two years.
Sound familiar? We are all experiencing firsts – the first in-person event, the first in-person cocktail party, and now the first in-person Convention. Even the extroverts are struggling with the concept of returning to social engagements. But for the introverts, who recharge their batteries by being on their own, it may be even more daunting.
You are not alone. As you consider returning to networking events and conferences, remember the following tips to help you not only decide to go, but also make the conference work for you.
10 Tips for Thriving at Convention
1. Plan. Who else do you know attending Convention? Reach out to your contacts to make plans to meet for coffee or meet at the lunches or dinners in Beaver Creek. During the week of Convention, limit any draining activities. Arrive at Convention with your bucket full.
2. Go early. I know this can seem daunting. Registration starts at 1pm, first session starts at 2pm? Many of us see that and plan to arrive at 1.55pm. Try arriving at 1pm. There will be fewer people there, and it will be easier to start a conversation. Arriving at 1.55pm when the crowds are already there can be intimidating to break into conversation. If you are attending Convention for the first time consider joining even earlier at the Convention's First-Timers Welcome Lunch at noon as a way to meet other first-timers.
3. Listen more than you speak. Not so hard for introverts! Ask open-ended questions. Your audience will feel heard and will leave the conversation energized. You will drive a deeper conversation. And help stay away from small talk, which can be exhausting. The follow-up questions will then flow freely. Some of my favorite questions:
Have you been to Convention or Beaver Creek before? (No, it’s not a bad pick-up line!)
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Do you have summer travel plans now that the world has opened?
What did you learn during the Pandemic?
How has your work shifted over the last two years?
4. Pick a table with 1 or 2 people. Others will ask to join you, as opposed to you asking to join them. Once you sit down, you can ease into conversation with the other person at the table. They may be introvert themselves!
5. Set a goal. ‘I am going to speak to 5 people today.’ Once that is done, you have succeeded. You can go back to your room guilt-free.
6. Volunteer. Offer your time at the registration table, or as a microphone runner during the keynote sessions. You can engage with people this way, without having to start the conversation. You have a role and purpose.
7. Quality over quantity. Focus on engaging in deeper, high-value conversations, where you really get to know someone. See tip #3. Do not feel compelled to meet everyone in the room, or even at your table. DO NOT run around collecting business cards. If you are struggling with a conversation, politely excuse yourself (refill your tea, a drink, or find your colleague).
8. Pay attention. Notice not only your own energy levels, but also the body language of your audience. If they are looking around the room, end the conversation. Connect with people who are present with you.
9. Talk about your firm or organization. For many people, introverts, and extroverts alike, talking about your firm or organization is a lot easier than talking about yourself. This is a good place to warm up. You can talk about yourself once you gain comfort.
10. Plan your time to recharge. Notice when you feel overstimulated and need to recharge. Take time between the last session and the cocktail reception to go back to your room, go for a walk, or take a nap. You will then feel ready to attend the evening activities.
Remember, we are all human. Treat people as humans first, and then professionals. Most importantly, treat yourself as a human first. Know your boundaries, see where you’re comfortable stepping out, and commit to enjoying live events again to whatever extent you want.
Julie G. Holunga, PCC, MBA
Julie Holunga is a Leadership Trainer and Executive Coach developing professionals to lead with influence and authority. She works with Attorneys, CPAs, and Business Leaders, with an expertise in the careers of female professionals. Success for Julie’s clients comes in the form of effective communication strategies, honed leadership skills, practice-building tactics, increased visibility and heightened confidence, as they excel in their professional careers. Prior to starting her own consulting practice, Julie served as Project Manager for Alumni Career Services at Harvard Business School, where she focused on advancing the careers female alumni. She worked with F500 companies to retain and advance women into positions of leadership. Julie is one of thirty Global Master Trainers with Emergenetics®, teaching leaders, teams, and global organizations to align their communication for positive impact. Julie recently gave her first TEDx Talk, Don't Let Your Words Sabotage your Career. She is a contributing author to the leadership book for women, On the Rise. Julie earned her BA at Union College, and her MBA at Boston College. She spent seven years living and attending school in France, India, and Hong Kong. Julie and her family moved from Boston to Calgary, Canada and are now settled in the beautiful foothills of Denver. Visit her at www.julieholunga.com.