When I explain to people that I label myself an introvert, I’m usually met with surprise. While it remains true that I am fairly chatty, and talk a lot in person, and do make a point of socializing and networking, it’s actually a very difficult endeavour for me.
I’ve written before openly about my anxieties – my need for perfectionism and the stress it causes, my ‘fraud syndrome’ struggle where suddenly I think most people will assume I’m useless, how I avoid conflict because PLEASE DON’T HATE ME LET ME MAKE YOU HAPPY!
So my nervousness in large groups is kind of all a part of that. It’s quite the bizarre mix because I do recognize that at times I’m quite outgoing.
I force myself outside of my comfort zone. Even when I was younger when I would join a club, or lead an event, these things weren’t super natural for me. I enjoyed them, but they took work.
Last weekend was the Social Capital Conference and as Susan Murphy pointed out on Sunday, many of us seemed to have a conference hangover. Not from traditional reasons, but from the social aspect that the weekend brought. I completely understood what she way saying.
When I am at these events I often step away to make the family call. Some would say I don’t need to check in, they are fine, and I know that. Of course they are fine. But when I get overwhelmed it’s Andy’s voice I turn to. When I’m on the phone, no one will disturb me and I can have a few minutes alone to chat, or it’s a good excuse to go to my hotel room for a break.
What many people might call cliques at these conferences, I call a few people who I am most comfortable with and who are my support team. When you see me always sitting with the same person, that’s not because I don’t like anyone else, that’s because I crave consistency when at group events. The small intimate dinner I attend isn’t meant to exclude people but to give myself a chance to recover from larger crowds.
Again, this doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying myself. Far from it. But over the years I have developed ways to recognize when too much is too much at conferences and large events.
My tips for fellow introverts heading to conferences this year?
Firstly, you won’t be alone. There are many of us who feel the same way.
Secondly, it’s ok to take your alone time. You don’t have to go to every party or every dinner. Those moments alone will rejuvenate you for the busy times in the conference when you will need it.
Thirdly, be yourself and have a good time. What I’ve discovered is that most people are very friendly at these events and if you want to introduce yourself to someone, do it. There’s no right or wrong way to experiences conferences so long as you are giving yourself the chance to experience it the way that you want to. I’ve also learned that the more positive energy I give at these events, the happier I am.
Lastly, I leave you with this funny, and pretty spot on list from BuzzFeed of 31 Signs You Are An Introvert.
How do you handle large group events? What are some tips and tricks for getting through them if you find them overwhelming?