Not many people believe me, but I’m a BIG INTROVERT.
Introverts come in all sorts of flavours. Being introverted doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re shy, unconfident or that you hate people.
It simply means that you’re not particularly energized from being around others. It drains you or you have a limited battery life for it. In contrast, extroverts LOVE being around people, it makes them happy and GIVES them energy.
For me, that shows up as preferring quiet, small events to nightclubs, and having very strong boundaries around people and clients. I have a small group of friends and probably say NO to 99% of invitations. I LOVE working by myself at home. I am more than happy to spend Friday nights reading my books and I really dislike loud, crowded places.
So – you might be wondering, how do I handle having a public business life (with over 13,000 newsletter subscribers) with a need to be by myself? I also travel a LOT to conferences around the world, run events and speak all the time.
How do I handle it without burnout?
I have a few tips and tricks up my sleeves that I want to share, particularly for my fellow introverts. It really can be easy.
How to network at conferences without burn out
First of all, choose your conferences carefully. I used to go to a lot of male dominated conferences and that made it even harder to meet people. I also discovered that the “RAH RAH”, Tony Robbins style events wore me out too.
Nowadays, I love going to women run conferences with multi-speakers with about 300-500 people. Find your comfort zone and don’t worry if you outgrow certain types of conferences.
Prepare like a Las Vegas Show Girl
A typical showgirl isn’t going to feel as confident on stage with a ratty costume, half done makeup and dirty fishnets.
Part of the ritual is getting ready, so you’ll wow on stage. Getting ready for a conference, putting on my makeup and fixing my hair calms me down and distracts from any anxiety I get about a big room of new people.
I’ve definitely shied away from meeting people because I wasn’t feeling confident in my “costume” as a business woman.
Introverts will use any excuse to stay in their room or avoid meeting people and I’ve done it many times!
So now, I don’t give myself ANY excuses. I get my hair done before the event, book in a pedicure and make sure I pack enough outfits so I’ll always feel confident. It makes a HUUUUUUGE difference in how you’ll feel, trust me. Honestly – having awesome hair is a much better investment than buying business cards.
Pack your best outfit, break out your favourite shoes and let yourself shine. Seriously, even if you have to fake it – at least you’ll look fabulous.
Introduce yourself to the whole room
This sounds like the WORST task ever, because I hate just walking up to someone and saying “Hi, I’m Denise” and there are SO many people to meet.
I used to feel like a failure at networking, because I’d come home with a few business cards, but I’d think about all the amazing people that I never had the chance (or the courage) to meet.
So, instead – I make myself ask a question at the microphone, which was the scariest thing EVER at the beginning, but now just a routine part of my conference agenda.
I make sure I say nice and clear,
“Hi, I’m Denise from LuckyBitch.com! My question is….”
(Don’t mumble your business name – that’s the whole point of asking a question)
It doesn’t actually matter what your question is – the point is that you’re introducing yourself to every single person in the room at once. Smart and lazy!
You’ll be surprised – people will come up to YOU and say “Oh, you’re the girl who asked the question“.
Do this right at the beginning of the conference. The speaker will be grateful that someone asks a question, but also, it’s out of the way, and you can relax and enjoy the rest of the day without trying to psyche yourself up about it. Seriously, as soon as they announce question time now, I’m up out of my seat to get it DONE.
The added benefit is that some events are recorded, so everyone listening at home will hear you as well. I’ve had many people tell me they’ve seen/heard me on a conference recording and looked up my website.
Make friends with an extrovert
My bestie Victoria Gibson is a MEGA EXTROVERT and I love going to conferences with her. First of all, she knows everyone (or she will by the end of the conference) and is not afraid to introduce herself to the most famous speaker. I just hang out near her and meet people by association. She helps me get out of my hermit shell when I’m feeling particularly shy.
Best of all – she doesn’t pressure me to go out all night. My best time is in the morning, and she’s at her peak in the afternoon and night. So we can just fill each other in on all the gossip of the day.
She also understands when I’ve reached my limit and need some quiet time. Many a time, she’s headed out to a nightclub at 10pm, while I’m tucking myself up in bed with a novel. She doesn’t get offended (anymore), and I’m happy to hear about the fun in the morning.
P.S – it’s always good to find a few fellow introverts as well, so you can hang out together, but for networking purposes, the extroverts have it down – it’s just part of their nature.
Don’t rely on external stimulants to feel confident
(I once cornered Derek Halpern from Social Triggers and drunkenly told him he was a jerk. I apologised the next day, but it wasn’t my classiest move)
Even coffee and red-bull can make me feel anxious and sweaty, so I avoid them too.
Rather than a vodka, I’d rather sit in the bathroom for a few minutes by myself and do some EFT (emotional freedom technique).
Even though I’m feeling shy…
Even though I’m nervous…
Even though I don’t know anyone at this conference / party…
I deeply and completely love and accept myself
Give compliments, not business cards
I used to give myself challenges at conferences – get X many business cards, talk to X many people. But that felt like too much hard work.
So now, I just try and give as many compliments away as possible. This is much a easier and way more natural than introducing yourself randomly.
I learnt this technique when I was a teenager and I discovered the classic book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Even though I’d get social anxiety around people, I could always find something to compliment and it’s a BRILLIANT conversation starter in lunch or bathroom queues…
I love your bag – where is it from?
Your shoes are amazing
I loved the question you asked this morning!
I just have to tell you – your dress is SO pretty!
It has to be sincere though, but its a great way to break the ice. And if the conversation doesn’t progress any further, well, you’ve made someone’s day. People will always remember how you made them feel.
Lastly – take a lot of breaks
Sometimes during lunch, I’ll slip away to my room just to have a few minutes by myself. A quick reapplication of deodorant and lippie and I’m good to get back into it.
AND – you don’t have to go to every session!
I only learnt this recently. I used to be the person in the front row taking notes on every word. Now, I pick and choose the sessions, knowing that I only have limited energy for information and I want to leave some room for people too.
I’ve also learnt this from Victoria, she’s the master at finding clients during the social time of the conferences. Sitting and watching is a solitary pursuit and you won’t miss out on much. You’ll probably only remember a few key points from the conference, and it’s fun to ask others their top takeaways too.
Skip a session and head to the coffee shop. There will be other truants there too and you can chat to them!
So – my lovely introverts – that’s how you make friends and network at conferences without freaking or burning yourself out.
What are your tips? How do you handle networking?
Happy friend -making!