A Conference Survival Guide for the Shy and Terrified
So there I was, hanging out with LITERALLY HUNDREDS of preeminent HR professionals from all across the state, and this was what I chose as my opening line:
“Hi. I’m Sara Gallagher. I’m not in HR.”
There are so many interesting things I could have said about myself. (Many of which, incidentally, would have explained what I was doing there.) I’m a blogger with an obsessive interest in what makes some businesses succeed, and others fail. I’m a “DIY MBA” student, and this conference is my classroom. Or even just “Hi. I’m Sara Gallagher. Nice to meet you.”
But I didn’t say any of these things because, truthfully, conferences overwhelm me. I’m an INTJ, which means I love attending sessions, absorbing information, and thinking deeply about complex issues. I do not, as a rule, love networking. I like having friends. Making them, on the other hand, is more difficult. As an introvert, I have a serious case of stranger danger.
So I’ve spent my evening summoning my introvert-nerd powers to assemble this list of pointers for others who may suffer from my constipation-of-the-mouth:
People like hanging out with introverts because they are relentless self-editors. Everything an introvert says is interesting, because they’ve spent so much time ruminating on whether or not to say it. Twitter is great for introverts, because it gives them time to process what they’re hearing, form a thought, and share it with the world–all on their schedule. Using a conference hashtag like #okhr means that everyone benefits from an introvert’s genius, without putting him or her through the agony of an in-person conversation. The great thing is, twitter conversations can rapidly blossom into an in-person meeting with a built-in discussion topic…no small talk required.
2. Don’t Sit With Your Friends.
If you sit next to someone you don’t know, the conversation that ensues is 99% predictable. Here is what will happen: You will sit down. Someone else will ask if the seat next to you is taken. You will say no. They will sit and ask where you are from. You will tell them, but right at that moment the speaker will begin his introduction. You are now able to consider how scary the person sitting next to you is, on a scale of 1 to 10. 5 or above, you bolt as soon as the session is over. 4 or below, and you now have the entire session to think about what to say next. Easy Peesy.
3. Pretend You are Superman.
When I was dating my husband, I walked into his bathroom and noticed the outline of a body drawn on his mirror. It was written in dry-erase marker, with a giant cape flowing from the shoulders. When you stood in front of the mirror, it looked like you were wearing the cape. Written above the outline were these words: You Are Superman. Yeah, I thought it was weird too.