I recently spoke with a friend who thought that it was impossible for introverts to be successful in the events industry. When people think about our industry, they think of a bubbly, extroverted person who flits around an event and makes friends with everyone. He or she is the center of attention and loves to connect with people, form new relationships, and generate social buzz. But, I find that there are many people who get involved in the industry because of the fact that we can be behind the scenes. I do the occasional speaking engagement and I really enjoy it, but when it comes down to it, I am an introvert to the core. I can flit around an event too, but I have to go home and decompress afterwards. So, all this conversation has gotten me thinking. How can introverts succeed in an industry where connections are the core of what we do?
First of all, it's important to notice and to recognize that you are an introvert. It's not a bad thing. In fact, there are many things that introverts are great at that are important in our industry. But, if you're always trying to pretend to be an extrovert, you won't take care of yourself and the way that you need to be successful. So, as in rehab, the first thing to do is to admit you have a problem. Or, in this case, just admit that you have certain preferences.
Check out this video to see why introverts really are valuable.
Learn to work the room effectively
For introverts, attacking a huge room of people is not the most comfortable thing. So, think about how you can work a room in small groups or one-on-one. Perhaps you can connect with a small group of dedicated volunteers or work with some of the important donors to the organization. Think about ways that you can get involved in the event and make meaningful connections, without being overwhelmed by taking over the crowd.
It's okay to have downtime
When I first started attending conferences, I often felt like the odd (wo)man out. Midnight would come and I would want to go back to my room, while everyone else was getting ready to go out to the next party. It's not because I was lazy or tired, but I just needed time to decompress. At first, I would make excuses for having to do so, but I realize that it's really okay to take a break when you need to. Introverts recharge by being alone so it's completely okay to take your time when you need it. If you get the downtime you need, you will be more effective at making relationships and forcing yourself towards the side of extroversion as needed. If you stretch yourself too thin, you will be grumpy, unhappy, and hard to deal with. For your sake and for those around you, don't be afraid to step back when you need a little alone time.
Leverage online relationships
One of the reasons why I love Twitter is that I can be social without actually being social. I can talk to a lot of people, make relationships and digest a lot of information. And it's all at my pace. It's much easier for me to talk to a lot of people online then to try to foster the same relationships in person. Of course, in person is a very important component of any good relationship, but it's helpful to use online tools to streamline my communications and make relationship building a bit easier. If you're attending an event or conference, consider making relationships online in advance so that you can feel more comfortable once you arrive on site.
At the end of the day, introverts have a lot to offer our industry. They are often more reflective and it's important to give introverts time to think through a problem. Just because an introvert doesn't speak up right away, doesn't mean they don't have anything to say. Our industry will be much better if we can embrace the introverts around us and if those of us who identify as such could be more mindful of optimizing our introverted behavior for the sake of the industry.