As a member of the #SHRM18Blogger squad, I promised the good folks over at SHRM that I would write a post offering advice about the event.
Inevitably, I took my own twist on things…
Conferences can be a difficult place for introverts. Between the big crowds, the constant noise and the pressure of interacting with a ton of strangers – there’s more than enough to create a panic attack pressure cooker that’s just waiting to explode. But conferences have a lot to offer, introvert or not, so we show up anyway. Regardless of our personality predisposition, introverts are still seeking out the high-quality relationships and information that events like SHRM have to offer. But how do introverts leap the hurdle and fight their instinct to run and hide in that environment?
I’ve asked myself that question a thousand times. First, standing at registration with a thousand strangers trying to work myself up to a conversation with a random bystander. Then as I’ve stood in line to get lunch, looking around in hopes I’ll see a friend and not be on my own to figure out the chaos. Again as I find my seat in the keynotes or workshops. I’m always hoping I can use that time and a bit of small talk to find a kindred soul – if only I had the courage.
I know I’m not the only one as I look around these rooms and nervously smile at others experiencing the same inner turmoil.
In fairness, I’m happy to retreat to my room when the day is done but I find myself feeling regrets when I do. “I didn’t come here to sit in a hotel room and watch Friends,” I think with that sinking feeling that I’m missing out. The moments of guilt resonate on the flight home after those trips, thinking about how I didn’t make the most of this huge investment – both from a personal perspective and the POV of the company or sponsor sending me there.
So before this year’s SHRM, I wanted to arm myself with some ways to find new experiences and try new things. Ways to connect that wouldn’t feel so forced or push me even closer to that anxiety panic button. Then I thought of those smiling faces from conferences past and knew I had to share them for people like me.
- Bring A Power Strip: Conferences are notorious for not having enough chargers to keep your laptop and phone alive. Be the life saver. Sit next to a plug and share the wealth. I can almost guarantee people need to charge and will flock to you. Plus, it’s a conversation starter. “I never would have thought of that,” they’ll say. Then, “great idea! Thank you!” (Go ahead, take all the credit. It’s cool.) From there, they have to sit down and wait for the phone to charge. What better time to ask where they’re from or what they do or see what they thought/think of the speaker?
- Wear a Fun Shirt: Some of the best conversations that turn into friendships have started just because I wore my favorite graphic T and a kindred soul thought it was just as funny as I did. While it might be nerve-wracking to talk about who you are, a t-shirt does a lot of talking for you. Show off who you are and let people come to you. Throw on a blazer over the t-shirt if you’re worried about dress codes.
- Tweet To Talk: For a lot of introverts, things just feel safer behind the screen. Follow the hashtag #SHRM18 not just at the event but starting now. Here’s the trick: don’t just follow. Respond to questions. Retweet with commentary. Do something to show that you’re not just interacting but really listening to the message. Then share your own ideas. You’ll build a crew of contacts before showing up. Then when you’re in Chicago, use Twitter to find out about networking events and meet-ups so even if you don’t feel like talking, you can linger on the wall with the other amazing introverts and feel like you took the chance.
- Set Goals First: Don’t let your guilt get the best of you when you get home based on some unrealistic and barely outlined goals. Before the event, set some realistic goals for yourself – realistic being the keyword! How many sessions will you attend? How many events/parties would you like to see? What vendors do you need to meet? Then, write a schedule of how you’ll do that each day based on the SHRM agenda.