Back in June, I wrote a post on how to promote your business at a conference if you’re an introvert. The post was shared hundreds of times and obviously touched a nerve. So I figure it’s time to present the flip-side and share ideas on how to make your conference accessible to more introverted types so that everyone can make the most of it.
Back in July when I started organizing next week’s B2B Content Marketing Toolkit I crowdsourced ideas to make it accessible. As my network consists of mostly poets and academics, it’s not too much of a shock that it features people who’ve been in similar situations to me!
Here is a collation of their suggestions:
- Structure is really useful. Having set discussions where you know what it is you are meant to be talking *about* is helpful for introverts (and extroverts, frankly). Small talk of any kind is the introvert’s worst enemy so tackling a specific problem or discussing a set topic is much better. (The On the Edge events are really fantastic at doing that incidentally!)
- Often meals and coffee breaks are an informal or formal continuation of networking, and therefore a real nightmare for introverts! There should be an option for introverts to be able to recharge. Making it clear that they can opt out of these is good, even better if there is a designated ‘downtime space’ where they can go to eat/drink without the pressure of networking. Failing that, have plenty of plugs and sections where people can go and recharge their physical as well as technological batteries.
- The possibility of opting-out, in general, is a must. One of my friends shared this story: “A friend went to an event where they were asked to give a short presentation to the group at the end, and public speaking is one of her panic attack triggers. She quietly found the organiser and said "I won't be doing that, just so you know", and the organiser put loads of pressure on her to "step out her comfort zone".”
- One friend shared that she hates coffee breaks in particular: “Maybe it's because I'm always at these things as the closing poet, rather than a proper conference attendee, but every break I have to stand awkwardly against a wall and get completely ignored by people. I'm too shy to be able to just insert myself into a group of people, especially people who know each other professionally. Just...no one ever thinks about the breaks, and they're often super isolating and super awkward for the more shy types. Or for any attendee who doesn't quite fit into the mold or came alone.”
- A solution to the above, suggested by a different friend is to designate people “who are happy to talk to anyone, to make a conscious effort to talk to people who are in the social space but looking a bit lost”.
- Ice-breaker activities, like lego-building or colouring-in, might seem a bit silly but can help ease shy people into conversation with others... It's a lower-pressure form of networking too.
The B2B Content Marketing Toolkit is a two-hour evening event so a lot of the recommendations didn’t really apply but I am keen for it to differ from my worst conference and networking experiences! I’ve incorporated their suggestions in various ways and hope it’ll be a productive and fun experience for everyone wherever on the extrovert-introvert spectrum they are.