On Conferences and Networking for Introverts

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If you have met me in real life, you would think I was a complete extrovert. I'm chatty, have befriended to some extent more people than the average human being, and actually enjoy public speaking.

However, I'm actually much more of an introvert. I love my home office and not having to deal with people face to face on a daily basis, I binge on Netflix and love to write, and I feel claustrophobic in multitudes of people. Plus all of these articles and tests say I am.

For these reasons, I also tend to abhor conferences. The idea of them is incredible. Listen to great speakers, meet fascinating, like-minded people, and coffee breaks with free food! You're think I'd be all, #ConferencesFTW.

But the meeting people and networking, filled with small talk and selling oneself is incredibly difficult for me. And I have no problem with this. I don't want to become a conference networker. But because of this, I tend to avoid conferences, and so hadn't been to one in over a year.

I'll usually attend conferences if 2 of the following 4 items are checked:

1. It's free.
2. It's on a topic I really really really want to learn about/am interested in.
3. There is an announced coffee hour.
4. It's relatively close to me.

Today, I went to a conference on my own. It filled all prerequisites. Free, on the future of business and entrepreneurship, sponsored by a coffee BRAND, and a 10 minute walk from my apartment. So I couldn't NOT go.

The lectures were really quite fascinating and inspiring, especially with me being in a point where I'm feeling unmotivated career-wise. So it was great to get me thinking about new possibilities and to start working on them this end of year.

But I was also reminded as to why I tend to avoid these things.

1. There were a lot of people "self-promoting." I think I always look like I don't want to talk to anyone at these things, so nobody approached me at all. I did, however, listen in to other people's conversations. Entrepreneurs tend to be big ego-ed or are simply trying to sell an idea. So you can imagine all of the self love and prophesizing going on here.

2. Criticism galore!  People love to criticize at these things. You're at a FREE event, with incredible speakers, and you sit here in this air conditioned auditorium while it's 30 degrees celsius outside, complaining that "they're trying to copy TED," or "I wish we'd gotten little notebooks for notes". Really? 

3. Bathroom lines. Ugh.

4. Awkward eye catching. I hate that sometimes I'm walking along and I'll catch someone trying to read my name tag. Once I look up, I immediately look away in hopes the person won't try to start conversing, and pretend to be looking for the bathroom line or a pão de queijo.

5. Mentions of the weather. In the rare occasion my glance away doesn't work, I'll be approached by someone who will comment on the weather, or the bathroom line (see number 3) or to complain about the conference (see number 2) or to talk to me about their business (see number 1) as if I looked like some investor?

6. Why are all Brazilian conferences given English names or taglines? Was there no translator to copy the original idea?

That being said, the sitting in the auditorium frantically taking notes on whatever the speaker is saying and relating it to my goals and ambitions, is glorious. In general, it was a good conference. I was able to attend seamlessly, and saying hello to the only 2 people I knew (who were also way too busy networking for small talk with someone they already have in their LinkedIn contacts).

The conference was Impacto 2014, and it really inspired me to do big things with my business. But I still prefer to not network.*

That being said, I love small group encounters and coffee with interesting people. So I'm open to these conversations, in case you've now become too afraid to send me a message via the blog! Please don't be! :-)

*Note: I DO like tradeshows! They're more direct, less fake. Everyone knows you're there to do business and business gets done! And there's always lots of great free stuff <3 i="" nbsp="">

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