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The Introvert's Guide to Working a Conference

Build relationships, drive leads, and close sales while protecting your energy

 

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September 21, 2017

If you are anything like me, a conference is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. As an introvert, you have the power to make amazing connections and foster relationships that can turn into sales for your business at a conference! But it’s so important to protect your energy. This is a marathon, not a sprint!

I just recently attended the Solar Power International (SPI) Convention and Conference in Las Vegas, representing my husband’s renewable energy company, muGrid Analytics. I am the Director of Business Development, and it’s adjacent to my coaching business for consultants and other business starters. So I was there at the conference, working and getting business and making connections and all of that stuff.. But here’s the thing: I’m an introvert. Sometimes I’m actually a painful introvert.

At times, I appear to be very extroverted. I’m enthusiastic and expressive. I like to hear about people. I like to tell you my stories. But at the end of the day I have to recharge with alone time. A big huge conference like SPI is total sensory overload! Then you drop said big huge conference in the middle of a city like Las Vegas and oh my gosh… total complete sensory overload. As an introvert I have to protect my own energy if I’m going to be effective at a conference like this.

Back when I was an engineer in the corporate world and working for a company, I would get sent to conferences. I honestly did not do much there, because I didn’t feel like I had any real power. I was not a decision maker, so I didn’t know what I had to offer anybody at a conference. Then I would get into these networking situations where I just didn’t have anything to say. I think that experience really made me fear being at conferences; even to this day! And so what I want to talk to you about today is how to work a conference, and really be effective, even if you’re an introvert.

Conferences are a great way to grow your consulting, coaching, or other service based business. You can make amazing new connections because you’re talking face-to-face. Going to a conference can be  super lucrative and really can move you forward! But if you’re an introvert like me, you have to learn how to work it so that you are protecting your energy.

So here are my six tips for you on how to work a conference if you’re an introvert. This could apply to a technical conference like Solar Power International, but it could also apply to any kind of conference: a spirituality conference, wellness conference, speakers conference, social media conference, or any area that you work in. I know that some of my clients have already been to conferences this year. It’s conference season; this could be really important for you. Listen up!

1) Balance time between sessions and networking

The first way that you can work a conference as an introvert is to make time for both the sessions and the networking events. That’s really important not just because the sessions are your opportunity to learn at the conference but because the sessions are your opportunity to rest. You can receive from them. You can be quiet. You can sit still. You can check your phone. You can do a little absorption of information and not be responsible for being the one talking or giving.

Definitely spend time in sessions but don’t hide in them either! Mix education up with some networking so that you can have the recharge time in the sessions and then go out and be your dynamic self on the expo floor or in a networking event.

2) Engage on social media (and use the conference hashtag!)

The number two tip for introverts working a conference is to use social media. This is an incredible tip from my client, so shout out to Kelly Parnigoni of Cadence Healthcare Consulting, who taught me how to live-tweet a conference. At SPI, I took Kelly’s advice and I live-tweeted the event. There’s an event hashtag for every event that you go to! I tagged the conference on Twitter on every post I made and used the conference hashtag, and I got re-tweeted by the conference itself several times.

When I was in a session, I could tweet and tag the thought leaders leading the session. I could tag their (often large and impenetrable) companies. What a great way to connect with thought leaders! You can connect directly with executives who might be above your pay-grade. Quote them! Throw out some love! Tell them you’re inspired. Tell them what they’re doing for you and work social media.

The benefit is that you get visibility. You get exposure by being active on social media, but it doesn’t require a ton of your personal energy for that one-on-one interaction.

The person who runs Twitter for Solar Power International (the entire 20,000 participant convention!) came up to me and said “Oh my gosh! I’m so glad I found you! Thank you so much for live-tweeting the event! Your tweets have been amazing. Keep doing what you’re doing!” I made a great connection with the social media staff of the conference.

3) Ask “How can I support you?” in every interaction

Tip number three of six: I used to be totally paranoid about doing networking events. I’d think “What am I gonna say??” Even with an elevator pitch, I was anxious: “How am I gonna pitch this to people???” Try to stop thinking so much about what you are going to say and how you’re going to present yourself.

The way that I’ve been empowered by being an entrepreneur at the conference instead of being an employee at the conference is that I’m really empowered to help people.

That’s the number one thing I’ve learned from entrepreneurship. I’m not trying to sell anything. I’m trying to make proposals that are going to serve people where they’re at and move them forward. The same thing is true when I’m at a technical conference like SPI. I’m talking to project developers and I’m like “Hey, how can we support you in what you do?” I’m talking to engineering firms and I’m saying “Hey, how can we support you?” I’m talking to solar installers and saying “How can I support you?” And with and banks, financiers, and investors I’m saying “I’d like to support you, too!” Lead with the question “How can I support you?”

4) Start with learning about the other person

Moving on to number four: At the beginning of the conference, I found that I was launching into my elevator pitch right away. But it’s really really helpful if I understand what the other person does so I understand how I can support them. I need to know what to focus on and what would be the most interest to them. The good news is that doing so takes the spotlight immediately off me and puts it immediately on the other person. That can help you as an introvert! Get the spotlight off of you and start talking about them.

In my case, when they ask me “Tell me about your work,” I flip it around and say, “Well what do you do?” From there, I can understand if they’re an engineering firm or a project developer or an installer. I can understand how better to talk to them and serve their needs before I ask that “how can I support you in what you do?” question.

5) Don’t go to all the conference events if you don’t want to

Number five: Don’t go to things if you don’t want to. These conferences are a marathon not a sprint! They have so many activities and so many events. You know what? The second night of the conference, SPI held a block party on the beach at one of the hotel pools. It was 100 degrees F outside and I was wearing a business suit. I had presented my poster so I was working really hard and my energy was really out there. I didn’t want to go to the block party.

Obviously, you don’t want to run and hide. You want to show up. But to protect your energy, sometimes you just need to know what your limit is. It’s okay not to go to everything. I wouldn’t have engaged in a meaningful way at the block party. I know that about myself. I engage in a much more meaningful way at the poster session or on the expo floor or at the women’s luncheon. All of those ways are so much better for me, and better for the relationships that I’m building, too.

6) Nourish yourself with good food and enough sleep

Finally, my sixth point is to make sure that you are engaging in self-care. Nourish yourself. You’ve got to get enough sleep. You’ve got to eat good food. It’s really easy to overindulge, in a city like Las Vegas. Just keep in mind that you’re nourishing your body, your soul, and your business when you’re at a conference. So do it right! I know it’s fun to be in Vegas and wanna party hard. But really keep yourself nourished to keep your energy up and you can do it. You can work the conference and be super effective even as an introvert! 

Those are my six tips for introverts who need to work a conference. But there are other great ideas out there too.  Reader Rosanne suggests “during breaks or downtime you can find a spot that may be a bit quieter but that’s still in the vicinity of other people. If you leave some space between you and them (which you might do naturally anyway ;)) it opens the door for others looking for a spot and a chance to mingle to come up to you and start a conversation. I find it makes a huge difference for me when I don’t have to be te one approaching people. Create opportunities for them to come to you and like you said, ask them questions!”  If you have any additional tips, I’d love to hear them!

Go out and get those sales. Close those deals. Build relationships. You can do it!

 

I know that for me, this particular event was really inspiring and really motivating. It generated a ton of momentum for both the renewable energy consulting business and for my coaching business. I was super happy to be there. And if I can do it, you can do it too.

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GET READY TO GENERATE REVENUE WHILE BUILDING YOUR BIG IDEA

Feeling overwhelmed by the scope of your product ideas? Trying not to create in a vacuum but feeling sucked in anyway? Plan your product development cycles to build in flexibility and play while making moolah along the way with the Spiral Product Design Roadmap.

it's free!
100% Privacy Guaranteed.