Looking for a Spot to Anchor
I've been to several conferences in the last few months. And this has given me the chance to make some observations about myself and about others.
Starting conversations becomes easier with practice, but I don't know if it will ever be easy. After six years of talking to strangers, it still takes a bit of effort. I am always glad after I do start those conversations. It's all part of combining my introvert nature with a desire to meet new people.
I've found that I'm most comfortable starting conversations when I have a captive audience. The lunch line is probably my favorite spot. You have a similar goal and situation with the people around you, so it's easy to make a comment on the line and/or the food.
This past week, I was at Code PaLOUsa in Kentucky, and I started a conversation in the lunch line with Gregory C. The added bonus was that neither of us had to look for a table on our own. We ended up having lunch with a group of folks who all worked together, and we had a good conversation. Gregory dropped me a note afterward, and I'm hoping to see him again.
Adrift in a Mass of People
I'm least comfortable in reception-type environments. It's too easy to simply mill around in a mass of people. I also tend to get overwhelmed by the activity and noise -- quite uncomfortable to an introvert. Here are a few tips that have helped me survive and thrive:
o Take Time to Refocus
Often, I'll recognize that I'm getting overwhelmed and go outside for a few minutes to reset. The fresh air and relatively quiet environment helps me refocus my energy. (As a side note, sometimes I end up on the "smoker's patio" and have some good, quiet conversations there.)
o Find a Spot to Anchor
When things get overwhelming, I'll give up on trying to start a cold conversation and look for someone I already know. This gives me some familiar territory and generally there are some people that I don't know as well. A little familiarity can help alleviate things quite a bit.
o Break Off
Since it's easier for introverts to talk and regain energy in a small group, I'll look for some folks who want to move on to a restaurant or somewhere else that is conducive to conversation.
And sometimes large groups are okay as well. I went to dinner with a group of ten people at a recent event. I knew 3 or 4 people in the group and met a few more on the walk to the restaurant. Ten people sounds like a big group, but there was a really good conversation going on with the four of us at the end of the table (and these were people I had just met that night).
Share Your Ideas
If you have ideas on how to survive and thrive at a conference, please send them in and we'll share them in the next newsletter: firstname.lastname@example.org.