By Wendy Badger
As a first time attende at the SCCE Compliance and Ethics Institute, I am excited to spend time with my professional peers. At the same time, I am full of trepidation and anxiety. Why? Because I am an introvert and cripplingly shy. I work tirelessly to overcome those opportunity areas and become a “situational extrovert.” But I got to thinking that maybe this is a two way street. What are some ways returning attendees can help indentify folks like me, and encourage us to come out of our introverted shells? Here are a some steps to help us meet in the middle.
1) Watch for the first timer ribbon. For those of us brave enough to wear them, it is a message to others that we might be a little overwhelmed. (Oh, the overwhelmed ribbon might be another clue.) Reach out to start a conversation; first timers won’t know the unwritten etiquette and each conference is different.
2) First timers get to sessions early to scope out the area and find our favorite spot to sit, or maybe blend into our surroundings. Maybe come early and help us find our way.
3) Because we get to sessions early (or because some of us are introverts), we are likely sitting alone at a table. Please join us.
4) Believe it or not, there are cliques. We think we are inviting or welcoming to new people, but the old friends who meet up send a bit of a vibe that their group is not accepting new members, so newbies won’t try to join an in-process conversation. Introverts find this rude and likely won’t look for an opening.
5) Review the registration list for others in your state or industry. Reach out in advance of the meeting via LinkedIn, Twitter or email.
6) Have a first timers reception or designated meeting space to take off some of the pressure. Maybe suggest meeting at the continental breakfast or expo break so you aren’t stuck in an uncomfortable dinner. If you do hit it off, there are multiple opportunities to reconnect for informal get togethers or the awards dinner.
7) Invite a newbie to your table at the awards dinner.
And those are the ideas generated from the pre-conference sessions. I am sure you have some ideas, too.
Well written observations and points to bring out. I find myself responding to the term “situational extrovert” as an accurate descriptor. Thank you for your thoughtful insights.
Oh, Wendy!! What great ideas you have. I regret not being more sensitive to my fellow introverts. I use the conference as a way to challenge myself to be a little bolder in meeting people. One of the best parts of this conference is being around people who understand and support each other in our difficult “choice” of careers. Can be a great start to any conversation. I would love to meet you next year and personally welcome you to SCCE CEI. I challenge you to bring this topic back up before next year’s conference as a reminder to experienced attendees to welcome all newbies–especially intro-newbies.
I thought I had coined the term “situational extrovert.” Apparently not! You remind me of the sign which says, “Introverts Unite — privately, in your own homes.” I too was a first-time attendee (except for the Academy), and I too intended to challenge myself to network. By Tuesday afternoon, I was introvert toast. Thanks for your ideas here. Wouldn’t it be funny to invite all the introverts to a session of our own? Where would we all sit?
Thanks for all your replies! I am so thrilled to know at least three people read this blog! I look forward to meeting you all at a future event – or, you know, connecting beforehand in a safe, introvert friendly space where we can quietly connect before we retreat into ourselves to re-energize.
Hi Wendy! I really relate to your point #4. I usually find most people at conferences to be friendly and open, but there are definitely cliques and sometimes sort of a high school tendency where people attend sessions together. I find those dynamics always dominate gatherings. I have chronic “everyone already knows each other except for me” syndrome so while I am not introverted to the point of feeling unable to participate, I do get overwhelmed by that and find myself going into sessions early like you describe just to be alone. What helped for me has been connecting to people I notice also on their own in multiple sessions the same as mine across the days. Making some comment about the material or even just smiling in recognition helps to spark small connections.
I too was a first-timer to the conference and am very much introverted. While the conference activities offered plenty of networking opportunities, I empathize with many of your observations. Kudos to you for having the courage to write and post this piece! I started writing a blog during the conference but chickened out. I’m sure you have had more than five readers (you have at least 6 with my addition!) perhaps they are just too shy to respond publicly. One last thought: look at us introverts now…being all social by commenting!!! #babysteps
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