Conference season is upon us! Here are 3 essential tips for surviving a writers’ conference, as an introvert.
Writers’ conferences are wonderful places for learning, connecting, being inspired and reminding yourself to take your writing seriously.
They also have cringe-making moments of high-school flashbacks, with you cowering in a corner, wishing the earth would swallow you.
After the event you’ll remember and value the connections you made and the people you met. In the moment, for introverted writer-types, all that enforced socializing can be torture.
But if top spies can withstand torture with a little training, why not us?
1. Stop Thinking About Yourself
When I think about my favorite people in the world it strikes me that they are not just my favorite people. They are a-lot-of-other-people’s favorite person too. They attract people to them. How? By being interested in us.
Take a leaf out of the book of the most charismatic person you know: make eye contact, ask questions about the other person, have a response ready (or a follow-up question — and yes, you can rehearse these things at home. That’s what successful sales people and successful charmers do!), smile and do whatever you can to make the other person feel great about themselves.
Here are five ways to make the people around you feel great, courtesy of Dale Partridge (click for a bigger view)
2. Find A Bubbly Friend
(Use this with care. You don’t want to be a parasite.)
If you can connect with someone whose skills complement your own (i.e. an extravert), do so. Ride their coattails. Let them introduce you to people as you go around the conference.
The best way to do this without becoming an actual pest, is to hang with this person a little bit, then give them some space, and connect with them again later. (Maybe you can find two or three extraverts and float between them).
Think about what you can do for them, to repay them for being your ice-breaker: once you’re in a new group of people, tell other people about your friend’s writing, or talents or ask them to tell that funny story you heard them tell earlier to a different group. You can also ask them about their work or their challenges, and keep an eye out for information and opportunities that will help — especially if you’re attending different sessions. Pass on information, contacts and resources you think might help your friend.
How to find your bubbly friend: see if any of your internet friends are going to the same conference. Arrange to meet up, at least once. If none of your friends are going, check out the conference’s hashtag on Twitter (smart conference directors will always have one). Follow the bubbliest Tweeter and, if you make a connection online, suggest meeting up at the conference too. (Naturally, the same rules apply here as in real life: only approach if you sense a real connection. Don’t be creepy. Don’t smother people.)
3. Understand Your Introverted Nature
Don’t berate yourself for needing to crawl off to a dark, quiet space from time to time during the conference.
We introverts need quiet time to recharge. If you need to get out of the hotel for lunch alone, or if you need an afternoon power nap, go for it. Just get back out there when you’re refreshed.
Also, don’t think that just because you’re a bit of an introvert, you can’t be sociable. Some of the most charming people I know are introverts. But they do need to take time to recharge or they become cranky and unhappy. Be yourself. Pay attention to your body. If you’re getting fidgeting and cross, take a break. Alone. It’s OK.
Keep In Touch After The Conference
If you’ve made a connection with someone, keep in touch after the conference.
The good news is, you’ll probably be able to do it online, which will be a relief, won’t it?