Okay, I know that some of you are introverts. Today there was a mention of Conference networking for introverts by Allison Wolf on slaw.ca. I appreciated this article that celebrates introverts because I am an introvert. That flashy scarf is all acting.
Allison Wolf has some great tips for viewing your networking at conferences as something beyond selling yourself, but as a way to find out more about others to help them. I disagree with her concept of exchanging business cards and will talk about that below. Look at Allison’s ROAD Questions to help focus on what’s most important to people you meet:
- Relationships – What are the most important relationships in this person’s life?
- Occupation – What is their occupation? What do they like/dislike about it? What is most exciting about their work? What is most challenging?
- Activities – What activities is the person involved in personally and professionally? What professional or community associations do they contribute to?
- Drive – What motivates this person? What are their personal and professional goals.
Five years ago I was still vomiting every time before I spoke in public groups of over 10 people. I hated to go into restaurants, theatres, department stores, and SOCIAL EVENTS by myself. Some of you are disagreeing with me because we have met in conferences and I don’t seem at all ill-at-ease. If we walk together in exhibit halls, I gladly speak to many people. I will even go up to someone else that looks alone and begin a conversation now because I realized I wasn’t the only introvert trying to cope in an extrovert’s world. I’ve gotten out of myself and realized that someone else might need some help so I need to get over me.
Thanks to my family and my dear friends Nancy Dickinson and Allison Roberts, I have worked really hard at developing coping skills. They view every stranger as a potential friend and someone of interest. They don’t stop to see if the other person is waiting for them, but they chat with them in such a friendly way that everyone has a good experience.
A coping strategy for me is that I do not focus on large numbers of people in audiences or crowds anymore. Years ago I was having a panic attack at speaking and called #1 son. He told me to go up and talk to every person as a friend, so I introduced myself that way and told them I was only going to stop being nervous if they would come up throughout the conference and introduce themselves to me so we could be friends.
It helped! Some people asked me for advice technically on how to do things and I was able to actually DO SOMETHING to help someone else. Others described their situations and I was able to CONNECT them to someone else to help. I was useful through what I could do to help them. Now when I look at an audience, I am searching for you as an individual so we can have a connection and I can relax.
When we exchange business cards, I write all over your cards so I can remember WHERE we met, WHAT your interests are, and HOW I can help you. If I need to email and ask a question, I put that on the card. Then I keep all these cards in a huge drawer by my bed. I go through them and recall your face and whether you were friendly, efficient, or distant. Sometimes I pull out the card and think, "I really should email this person and see how they are doing." When I give out my card, I try to write something on the back if I need your help so you might remember me, too.
One of the best changes I made is through my blogging. I can sit and write to you as an individual, not a big audience and hope that you are sharing a unique experience with me. Every comment is vitally important to me because you are part of my PLN (personal learning network). I learn through you and hope that you find something of benefit.
The extroverts are probably ignoring this entire article unless they are reading to try to draw you out of your shell. If you are an introvert and the idea of going to a large conference is intimidating, please go right now and send in your registration. There are many of us introverts out there. We may stand at the wall or walk through the crowds, but we are looking for the individual contacts and friends at conferences.
Who knows who you will meet? Strangely enough, I have chatted with ALA presidents in hallways because they are often totally alone in crowds on their way to somewhere or just having met with others. Some tell me that everyone just assumes they are so busy that no one chats with them anymore. YIKES! Even leaders need you.
In my email box I found the American Libraries Direct 3/19/2008* which took me to the Slaw article. If you aren’t subscribed, you should join ALA and get this for free. You get a wide range of articles in a convenient format with clickable links if you want more info.
There is usually much I don’t know or care about that doesn’t seem applicable at the time, but then the topics come up and I have the background knowledge I need. Then there are some truly amazing links to articles and people that make me think, "Where did they come from? Whose out there finding all this good stuff for us?" Thanks American Library staff for sending me this link today.
Being an introvert is okay. Since you are probably stuck in your own head much of the time, just pretend that you are simply taking a class in network conference coping. You’ll be the star pupil.
* AL Direct is a free electronic newsletter emailed every Wednesday to personal members of the American Library Association.