Remember the good old days, when you went to a conference, met interesting people, spent time with colleagues you never get to see often enough, shared information, learned a lot, and then came home exhausted but renewed at the same time? That was awesome, right?
Conferences have always been a bit harder on the introvert, given our need for recharging to regain some of the energy expended taking part in all of the above mentioned activities. In response, some have come up with really useful tips for making the most out of these events. This one and this one align most with my own approach. And this cartoon is one of my favorites.
The thread that runs through each is this: plan ahead. Consider what you want or need to get out of the event, and build structure around that. Do you want to network? Determine how many people is enough. Do you want to attend most or all of the sessions? Consider how you will find the time and space to recharge, even if that means missing other social opportunities.
In a couple of weeks I’m headed to Stanford to present speak at MedX about the research I’ve been doing on BCSM, and I’m excited about this for a number of reasons. Most importantly, I care deeply about this research, and believe this project is making a unique contribution to a growing field. And for that I have to once again thank all of those who have participated to date, generously lending their voice and their time. Additionally, MedX is a conference drawing people from around the globe and across disciplines, which will make for ample opportunity to meet others with shared interests and immerse myself in a world of possibility.
Remember: I’m an introvert, not shy. So giving a brief talk and getting to meet new people is something I’m very much looking forward to.
The twist added by MedX, and a growing number of conferences and events, is that the conference no longer takes place only at the conference. It starts well before on places like Twitter and runs long after. MedX prides itself on this, and they should be proud – they have created a space where people want to participate.
This can be used in meaningful ways, such as using input from interested individuals to shape the content of a presentation itself. Or it can be attendees seeking to promote their session, introduce themselves, or just generally converse.
For me, and all the other introverts in attendance (there is a 100% chance I’m not the only one), this means some extra planning on how to selectively interact and take part without exhausting myself prior to arrival. So here’s my approach:
- Review the agenda carefully prior to leaving for the conference, and plan out all the sessions I wish to attend. Then, if there are no breaks found within there (not including coffee breaks, during which conversations are often continued), make one. Even if that means missing a session. And it will definitely mean missing something good.
- Find someone who attended sessions I chose to miss but wanted to attend. Ask for them to recount their highlights. This also has the added benefit of creating a conversation in a smaller group setting.
- Create something that can serve as conversation starters, and that is not necessarily about work. For example, I am from Boston, so I used some pictures I’ve taken that reference my experience of Boston and used them as the basis for business cards.
- Follow the tweet stream prior to the conference. I use HootSuite, and have a column set up for #medx. I monitor it to see what people are talking about, and once or twice have piped up to interact, including making an introduction to my fellow panel mates.
- At least once a day, I will introduce myself to someone I don’t know. Ideally, go for a walk outside.
- Carve out time prior to my own session to speak to no one. Turn off the phone. Take a walk. Clear my head. Get ready to be on!