An Introvert’s Guide to Making the Most of Conferences

I’ve just come back from the 2017 NEMLA conference in Baltimore, and let me just tell you, it’s been a whirlwind. As an introvert, just being around or talking to that many people at once can get overstimulating real fast. There were times when I just wanted to hole up in my hotel room for an entire day and recharge. However, given that conferences are great opportunities to network and connect with other people, I tried my best to make the most of it without pushing myself too hard. That said, here are some things I’ve learned from attending conferences over the past few years which might be helpful for other introverts who want to take advantage of opportunities without too much burnout.

Do Make an Effort to Try New Things and Meet New People

Introverts have a tendency to stick to what they know, as new experiences can often be overwhelming for us. It’s tempting to just stick to a previously planned itinerary and then spent the rest of the time in solitude. Unfortunately, it’s easy for us to miss out on great opportunities this way. Try to get outside your comfort zone a little, even in small ways, like talking with a panel speaker after their presentation or sitting at a different table at breakfast. This doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be an extrovert the whole time; just a small, concentrated effort will do.

Don’t Plan on Doing Everything

That said, it can also be easy to push yourself too far. This is a matter of knowing your energetic limits, meaning, don’t force yourself to attend every talk, keynote address, or group dinner if you know you won’t be able to concentrate beyond a certain amount of presentations. Give yourself some time to recharge without beating yourself up about missing out. I used to go into conferences with the “do everything” mindset and I actually missed out more by attending every single event and being exhausted than simply excusing myself to have some alone time.

Don’t Neglect Your Body

Conferences, particularly academic conferences, spend a lot of time engaging the mind versus the body, which can be problematic if you are like me and tend to neglect the latter. I would skip meals in order to attend presentations or meetings with colleagues. But, like trying to do everything, ignoring your physical needs has its drawbacks. I would lose focus or eventually become sick if I didn’t stick to a regular meal schedule or take some time to move around (either doing yoga or taking short walks). Once I paid attention to what my body was telling me, I found it also improved my mental stamina as well.

Do Plan on Using That Conference Discount

One great thing about conferences are the discounts they promote in partner with businesses and publishing houses. I used to just walk past these tables while on my way to the next presentation, but now I make a point of going over and talking to the vendors. Often times you can get some amazing brand-new books for less money than used copies, straight from the publisher, which is great if you’re an introvert looking for new reading material. It’s also a good place to research trends in publishing if you are thinking of putting out a new journal article or book proposal.

What are some of your favorite conference tips? As always, you can leave a comment below or on my Facebook page.