Attending conferences can be exciting or daunting especially if you want to put yourself out there to network and meet other professionals in your field. If you are a natural introvert, you’ve probably struggled a time or two in adapting to professional environments. Professional conferences can be an especially difficult time for someone with introverted tendencies to be open to new experiences and meet new people.
This probably has slightly to do with the fact that you are representing not only yourself but your organization! And that is okay. Conferences can be intimidating, so we at the Esri YPN team in partnership with URISA Vanguard Cabinet, put our heads together to provide some tips for networking for introverts.
1. Write your goals down ahead of time / what are the action items for you / what would you like to gain from attending the conference
2. Give yourself extra personal time (10mins extra can make a world of difference, meditate, journal, grab that quick coffee or breakfast item)
3. Prepare in advance, but not too much, try to keep conversations casual and organic instead of scripted
4. Practice your conversation starters on a vendor, they’re paid to talk and have interesting stuff to talk about anyway!
5. Schedule a meeting with a vendor or product rep. This is a low-risk environment to practice your technical conversation skills
6. Begin with the end in mind. (Knowing your end goal can help to keep you on track and prevent your nerves from consuming you)
7. If you’re asked a question and you do not know the answer to it, ask for the business card/contact info and get back to them (write the question you want to answer on the back of their business card)
8. Dress professionally, first impressions are everything
9. Force yourself to ask one question per session, many times people will approach you afterward if they are facing the same issues
10. Write a question that you want to ask the presenter on the back of your business card! Don’t have a business card, they’re a great networking investment!
11. Pack a few “go-to” questions for meeting new people:
“What’s a fun project you’ve done in the last 3 months?”
“What’s been your biggest struggle lately?”
“Which presentation have you liked so far? / What presentation are you most looking forward to?”
12. Charge up your introvert battery before going! Also, make sure to plan downtime during the conference so you can relax between sessions/networking events.
13. Be brave! GIS people are the best and you already have so much in common with other people attending the conference, everyone is there for the same reason, to learn and grow!
14. Look at the agenda ahead of time and schedule your sessions. Choose a mix of technical presentations, product updates, interest groups, expo hall & most importantly, downtime.
15. Scan the room and sit next to someone who is sitting alone. Being in the same situation can lead to ease into a convo and a great connection.
16. Use social media to connect to companies or individuals such as connecting on LinkedIn, Instagram, and TikTok
17. Gamify: turn the conference into a challenge where you need to meet 1 new person each day
18. Approach a speaker of a session or workshop afterward to introduce yourself
19. Follow your favorite organizations (Like URISA VC 🙂) posting social media content about the conference. Like, comment, or message them - it could lead to an in-person connection!
20. Attend a panel session. Take notes on not only the questions & answers but observe how panelists do answering questions on the fly.
21. Go say ‘Hi!’ and offer a business card. Most professionals are equally interested in connecting and learning about the work that you do, no matter the job title
22. Sit down next to someone for lunch. Ask their name and what they do to get to know them better
23. Try not to overthink, go with the flow, most people do not know what you’re thinking about
24. Take advantage of any socials, luncheons, or special interest group meetings. Those can have more of a smaller crowd and informal type of format
25. If you’re interested in meeting someone but are nervous, ask a colleague to introduce you
26. Try the buddy system. Being next to someone you already know can ease your sense of the unknown. Plus, having double the knowledge and comfort can make for great conversations.
27. Wear a shirt that lists things you like; map apparel will have people approaching you!
28. Make a list of people you have met virtually over the past 2.5 years that you know will be at the conference - make a point to meet them in person -> it’s easier to talk to people you already kind of know
29. Choose to connect virtually after the conference by sending a message on LinkedIn. Next time you see the person at a conference, you’ll be more comfortable!
30. If you are alone at your conference, approach an organizational booth like URISA, Esri YPN, etc. Ask them if they are attending any socials or grabbing dinner and ask if you can join them.
We understand that stepping out of your comfort zone can be tricky. Conferences, large or small, can be incredibly intimidating. We hope that these tips and tricks will help you as you advance your career. Let us know in the comments some of your favorite networking tips!
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