My friend was recently excited about a conference but terrified of going and getting overwhelmed.

He texted me:

“Help! do you have any good networking advice for introverts at conferences?” 

Conferences are a great way to meet people, and it’s one of the best ways I’ve used to reach out to new people, connect with peers, learn, and find friends.

However, conferences are also one of the scariest places to go as an introvert: all that talking, all that stimulation, and a loud, crowded set of rooms with people all day long? Call me exhausted, because all of that extroverted energy is draining and leaves me wanting to crawl into a sensory-deprivation tank for three days just to recover. 

 “Sitting and writing and talking to no one is how I wish I could spend the better part of every day.” — Amy Schumer 

As Amy Schumer explains, “If you’re a true introvert, other people are basically energy vampires. You don’t hate them; you just have to be strategic about when you expose yourself to them—like the sun.” (From her new book, which, while it has a few quotable good bits, I don’t recommend.) 

So if you’re an introvert, how do you make the best of a conference situation? 

Here are a few ways to manage a conference and make it work for you:

  1. Message 20 people in advance, and tell them you’ll be at the conference. Connect over the conference before you even get there — from the comfort of your PJ’s and the quiet of your own room. You don’t even actually have to meet them at the conference. You can just connect over the fact that you went to the same conference.
  2. Take introvert time plentifully. I know that I don’t enjoy a full day stacked with speakers, so I look at the agenda and pick out my top 50% – 75% of the day. I actively choose which session slots I will SKIP so that I can leave the conference, walk through a park, do some stretching, or take a nap. Rather than accidentally skipping the best stuff because I’m too tired to make it through a 14-hour day “on” in front of other people, I’ll plan ahead to take my own introverted break from, say, 2 to 5 PM, and then return refreshed for a dinner mixer and a night event.
  3. Plan to meet people at a food event the night before or the morning after. Research a venue in the area you like and make a reservation for 10 people. (A taco truck, a park, or a single line to-go cafe works well, too, provided it’s nice weather and you can find a place to sit). Tell people that you really want to connect with that you’re doing “X” at “Y,” and be an informal organizer. (“I’m going to get Tacos at 6PM after the first day, join then?”). Invite double the people that you actually want, and a handful will show up and you can create a smaller place to reconvene and have deeper conversations.
  4. Reach out to people afterwards, using the conference as the tool for connection.
  5. Bring cool business cards that say “We met at XYZ conference,” and reference the event itself.
  6. Live tweet the conference using the event’s hashtag and meet people online who are also at the event.
  7. Write a blog recap of the event and share it on social media with the conference hashtag. Bonus: write a blog roundup with the best posts you can find about the event, and comment on other blogger’s write-ups and reach out and meet them digitally.

Those are just a few of my conference-going tips for introverts or people who need slow space to think and connect!

What about you? What are some of your favorite tips for getting the most out of a loud, noisy, awesome, social event that is *maybe* a little too much for you?