Hey there, fellow introvert.
Look, I get it (because I’m just like you!). You’re not interested in small talk.
So let’s get to the point of this conversation. I’m going to explain the actions I take to make financial planning conferences (and any big event) occasions I actually enjoy and get a lot out of.
If I didn’t get proactive about this, I would be hiding in my room the entire time. (Yes, I am not only introverted, but shy. And kind of afraid of people, in general.)
But this is not a good way to spend one’s time if one has paid hundreds of dollars for a conference pass and hundreds more for airfare to get there. I know I want to make the most of my money and I’m sure you do to. I hope these tips that I use myself can help you do just that.
If you’re struggling to get through financial planning conferences as an introvert, use this guide to make your next event one that you not only get through, but thrive at and even enjoy.
1. Connect with People Before You Go
Don’t just show up and hope someone you know will be there. Reach out on social media first!
Comb through your social network to see if any connections will be at the conference. You can do this by posing the question (“Looking forward to checking out #ConferenceName2017! Anyone else going to be there?”) or look at tweets and comments others have made on the conference account’s posts or pages to see if there are names you recognize.
In addition to social media, reach out to people via email. If you have a COI list or a handful of contacts you feel may find a financial planing conference valuable, send them a quick message asking if you’ll see them there.
You don’t need to make concrete plans to meet up. Just knowing that there will be other people you know and already have a relationship with can be comforting and give you a confidence boost before you walk into the event (since you’ll be able to scan the crowd for a familiar face).
That being said, don’t hesitate to ask for help connecting with others if it’s appropriate to do so. This will depend on the kind of relationship you have with the person you’re talking to, but if it feels natural, ask if they can help introduce you to folks at the conference who are in their network that you may not know
2. Engage with Fellow Attendees Online Before Going to Financial Planning Conferences
In the weeks leading up to the conference, continue using social media to stay connected with speakers, attendees, influencers, vendors, and others in the industry who are interested in the event.
Specifically, search and follow the conference’s hashtags. Jump into existing conversations with others using the hashtag, or start your own by posting with it.
Check out any community groups that are set up in support of the conference. The two conferences I look forward to most every year, FinCon and INBOUND, each have communities on Facebook that you can join to interact with others before the events — and year-round.
This will help you do a few things:
- By getting involved in conversations, both your headshot and your name will be familiar to attendees once they arrive at the conference.
- You can learn new and different information about the event, and pick up tips from veterans who have been in the past.
- Monitoring the hashtag or checking out online communities and apps will help you identify the people you might want to meet at the conference (but don’t wait until the actual event to reach out and say hi. Find their email first, then introduce yourself and share that you’ll be at the conference and hope to see them there, too.)
Don’t forget to take advantage of the conference app, too, if organizers created one.
3. Use Sessions to Spark Connections
Get to sessions early and start a conversation with the person who sits next to you. This provides a pretty safe place to get out of your introverted shell for a couple reasons:
- You have a shared or similar interest with the person next to you, since you both wanted to attend the same session.
- You know you have an “out” of the conversation, as you can stop talking when the session begins.
Easy. Say hello and introduce yourself. Ask why they came to the session. If it goes well, ask what they’re checking out next or if they have any recommendations for what you should check out yourself.
4. Be Helpful
Introverts don’t enjoy small talk, so skip it. Go straight for the value-add instead by helping your fellow conference attendees when the opportunity presents itself.
As an introvert, you likely notice details others miss and are extremely perceptive when there’s information to digest. Use that — and the time you spent on social media and the conference app already — to your advantage.
If you hear others asking questions, answer them. You could be helpful by giving directions, offering suggestions on what sessions to check out, or explaining something about the conference schedule or agenda. You could point out amenities at the event or the really great vendor to chat with in the expo hall.
When you offer your help, make sure to introduce yourself while you’re at it. Exchange cards if you can (and want to), and look for opportunities to continue the conversation or make new connections. (For example, you might walk to a session with someone who’s looking for it and isn’t sure where to go.)
5. Or Ask Questions Yourself
On the flipside, don’t hesitate to ask questions.
Event staff likely have the answers, but try asking a fellow conference attendee first. This allows you to strike up a conversation with someone who likely has the time to have it with you (whereas those working the conference are probably going to scurry off the first chance they get because they always have somewhere to be and a task to be doing).
Giving people a chance to be helpful is such a gift. Allow others to support and help you.
6. Be Honest
If you find yourself next to an extroverted financial planning conference attendee, you don’t have to try and match their energy (or sneak away when they’re not looking). Be honest and share how you’re feeling.
You could say, “man, this is a great conference so far — but I have to keep running up to my room in the hotel just to sit quietly by myself for 5 minutes! I’m really introverted, so this is getting me out of my comfort zone.”
Doing so could spark a really great conversation. Being brave enough to admit what you find challenging is often a great way to connect with others who may be struggling with feeling comfortable or like they belong at the event.
That’s true even if the other person is a major extrovert. Just because they’re gregarious and outgoing doesn’t mean they don’t find a room full of strangers a little intimating, or have questions about the best way of breaking into someone else’s convo at a networking party without being totally rude about it.
Or that other person could actually be as introverted as you (but if they’re less shy, you might not know it at first glance) and be relieved that they found someone who can totally relate to the need for those periodic attempts at grabbing some time to just be.
Either way, your honesty opens up doors for other people to let their own guards down and share what’s really on their minds, as well.
7. Seek Out the Other People Standing on Their Own
When you’re an introvert in an extroverted world, you can feel a lot of pressure to do as the majority does. Just leap into the fray at the conference’s networking events! Plop yourself down at an almost-full table at breakfast and just start chatting!
Um. No. No thank you.
Getting out of your comfort zone is one thing. Setting yourself up for failure is another.
You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not, or change your personality to survive and thrive at any event or conference. Own your introverted nature — and perhaps seek out others who share that personality.
In other words, you don’t have to force yourself to go up to the biggest, loudest group you can find. Instead, scan the room and note how many other people are hanging around on their own.
Then approach them. Say hello. Ask if they’ve met any interesting people, or what their favorite part of the conference is so far.
You don’t need to be extroverted, or anything you’re not. And you can be introverted and kind, friendly, engaging, and interested in others.
Those for traits are far more important to have on your side when it comes to not just getting through social situations, but completely thriving in them.