You know what’s more awkward than being a socially awkward person?
Going to a conference filled with socially awkward persons.
Last weekend I returned from the DNX, Europe’s only Digital Nomad Conference for online biz owners who also want to travel the world. It was a rich lesson in learning how to network when it does not come naturally to me.
Bad jokes were shared, useful tips exchanged, new relationships built … and some lost. (Tip: Don’t question people’s intentions, it usually pisses them off and ruins the potential relationship.)
Anyways, since I’m a bona fide introvert who loves people but don’t want to interact with them, I have learned three major lessons from my conference experience that I want to share with you.
Make an intro that irritates
This is hard, especially for an introvert. But with so many folks attending, you have limited time to make your mark. If you just introduce yourself and flash your biz card, you’ll vanish into oblivion again. To land a lasting impact, drop the average introduction. The whole “Hey, my name is…”, “What’s yours?”, “Okay, what do you? ZZZZzzzz … you get the idea.
For example, during the lunch break, I was standing next to that social media lady carrying a huuuge purse. I wanted to connect with her, so I pointed toward her purse and asked if she was hiding her boyfriend in there. Granted, it wasn’t the smile-bringer I hoped it was, but that’s how we started the conversation and it took off from there. I tried similar approaches to jumpstart the chitchat and always adapted my intro to the person and their surrounding (If someone was eating, I made a line about that).
At conferences, people constantly introduce each other and get tired of mumbling the same lines. I mean, how many times can you say: “Heya, I’m Liz, and I’m a social media ninja rockstar”? You don’t want to be the hundredth person asking the SAME questions. You want to be the one they remember.
Distill the essence
With so many speakers sharing their tips, your brain tissue gets pounded with information. But not all that information is created equal. At the DNX, the topics ranged from running an online biz while traveling the world with your family, social media domination, personal branding, and e-course building. Even if you take smartphone shots of the slides, you are overwhelmed with the information. That’s why I only focused on one major takeaway from each speech.
Yep, you heard that right. Just one.
Why? Because with too many action steps, you tend to not take any. Besides, a lot of information is not relevant to your specific situation. I for example don’t have kids, so that family travel speech wasn’t useful. With the social media domination talk, I only focused on tips for Twitter, because that’s the most important platform in my biz.
So after every talk, ask yourself: what’s the one relevant key takeaway I can act on?
Follow-up for introverts
As an introvert, when I come back from a conference I want to crawl back into my lonely cave and watch as other attendees swarm Facebook and Twitter with their conference images and selfies. Melancholia washes over me as I wished I was good at following up with people. .
I learned that following up is essential to get the most out of these events, and so is the timeframe in which you do it.
About three days after the event, I personally wrote messages to the most interesting people I met, reintroducing myself (“I was the one who made that joke about the boyfriend in your purse”) and make a specific compliment about our encounter, so the connection can be linked.
Why wait for two days or three days? I think one day is too early. It’s too fresh, and people are still computing the event’s experience.
After two to three days, they have moved on and are back in work mode. That’s perfect for getting back in touch, because it shows you’ve remembered them, one of the greatest compliments you can make. It’s a fruitful refresher to a potential relationship.
Conferences can be overwhelming, especially to introverts that are used to working alone in front of the screen. But with an open mind and a willingness to stand apart, you can separate yourself from the crowd and also create lasting relationships.
Any other conference introverts out there?