Jeena Cho and Gina Maria Mele, M.S.
Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re at a large conference. There are hundreds of people there. You don’t recognize anyone. How does this make you feel? Some of us love meeting new people. For others, this makes our pulse rise, it gives us anxiety and sweaty palms. Everyone can get better at networking and connecting with new people. It just takes practice.
Are You an Introvert?
Being an introvert has nothing to do with being shy. Rather, it has to do with how you interact in the world. Introverts get their batteries recharged by having alone time. They like to reflect on their thoughts and experiences. An extrovert, in contrast gets energized by spending time with others.
Understanding the Brain
Ever wonder why social situations create stress for you? This reaction has to do with how our brains are “wired”–neural pathways created in response to how we interact with our environment. Fortunately, our brains are not “hard wired.” We can learn new, less stressful ways to be in social situations.
Tips for Successfully Navigating a Conference
1. Calm the brain.
Regular meditation is great training for calming the brain. It’s hard to think clearly when your brain is in full panic mode. When you feel your anxiety rising, take a moment to take three full breaths. Deeply inhale and exhale. Three breaths actually alters the physiological reaction of the brain to stress.
You can also find a spot at the conference where you can be alone for a few minutes. This will recharge your battery while calming your mind.
2. Look for other introverts.
Be observant and take a look around at the room. Are there people that are standing or sitting alone? Find a person that you’d like to speak to and say hello. Ask questions. Be engaged. Smile.
3. Play host or hostess.
As you’re speaking to the person, notice other loners and welcome them into your circle. People remember how you made them feel, not what you said.
4. Keep it brief.
When you feel fatigued or you want to move onto other conversations, simply excuse yourself by saying “It was very nice meeting you. I enjoyed our conversation.” and move on.
5. Do your homework and set goals.
Prior to the event, look up attendee’s profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. Connecting with others before the event is a great way to ease your anxiety. When you get there, set achievable goals such as speaking to two new people.