So, as you know, some of our team is getting ready to go to The International Babywearing Conference in Atlanta, Georgia this week!! Lots of babywearers are and in anticipation, Laura Brown from Mamabird Postpartum and Ergo wrote a piece that helps introverts get the most out of their conference experience. The truth is that I had never thought about the strain that a conference can be for some people, especially people who identify as introverts. My introverted husband barely tolerates dinner parties, I can’t imagine putting him in a hotel space with 700 of his nearest and dearest for four days. Not to say that being an extrovert doesn’t have it’s own challenges at a conference. I’ve been thinking about these chalenges today and decided to write a mirror piece to Laura’s… Maximizing the Conference: A Guide for Extroverts.
Prioritize Your Time: You can not do ALL THE THINGS. Y’all, the FOMO* is strong in extroverts. After all the traveling, arrangements, money spent, and friends to see, there is no greater trap for the extrovert than being overcommitted and over-scheduled. Create goals and work towards that. If your goal is really to hang out with as many people as possible, prioritize the socials over the sessions. Want to meet your favorite artisans? Schedule time to hang out in the Vendor Hall. Be honest with yourself, Extrovert. You physically can not be everywhere. So stop, feel the FOMO, breath, and let it go; then, prioritize your time accordingly.
Understand that not everyone is an extrovert. This point is the one around which I have the most anxiety. Being one of the most extroverted extroverts that ever extroverted, I try to remember that other people are likely having a different experience. The number one point I can give here is a personal struggle… Listen. By actively listening to other’s conversations and thoughts, you will be able to create more authentic and honest connections. Actively listening also helps to assure that the person with the more extroverted personality doesn’t railroad the conversation as listening is almost impossible if you are the one talking all the time (ask me how I know). The second point I want to give is to have a sense of personal space. Much to my utter shock, not everyone is a hugger. Imagine my neighbor’s surprise when she brought me over some figs and in her eyes, I tackled her 80 pound frame nearly to the ground… to show my gratitude. It’s best to say something like, “I’m a hugger. Can I hug you?” then proceed. Thirdly, don’t take it personally if people need some space alone. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that a rejected dinner invitation is a personal affront, but sometimes these things are just overwhelming and people (maybe even you) need some quiet time.
Take some quiet time. Here comes the FOMO again, but if you are honest with yourself, you will know that even extroverts can benefit from a quick disco nap or some solo Pokemon hunting. Either way, find something that you can do for you, even if it is for just a few minutes before returning to the fun.
Volunteer. Put the extroverted energy to good use! Many conferences (IBC included) have calls for volunteers. Volunteering is a great way to meet lots of people, be actively engaged in the workings of the event, and is a mutually beneficial outlet for your nervous (excited!) energy.
Sit with someone you don’t know whenever possible. This is my favorite tip for any gathering and it works especially well with extroverts. At large meetings like this, take an opportunity to chat up someone that maybe you would not have normally met. By just sitting next to someone in a session, extending a hand and a introduction, you can easily make ten more connections that you would not have normally made. In all my years of meetings, this tip has never failed me, and on the contrary, has let to some of my greatest contacts. Try it out!
Wear what makes you fabulous! (almost) Laura suggests to introverts that they wear whatever makes them most comfortable and adds that it would seem obvious. I agree. Except that I STRUGGLED on the decision to wear my favorite navy dress thinking that it would be too formal or dressy for the occasion. Eventually, I decided that I would wear it because it makes me feel good and my too dressy dress can be an awesome conversation starter! So my advice is to wear whatever makes you feel fabulous with ONE EXCEPTION… wear comfortable shoes. I am always SHOCKED at how much walking/ running happens at these events and wearing the shoes that make me feel most fabulous, but are not necessarily most comfortable, is always a decision I regret. Always. Don’t be Cynthia; wear comfortable shoes.
Lastly, take some time for reflection. Jotting down some notes after a session or collecting your thoughts at the end of the day has always been invaluable to me. Conferences are always a whirlwind of activity (especially for the extravert) and I have found it beneficial to collect my my thoughts on what needs to come home before moving on to meeting more people and having more fun. It may take a few minutes (FOMO alert), but the returns are exponential. Have your fun… and read it too! Looking forward to meeting everyone!
*FOMO is “Fear of Missing Out”