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November 16, 2018
Being an online business owner is pretty awesome right? You get to choose your own work hours, don’t have to put on real pants, and you can pretty much hide out in your office (or bed, or wherever you choose to work from) avoid real-life human contact 90% of the time.
But if you spend enough time scrolling on the ‘gram and following other badass boss-babes, you’ll notice that it seems like the biggest and best are always jet setting off to some huge, amazing conference where they plan to grow their business. They’re networking and socializing and sipping IG-worthy cocktails by the pool with their 100 new biz-besties who they literally just met. Sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime, right?
Well sure. But maybe not so much if you’re an introvert like me.
Pin me to read later!
But there’s good news, I promise! First of all, we’re in good company. Some of the most successful minds in history are total introverts too. JK Rowling, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elon Musk, Barack Obama, Rosa Freaking Parks. . . yep, you guessed it. All certified introverts, and all have made astounding impacts on the world.
A couple of weeks ago I attended my first ever business conference, Evolution Live 2018. It was hosted by my phenomenal business coach Eryn Morgan, and it also fell smack-dab in the middle of leaving my 9-5 job, and the wedding that I’ve spent the last 14 months planning. I didn’t know one single person who was going to be there, and was traveling the farthest I had ever been out of my tiny little small-town Idaho.
To say that my stress levels were high would be an understatement. I kid you not, I literally almost had a panic attack and asked my fiancé to turn around and take me home when we were on the way to the airport. Luckily he very lovingly kicked me out of the car and sent me on my way. And guess what? The entire weekend was more amazing that I could ever have hoped for.
Note: Just in case you were skeptical about my introverted-ness, I re-took the free 16 Personalities Test on the plane and guess what. . . 94% Introverted!
So how do you make the most of a business conference as an introvert, without succumbing to complete overstimulation and a mental breakdown? Well lucky for you I’ve got some tried-and-true (by me!) tips.
The weeks (and months) leading up to the conference can be some of the most nerve-wracking because you’ve got alllll this time to sit and let that introverted-ness spin up stories in your head about how terrifying it’s going to be. The good news is, that’s totally cool and there are a few ways to keep those scary thoughts at bay.
There’s one super easy way to combat the stress of throwing yourself into a room of thousands of strangers. . . don’t pick a room that can hold thousands! Evolution Live 2018 was a conference of about 40-50 women total, which made it much easier for me to prepare for mentally. If you think about it, that’s less than your average college classroom. I figured if I can suffer through 4 years of undergrad surrounded by people who I have virtually nothing in common with, then being surrounded by 50 likeminded business owners for a few hours a day couldn’t possibly be that bad.
Spoiler: I was right!
I chose Evolution Live 2018 because it was being hosted by my business coach. This meant that I had a general idea of what would be covered, I was familiar with her teaching style, and I trusted her to pick kick-ass guest speakers that wouldn’t feel like a waste of my time. I was also especially excited to attend because it was the first time I would get to meet my coach, Eryn in person!
Choosing a conference that is either ran by someone you admire, or focused around a topic you’re genuinely interested in (I did both) will help keep your feelings of excitement up and your feelings of apprehension at bay during the time leading up to the event and will also help keep you engaged during it! Win, Win!
As I said before, the conference I chose to attend was pretty small. This meant it was super easy to instagram stalk some of the other ladies who would be attending (come on ladies, you know we all do it).
Seeing their excitement leading up to the event, as well as learning a little about who they are and what their business is all about helped me to feel more prepared, and a little less alone going into things.
Bonus points if you reach out to them and introduce yourself ahead of time! Trust me, they won’t think it’s weird and they’ll probably be glad you broke the ice so that they didn’t have to.
I think it’s a pretty safe bet that we’ve all attended a class, lecture, conference, etc. just because we thought “hey that sounds cool” then didn’t put any thought or planning into it at all, and walked away thinking “wow I could have cleaned my whole house and walked the dog during that time.”
Before attending Evolution Live, I wrote out a short list of specific goals I knew I wanted to achieve while I was there. These included things like “meet someone who I could hire to support me in my business, plan content themes for Q1 of 2019, and set financial goals for the New Year.”
Having these goals helped me feel like I had a north star to point to during the conference, and gave me a little sense of accomplishment each time I got to check something off the list. I would highly recommend this approach if you’re nervous about “not getting anything” out of your first conference.
That being said, I would also challenge you to keep an open mind. Talk to new people, try new things, and if something sounds a little hokey to you, give it a try anyway. I had no clue what to expect going into the weekend, and I’m so glad that I stayed open and willing to receive whatever the universe wanted to bestow upon me.
This is an easy one, but an important one. Check, double check, and triple check that you’ve got chargers for all of your electronics that you’re bringing. I know it sounds silly, but you won’t be laughing when you have to spend $50 on an iPhone charger at the hotel gift shop because you didn’t double check when your husband reminded you.
No, I didn’t do that, no way. Okay, maybe I did. But take this lesson from me so that you don’t have to learn the hard way yourself!
You know the saying “the early bird gets the worm.” Now I’m not entirely sure why you’d want to be early for anything in exchange for getting to eat a worm, but either way the sentiment rings true when it comes to conferences.
It will likely seem like a good idea to get a slow, leisurely start to your first day of the conference but if you’re a socially nervous introvert like me, I would highly recommend arriving at least a few minutes before the scheduled start time.
Find your seat, make an extra coffee-run or bathroom-break, and give yourself a chance to quietly observe everyone else as they filter into the room. Getting there a little early will allow you to choose whatever seat you want, and also avoid having to awkwardly ask a stranger if you can sit by them. Does anyone else get terrible high school cafeteria flashbacks just thinking about that? Yeah me too.
It’s scary, I know. And it can be so easy to fall into the trap of sitting by the one person you’ve met so that you can feel all nice and warm and fuzzy and comfortable inside. But DON’T DO IT.
Even if you’re attending with your BFF, it’s still a good idea to choose a new seat each day (or each session). This will force you to chat with new people and you’ll be amazed how well you get to know someone by sitting through a 2 hour lecture with them. Plus if you accidentally end up seated next to some weirdo who spends the whole lecture flipping through Tinder, you can totally just get up and move. No harm, no foul here folks!
Constantly being around people and being in a new environment can be extremely draining for most introverts. So much so in my case that I’ve even been known to get a migraine after a full day of socialization. Knowing how you react to these type of situations and planning accordingly can be a huge help in maintaining your mental health throughout conference weekend.
I knew that by the last day of the conference I would be exhausted, and that I would really benefit by having a little peace and quiet to collect my thoughts and recharge. Since I knew this was something I needed to plan for, I scheduled a massage at the hotel spa for the afternoon after the conference ended.
This was a double win because it not only gave me an out if someone invited me to socialize and I wasn’t up for it, but it also forced me to spend an hour completely free of work, social media, and the endless mingling that comes with these type of events.
P.S. If you can’t fit some alone time in around the conference sessions, then find one that you’re not super jazzed on, and skip it! Yep, I just suggested that you skip a conference session that you’ve probably paid good money for. And here’s the deal, no ONE session is going to make or break your business. If your mental health is suffering from overstimulation, you’re not going to get much out of it anyway so you’re much better off taking the time you need to rest and recharge, and coming back fully ready to dive into the next one.
Do I really need to elaborate on this one? I hope not.
The reason you’re attending a conference is to meet people, so stay off your darn phone! Now I understand the need to check in with family, or maybe you want to find your new friends on Instagram and give them a follow. Those are both fair exceptions to the rule, but for the most part if it’s not an emergency, save it until you’re back in your room for the night.
There is NOTHING less approachable than a girl sitting alone at a table, glued to her phone with no clue about what’s going on around her. I’ve been that girl, and I’ve also observed that girl and its no good from either position.
We’re all superwomen with photographic memories who don’t need to take notes and can store everything in our brains, right?
Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s just not the case.
I know you want to be “in the moment” and fully engaged during the conference sessions, but I would highly recommend taking notes of some sort. It’s so easy to think that you’ll remember all of the things you wanted to research or people you wanted to talk to but by the end of the weekend your brain will be totally fried and you probably won’t remember much.
I have poured over the notes I took during Evolution Live probably four or five times since I’ve been home and I’m still noticing things that had slipped my mind after I left!
So you met all these amazing entrepreneurs who are doing big things and you want to be just like them when you grow up, yeah?
Jim Rohn says “you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with” and I think this rings true in our online world as well. You can’t BE the best if you don’t surround yourself with the best.
I know reachout is hard and scary and all of the things introverts hate, but make a goal to reach out to one person per day, or heck even one per week. You already have something in common with these people so it’s really as simple as sending a quick message like this:
It was so great meeting you at [Conference Name]! I really enjoyed [something you enjoyed from the conference] and it was great to get to chat with you about [something you talked with them about].
I would love to connect with you and learn a little more about your business! Let me know if you’re interested and would like to set up a time to chat.
You can literally copy and paste that message and fill in the blanks, I promise they won’t even know the difference and they’ll probably be thrilled and flattered you reached out.
The fact of it is, most business conferences exist in order to sell you something. It’s like one big, living, breathing sales funnel. . . and that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes, you’ll hear their offer and jump out of your chair with excitement. Sometimes, you’ll think “meh. . . not for me” and that’s 100% okay.
The conference organizers know that not every single attendee is going to buy, and they won’t be offended if you’re not interested. I would bet the cost of your conference ticket that even if you don’t end up purchasing the big-ticket item, there’s still A LOT you can gain from these types of events that won’t require any sort of major investment at all.
I stumbled upon this one accidentally, but regardless it’s a good one. My conferenced ended at about 2pm on Sunday afternoon but it was much cheaper to get a flight home on Monday rather than Sunday so I decided to stay an extra day.
This allowed me to indulge in a massage (amazing!) but more importantly it allowed me some time to catch up with some ladies that I met and wanted to talk to more and also gave me an evening to myself to review my notes and get some quiet work-thinking time in before returning to the craziness that is my everyday life.
If it’s possible for you to add an extra day, or even half a day, onto the end of your trip to give yourself time to rest, recharge, and digest everything you’ve learned, definitely do it! I promise you won’t regret it.
So those notes I told you to take earlier. . . they don’t do much good if you never look at them again. I am a serial “desk-drawer-stuffer” so I know it’s difficult, but whatever it takes DO NOT shove those notes in a drawer never to be looked at again.
Give yourself a day or two to clear your head, but make sure you read over your notes and put whatever you can into action. Then wait another day or two and do it all over again – I can all but guarantee that you’ll find something new in there you didn’t see the day before.
So there you have it, my top tips for making the best of a business conference when you’re a complete introvert. It’s scary and unknown, but it can also be one of the best experiences of your life and completely transformative for your business.
Morgan is a branding and web designer who works with adventurers, artisans, and passionate small businesses owners. She helps her clients bring their best vision for your business to life through branding and website design that infuses who they are with what they do! When she’s not daydreaming on Pinterest, you can find Morgan exploring a new outdoor spot with her best four-legged adventure buddy Remi, cuddled up in front of the fireplace with some room-temperature coffee and a good book, or trying her hand at some new form of creative expression like pottery, watercolor painting, or photography.
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