Surviving & Thriving at a Conference as an Introvert

Shaw Centre OttawaEver feel like you need to recharge after spending time with people? That’s me—I’m an Introvert. Last week, I found myself in beautiful Ottawa, Canada to take part in the annual CANNEXUS conference put on by CERIC. This year the weather cooperated, and travel was a breeze. If you haven’t been before, it’s really worth checking out. Somewhere around 1200 Career Development Professional come together to talk about all things career related. The CCDP in my looks forward to it every year, but the Introvert in me asks why I want to be around 1200 people for four days. I knew it would be a challenge. But I also knew I could handle it with the right approach.

Being an Introvert doesn’t mean I’m shy or anti-social. It just means I get my energy from taking time alone in quieter spaces, rather than from big crowds or lots of talking. On of my favourite authors, and surprise Introvert, Carole Cameron puts it well in her book, Splash: An Introvert’s Guide to Being Seen, Heard, and Remembered: “It’s all about energy. The big idea is for you to be in control (or at least more in control) over where and how you spend your energy. Versus allowing the people and circumstances around you to dictate.”

One of my tricks for surviving the conference was taking breaks when I needed them. Full credit to the organizers for setting up a quiet room, which was a lifesaver for my fellow introverts. When my social batteries were feeling drained, it was easy to pop in for a recharge.

Another thing that helped us Introverts was the way they served breakfast and lunch; you had the choice of grabbing your food and heading into the plenary room with the crowds, or take it back to the foyer and kick back in a Muskoka chair, overlooking the frozen Rideau Canal. Having this flexibility made a big difference in managing my energy levels.

Having been in the Career Development world for a while, and going to many conferences over the years, I’ve learned what works for me. Here’s some of by go-to conference strategies…

Plan ahead: Look at the schedule beforehand and pick out the sessions you really want to go to. That way, you can focus your energy where it counts.

Know your limits: Don’t feel bad about needing alone time. It’s important to set boundaries and take breaks when you need them. Just because it’s break time, doesn’t mean you need to spend it with other people.

Take it easy on the networking: Quality over quantity is key. Focus on making genuine connections with a few people instead of trying to meet everyone. Some of the best conversations I had were informal, one-on-one chats during quiet times.

Take care of yourself: Make sure you’re getting enough rest, eating well, and taking care of your mental health. It’ll help you stay energized throughout the conference. It’s okay to decline a dinner invitation, when you really just need to heard back to your room with some takeout, and recharge your social batteries.

Remember your strengths: Being an Introvert isn’t a weakness, it’s actually a superpower. We’re great listeners and thinkers, so don’t be afraid to share your ideas and insights…. Quietly.

In the end, taking in a big conference like CANNEXUS as an Introvert is all about knowing yourself and taking care of your needs. With a little planning and self-awareness, you can not only survive, but thrive in any environment. For the Extraverts to read all the way to the end, thank you! Remember to keep an eye out for your Introvert colleagues and friends, and encourage them to take time to recharge. Just remember that Introverts can surprise you; sometimes the outgoing, life of the party is actually an Introvert, and will need time to recharge at the end of the night.

 


Brad Whitehorn – BA, CCDP is a lifelong introvert, and the Associate Director at CLSR Inc.  He was thrown into the career development field headfirst after completing a Communications degree in 2005, and hasn’t looked back!  Since then, Brad has worked on the development, implementation and certification for various career and personality assessments (including Personality Dimensions®), making sure that Career Development Practitioners and HR Professionals get the right tools to do their best work.

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