It’s true that networking can be overwhelming, and even intimidating, especially at large conferences. The buzz and chatter of day one is enough to make you want to curl up in your hotel room with a good book for the rest of the week. As an introvert, it takes additional willpower to muster up the energy and confidence to say hello and network with other conference attendees.
At least one-third of people are introverts, according to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Some of the greatest minds, activists, and public figures of our time identify as introverts, such as Rosa Parks, Ghandi, and Lady Gaga. Furthermore, 40 percent of CEOs identify as introverts.
If you consider yourself an introvert, here are 8 ways you can step up your networking game and maximize your experience at the next conference you attend.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
At the #HIMSS18 conference in Las Vegas this year, 45,000 people are expected to attend for 5 days with over 1,300 exhibitors and 300 education sessions. It sounds overwhelming, but it will be full of opportunities for you to connect with experts in the healthcare technology industry.
To make the most of your attendance, you need to prepare. Take some time to read and review the HIMSS18 Pocket Guide on your flight to orient yourself with the conference schedule. Build your conference schedule in advance, but make sure you leave some time open during the day to recharge and find some solitude. Conferences are jam packed with sessions, events, and parties so identify which ones are the most interesting to you. Aligning your schedule with your interests will make it easier for you to meet like-minded attendees.
Set a networking goal
You don’t have to meet all 45,000 people at the conference. It would definitely take longer than 5 days to accomplish that goal. Instead, set yourself a networking goal. Plan to have at least three meaningful conversations each day during #HIMSS18. This is a realistic goal which will help you feel accomplished if its set and met. Make sure you ask for each person’s contact information before conversation is over. If they don’t have a business card on them, ask to connect on LinkedIn or Twitter.
“My trick is to write any notes/follow-ups that I commit to on the back of the card and then schedule time in the two weeks after HIMSS to do all the follow-ups.” says Sue Schade, Principal at StarBridge Advisors.
To achieve your personal networking goal, you’ll need to strike up conversations with other conference attendees. To get started, it can help if you pretend to be an extrovert by introducing yourself then asking questions. Start the conversation by simply saying “Hello, my name is…” and reach out your hand for a handshake. You don’t have to walk up to someone to network. You can easily turn to the person next to you at education sessions and have a great conversation with them.
As an introvert, you may despise the idle chatter of small talk. To avoid this annoyance, ask open-ended questions to start an interesting conversation with the person next to you. Some great open-ended questions you can ask are “What’s keeping you up at night these days?”, “How did you get into the healthcare technology space”, or “Which technology are you excited about learning more about?”.
Focus on building relationships, not selling yourself
Networking has a bad reputation of being full of meaningless conversation with the goal of both people hoping to advance their career. When you focus on building relationships, instead of selling yourself, you’ll notice this is far from the truth. As an introvert, you are a natural listener – use it to your advantage!
Asking those open-ended questions and really listening to your new colleague will show them that you are generally interested in getting to know them. A couple of genuine relationships formed from great conversations is better than a stack of business cards received during surface-level conversations.
Attend the orientation session
If you would like some additional help planning your conference schedule, especially if it’s your first time attending HIMSS, there will be orientation sessions on Monday and Tuesday. The HIMSS staff will be available to ask any questions. Visit the website for the schedule and more information.
Speak to the vendors in the Exhibit Hall
Vendors are hoping to speak with attendees, so you can practice your networking skills with vendor representatives and employees. Head over to the booths of companies you are interested in learning more about and ask about their product or services. After a few conversations on the floor, you’ll be in a great rhythm to strike up conversations with other attendees.
Chat and connect on social media
If you’re really not comfortable chatting in person, take the conversation online! There will be tons of chatter on social media, especially on Twitter. Sharing your thoughts and opinions on Twitter during the conference will help to spark conversations with other attendees. Respond to attendee tweets and start to build relationships online first. You can then ask people if they would like to chat in-person over a coffee or lunch at the conference. By the end of the week, you’ll be on your way to becoming a Twitter influencer!
Take a break from the conference chaos
After a full day of education sessions and networking, you’ll be exhausted. Tap into your introverted tendencies and seek some solitude. HIMSS even has dedicated relaxation areas this year so you can recharge your mind and electronics in a quiet spot. And of course, get a good night’s sleep everyday so you are ready to have great conversations the next day.
Do you identify as an introvert? What are some of your networking tactics for conferences? Tell us in the comments.