River of Thoughts

Christine Royse Niles — Changing the world one word at a time

The Introvert’s Guide to Conference Survival

You feel that tightening in your throat, and your heartrate climbs a few beats per minute. You see yourself standing by yourself off to the side of a crowded room. Or hiding in the bathroom.

(or is that just me?)

Creative Company Conference 2011

Photo credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg via cc

If you’re an introvert (as a lot of writers seem to be), the idea of a conference can be pretty intimidating. At the same time, it’s an opportunity to connect with mentors and peers and readers.

If I had my way, I’d be in a t-shirt and yoga pants all day, every day, and I’d never leave my house. But meeting people in person and building relationships have made all the difference in this pursuit of the writing life. (And this time, I’m speaking, too!)

So here are a few pro-tips I’ve picked up to not only survive a conference weekend, but to get the most out of this opportunity.

Take selfies

At the beginning of each day, take a selfie (no duck-faces, please) and post it with the conference hashtag and a quick message about something you’re hoping to learn that day. Other attendees will recognize and remember you! And if the conference attendees have connected on social media ahead of time, it will help you all find each other.

Connect like a human

It can be tempting to flip a switch and go into “networking” mode where you’re sticking your card in people’s faces and evaluating every conversation for what the person can do for you or what you can sell to them. Don’t do that. Remember everyone else is probably just as nervous as you are. Ask them about themselves and really listen. Be a human, and let them be humans, too. Rinse and repeat.

Find the lost

If you’re really paralyzed, look around the room and find a person standing alone looking uncomfortable. Introduce yourself and ask them an open-ended question about themselves. What’s their dream or what do they write or what’s their story? Not only will it take the pressure off you, but they’ll probably appreciate the chance to not stand there awkwardly, too.


Nothing sucks more than meeting someone interesting at a conference and then losing track of them. Twitter is great for connecting. Take note of their twitter handle and tweet at them as soon as you can to grow that relationship after the conference is over.

Enjoy learning something new

In the end, you’re attending the conference for your personal growth. So relax, take notes, and focus on the conference content. Look for affirmation about the things you’re doing right, and make sure to write down some specific tips you can take action on right away after the conference.

If you’re at the Tribe Conference this weekend (August 29-30), come find me. I’ll be the one standing awkwardly in the corner. Or follow the fun on social media at #TribeConf!

What pro-tips have YOU learned from attending conferences? Share in the comments.

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About Christine

I am a writer, a project manager, and a corporate refugee with a heart for orphans around the world. My two daughters were adopted from Ukraine at ages 12 and 14. I post about writing, chasing dreams, and making a difference in the world, and sometimes I share fun snippets of fiction in-progress.

10 Replies

  1. Great tips Christine! I’m an introvert too, and just this side of a panic attack on meeting everyone and having to actually talk in real life LOL! I look forward to meeting you this weekend!

    1. Christine

      I know, right? My chest has been tight for days. See you tomorrow! :)

  2. Great ideas! – LOVE the “find the lost” tip. It helps other “introverts” connect.

    1. Christine

      And they’re a lot less intimidating!

  3. Andy Murray

    Thanks for this. I’ve been retired a while now and haven’t been to a conference for ages but want to go to one in a subject that I’ve never done before. The tips are invaluable.

    1. Christine

      That’s great, Andy! Go for it!!

  4. I’ve found people are most comfortable if they have something to do with their hands, so they aren’t fidgeting or feeling awkward. When I attend conferences, I often talk to “strangers” at the bar or ask to join them at a table over appetizers. If conversation lulls, you can always comment on the food or the cocktails, but honestly, I’ve never found the conversation to lag.

    1. Christine

      That’s a GREAT one, Staci!!! I inadvertently did that in reverse at breakfast today; I met people while cramming an eggbiscuit in my face. Same thing, right?

  5. Christine I enjoyed these tips, thank you for sharing them and I hope you enjoyed the conference.

    1. Christine

      Thanks, Kath! It was a whole lot of peopleing, but it was amazing. The replay for my session is here: http://ktch.tv/1VN_

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