Sometimes, introverts get a bad wrap. “They don’t like being around people.” “They just want to be alone.”
Not true! Introverts do enjoy socializing. They just tend to prefer doing so in smaller groups or one-on-one. And not only that, but they often like to have (and need to have) a little quiet time to recharge.
So when your conference centers so heavily around networking, how you can make it appealing – and valuable – for your introverted attendees? Here are a few ideas:
1. Create small gathering spaces
While it’s sometimes convenient to have a large, open area for say, one of your receptions, an open space FULL of people can be intimidating for introverts (and even for some extroverts!) – especially if they’re a new member and/or first time attendee.
Add a little comfort to the room by setting up small tables, either dinner style or cocktail style. This type of set-up encourages small groups to form, and as you can imagine, approaching a small group is MUCH easier than approaching a massive one.
2. Commit to utilizing social media onsite
Social media is a great way to engage your conference attendees in general, but it’s especially great for engaging your introverted conference attendees. People often feel much more comfortable behind a screen (as evident by online forums), so create an environment where your more reserved attendees can interact not only with your organization, but with other conference attendees as well.
For this to be successful, it’s KEY to have a conference hashtag in place. That’s what creates the environment for your attendees to engage. Otherwise, it’s quite possible (and likely) that everyone’s posts will get lost in “internet space.” A hashtag collects those posts, enabling conversation.
3. Have a designated quiet space
Like we mentioned earlier, introverts often need a little quiet time to recharge. Rather than having them head back to their hotel room for that (and potentially staying there for the rest of the day), create a space onsite for them to squeeze in a little R&R. Maybe it’s a dim-lit conference room with couches, light snacks, and charging stations.
I once attended a conference where they had what they called the “Zen Den.” It was a low-lit room with couches, sound machines on (ahh, ocean waves), and massage therapists giving 10-minute massages. Can you say an introvert’s PARADISE?
4. Create talking points
Often, the hardest part of networking – for both introverts and extroverts – is coming up with something to say. Make it easy for your attendees by creating talking points for them. Games are a great way to do this. Giant Jenga, Giant Connect 4, Cornhole – those are all great conversation starters, whether you’re the one playing or just alongside watching.
You could even bring this down to a smaller scale by putting peg games (you know, like the ones Cracker Barrel has?) on session tables and/or meal tables. It’d be a low-pressure way for your attendees to get to know each other. (Though fair warning: The competitiveness may be high!)
Does your organization do anything special for introverted conference attendees? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
And for more ideas regarding engaging your conference attendees, check out our free guide: