The short guide why you should go to conferences even if you’re a true introvert
I hate public speaking.
It freaks me out. I literally cried on my trial high-school finals, during the spoken part. Anyway, enough with the self-exposure, let’s leave this for the social media! What I want to say is that I even feel scared when others are speaking. Do you know the moment when you cheer somebody on without even knowing them, just because you really feel what they’re going through?
At times, though, I feel embarrassed to listen to people who are just over the top. I mean, good for you if you’re able to stand on that stage, speak to the microphone with your voice unnaturally loud, and feel like Beyonce for those 15, 30 or (OMG why?!), 40 minutes. But if it’s “too much”, you get that feeling of uncomfortable social interaction, and you want to hide in your own clothes. Some of you know what I’m talking about, right?
One day I saw one episode of Billy Eichner’s TV series, Difficult People where a guy complains about someone who, sadly, turned out to be a ‘Participator’ = a person who is always eager to engage in audience participation. For example, during a gig when a lead singer goes ‘Now, you guys sing!’, he/she is happy to sing along. EVERY freaking time. So, I really felt that joke and as a nearly 30-year old I can define myself a little bit better – I’m NOT a participator
So, what’s left for people like me during conferences? Why would we even leave home for that can of worms filled with social-involvement traps?
Squeeze that content!
Once you get to a point in your life when you know what you want to specialise in, you can start digging for some nice thematic conferences. As a graphic designer and an illustrator, my biggest interest are in typography or general graphic design talks, like TYPO Berlin (the only one abroad I’ve been to – not everyone is a happy traveler, you know? ), its Polish equivalents like TYPOlub or the ones that attracted nearly 3000 viewers like Element Talks.
The one event that inspired me to write this blog post was Grafconf in Toruń. All in all, I enjoyed it. Some of the talks were really interesting and learned a few things. A round of applause for girls talking about software development, UX, and frontend! Still, I had this thought the whole time, that it’s hard to squeeze every aspect of such a wide subject, which is graphic design, in just a few hours. Moreover, there was only one room, so you couldn’t switch between talks. Since I was already there and had nothing more to do, (obviously, I didn’t apply to any of the workshops, guess why) I stayed and listened to all of the talks. And that led me to some thoughts. Here they are.
1. When you don’t know the topic of the talk, you can always:
- Learn something completely new and exciting, or take that knowledge and use it in a totally different field. A good example is a talk about the Concept Art, which I decided to stay for. I had no idea about games (sorry geeks) and I learned about the reasons for creating monsters in games and about various levels of the fight. That totally sounded like one of the psychotherapy sessions for me.
- Forget about the content and focus on the speaker, his public speaking skills and make sure you won’t ever do the mistake of speak in public (or quite the opposite, future superstar?)
2. You can always TRY to meet new people (ugh!)
I feel a bit at odds with myself writing, but everyone has their own limits you know? For me, a step ahead is when I congratulate someone I already know from Social Media, whose talent I’m stalking. So, after the talk, you can reach out to that person (easy, on Social Media, of course), say hi and point something that you liked during their talk. Just don’t write to people ‘Hey, I saw you at the X conference, you looked lovely’, you creep. You can also ask some questions, cause, obviously, you wouldn’t ask them after the talk – too risky.
Another question could be ‘Why are you here’? If you are looking for new job opportunities, my friend, you have to be a little more interactive. Good luck!
3. Get all the SWAG!
No words needed here. You get it, you win. It’s simple.
I hate it when I get a really ugly, fancy bag with an extra button, stripe or something. No one needs the weirdo bag!
4. Conference trips are sort of vacations for workaholics
You know, you have to pack your stuff in a nice suitcase, use public transport, see a little bit different city, sleep in an unfamiliar bed, try some local foodie places and comment on them on Google or Yelp. See, it’s like traveling, but technically, you’re still at work. So you don’t have to feel bad because you’re not at your desk, managing stuff and surfing the internet.
It’s fun to go to conferences with the colleague you like (if you’re lucky!). You can always stick to that one person and stop caring about any other interaction (jackpot!). However, going alone, especially as an introvert, is a great opportunity to travel and be all by yourself with your thoughts and meals. I always look forward to it.
5. Note everything!
I love good old notebooks. I always try to take a brand new one with me to the conferences. This way I can make quick notes, gather my thoughts and do some sketches when I’m bored. I’m not a fan of people taking pictures of slides with their IPads. It’s almost as annoying as recording the entire gig. Why not taking one photo, posting it on Instagram and enjoying some live moments, damn it.
Plus, it’s not fun to sit through half of the event next to the power plug.
6. It helps to stay creative
In most cases, listening to even one or two inspiring talks makes me feel better about my work. I mean, later on. First, I feel like my work is the worst, it has no value, my future is ruined and I have to go back to waitressing at some point (which, I think, was one of my best experiences as an introvert. Yep, learn how to be nice to people for money!). But then, it dawns on you that you could be doing things differently at your work… And eventually, you think your work can actually be better.
7. Stay hydrated and don’t eat weird stuff
Don’t drink only coffee. Drink some of it but remember to take a bottle of water with you. After all, you’re going to you’re gonna spend a whole day in a room full of folks and most likely no windows. So you will need this water.
It’s always been a problem for me. I usually try to stick to my diet, just to be happy and healthy enough. At a conference, though, you usually get really suspicious food. Just be aware of what you eat. That’s all.
I don’t think I wrote anything revolutionary, but if you are considering spending some time in a new environment, with new people, change something in your routine and just go a little bit outside of your comfort zone. One- or two-day conference with the topic that you are passionate about is always a good idea for an introvert.
p.s. I’m so happy it’s just a post and I don’t have to say, ‘Does anyone have any questions?’