Where I visit TBEX (travel content creators) conference in Marbella and consider just how bad I am at networking. Then we discuss some ways that introverts can still enjoy these kinds of events.
I recently (well, June) visited the TBEX conference in the south of Spain. The timing wasn’t great for me, however it had already been rescheduled a couple of times and I didn’t want to have to rearrange it yet again, so I went anyway. However it meant I ended up just going in for the conference and then heading straight out again.
The conference itself was interesting; actually it was good to be out mixing with other people just like before the pandemic (yes, I’ve started measuring time in terms of before, during and after the pandemic). Maybe it is true that in order to truly appreciate something you have to have it taken away from you for a while.
This one was considerably smaller than others I’ve been to, which I quite enjoyed. I’ve never felt comfortable in large groups.
Networking is really not my thing; I’m far too introverted to thrive in this kind of environment. However I have found a way of enjoying networking events in my own style, that works for me.
There is a plethora of books to help you to ‘overcome’ introversion, often using the fake it till you make it mantra, but I don’t need that kind of stress in my life. Introversion is an inbuilt personality trait and not something that needs fixing (unlike social anxiety, which is a mental health condition, and which I may also have to an extent, but that’s a whole other post).
Being an introvert is not the same as being shy, arrogant, ‘stuck up’, lazy (which are all accusations I’ve had thrown at me) and I don’t need ‘bringing out of myself’. Anyway I’m probably already in my PJs, and once I am it’s illegal to change back into clothes.
I have spent a great deal of my life pretending to be an extrovert; I was actually pretty good at it at one point. When I was younger my solution was to drink a lot and I became the original party girl. Then I grew tired of being everyone else’s entertainment, sobered up and found my own types of entertainment that didn’t involve shouting at rooms full of people.
It took me a long time to realise that actually I am an introvert. I’d spent so much time forcing myself to appear extroverted to fit in that I’d never even realised I was faking it. I’m just not made for large gatherings where everyone is constantly telling each other how awesome they are.
Plus I really, really hate smalltalk. I often go to events and see people’s mouths moving simultaneously and wonder what on earth they are finding to talk about. I find it remarkable how people can keep a conversation going for so long, talking about nothing.
There are books that claim to teach you how to overcome this and learn to be able to pull conversation out of nowhere, however really there are other things I’d rather learn. My reading time is precious and I don’t want to spend it learning something I don’t need to know.
So, for what it’s worth, here are my tips for dealing with networking situations.
- Aim for quality over quantity. Make achievable goals and aim to talk to just a few people and make it count. Often I aim to spend just a short amount of time somewhere and then I can leave (I may turn to not to want to leave but often I do, and I’ve given myself permission beforehand). An excuse is good, such as a babysitter (works best if you actually have a baby) or lone pet that needs feeding. But you don’t need an excuse and you can just leave (this changed my life when I discovered this).
- Be an active listener. Too many people are just waiting impatiently for their turn to talk about themselves again. If you practise listening more intently it becomes easier to frame your suggestions to meet their goals.
- Prepare little conversational icebreakers; really I like to have something to move the conversation beyond the where are you from/what do you do/ isn’t it hot in here level of conversation. Things like asking what they are most passionate about or what is the best/most exciting thing they have going on right now tends to work.
- If all else fails, carry plug adapters. Everybody always forgets them and so you can make instant friends by loaning them out. This is the equivalent of bringing sweets into the playground when you are six so that the other kids will want to play with you.
I will get a post up about Marbella and the conference itself. I have had some motivational problems with my blog over the past few months; my life has been evolving in other directions (yes I’ll do a post on that as well) and I’ve struggled to find the time or inspiration. However be warned that I am back.