I have a confession to make that may seem odd to you: I’m an introvert.

“Heh, good luck being a community manager gig, kid,” is what some are going to think.

“May want to re-think that marketing career,” is what some are going to think.

And that’s fine. Trust me, I’ll find my way. I always do.

I never fancied myself an introvert until recently. First, I love one-on-one conversations. I love deep conversations. I’m an open book, not hesitant to freely and comfortably share what’s good and what’s not so good with me. I also like public speaking and Powerpoint presentations. I feel natural in leadership roles where I am standing in the front of a room and running a group discussion.

I would say I was a fast adopter of Twitter, a platform inherently different from Facebook and Myspace, which are based on networking with shared connections, vs. communicating with strangers. But I discount this as evidence of extrovertism, as the safety of a computer screen and my openness on Twitter possibly proves myself as an example of the opposite.
 

The oddest aspect of my supposed introvertism is that I’d describe myself as bubbly, spunky, sassy… I like making people laugh. It doesn’t take me long to feel comfortable acting that way around people.

There’s the middle space of human interaction that scares the shit out of me, between one-on-one conversations, hanging with people I know and public speaking enlies the thing I really suck at: mingling. 

I hate mingling! God, UGH! a;lwekra[0inag This is just one of those things I am terrible at.

Mingling makes me really nervous, and one would think that by 23 I would have this down, right? After college parties and weekends at bars I’d have this together, right? Well, no. I’m a chick. Usually chicks just show up at bars with their groups of girlfriends, get a vodka diet and people mingle their way over to you. 

It doesn’t work that way at conferences. You have to just hang out and meet people. I’m so bad at this. I get really nervous and self-conscious. I don’t know what to say, how to introduce myself, how to approach people… But it’s weird: if you want to specifically meet for coffee or lunch or just chat one-on-one somewhere away from the crowd – I’m down! 

I’m worried my crappy networking skills will hold me back. It’s not arrogance, just raw passion and drive that speaks when I say things like “I’m getting a hammer” and busting through the glass ceiling that still exists in PR, marketing, entrepreneurism and tech. I really want to do something with this life.

I’m a dreamer. I spend a ton of my free time – my beloved Janet time (which I thrive on, I’m serious, I’m an introvert) – thinking about stuff. I think about the intersections of the internet, law and social media, contemplating the tragic experiences of Tyler Clementi, the Catsouras family and others. I think a lot about how we can use social media to find missing children. I’m just a dreamer off in my own world, contemplating what’s next. Don’t interrupt me with a phone call, because if I’m able to find my damn phone and answer it, I’ll probably be awkward on the phone. (I had a well-meaning boss tell me that once.) 

So what do I do from here? First, I’m giving up on mingling. 

Seriously. I’m not forcing myself to do this anymore. Every time I try, I’m just awkward, nervous, and I feel worse about myself because of it. I’m worried I make a bad impression. Screw mingling. I’m networking my way.

I need to make more coffee dates. I need to plan ahead before I go to these conferences and see who’s going to be there and make a plan to meet up with people for lunch on those days. When I can’t do that and there is absolutely no way around “mingling” type situations, I need to do use my “buddy system” and bring a friend to mingle in the crowd with, to ease the pain if you will.

At the end of the day, of course I have to mingle. Sort of. I’m a community manager. Part of my job is to love the crap out of my brand in public. Fake it til you make it, so the saying goes. Fake that confidence until it becomes real I suppose. 

But really, truly, I think my networking story is going to be about quality vs. quantity. Maybe I won’t meet ten new people at Inbound Marketing Summit – I’ll have coffee with two. And that’s fine. I don’t need to make a collage of business cards on my bedroom wall of people who’s faces I can’t remember. I’m building that inner circle. Those people I IM in the middle of the day on Gchat just to Gchat. Those people I grab drinks with. Those LinkedIn contacts I’ll actually contact if I or someone I know is looking for a job or advice. But I don’t email them – I text them. The thing is, those two people know ten other people, one of whom may want to meet for coffee at the next minglefest.

 

4 Comments on I’m An Introvert and Conferences Scare the Crap Out of Me

  1. Eric Andersen
    October 10, 2010 at 5:09 pm (7 years ago)

    Great post, Janet! Mingling is tough, some are naturally better at it than others. What is really great though is that Twitter is an excellent medium for introverts, who might struggle in face-to-face situations, to reach out and talk with others on a regular basis. In fact some research has even implied that people are more of their true selves online on social networks than in real-life situations.Regarding mingling at conferences, my suggestion is to actively find people ahead of time who are going to the conference but you’ve never met. If they’re on Twitter, you can tweet about looking forward to meting them – which significantly helps to break the ice once you are there.Hope this helps!

    Reply
  2. Mack Collier
    March 25, 2011 at 2:40 pm (7 years ago)

    Hey Janet! I agree completely, I hate mingling! And I hate when you meet someone, and you reach that awkward point where you need to break off the conversation, but you aren’t sure how to do this. One trick I learned is if you reach this point, find someone that you know that’s walking by, and grab them and introduce them to the person you are talking to. Then you have your ‘out’ to leave, and you have also done a service to both people by introducing them to each other! I think this works great at conferences.

    But like you, I hate hate HATE mingling with people that I don’t know. I assume no one there knows who I am or wants to know me. I do think using social media has made me slightly more social, but it’s still tough. Glad I’m not alone 😉

    Reply
    • Anonymous
      March 25, 2011 at 2:45 pm (7 years ago)

      That’s a great tip!! Thanks 🙂

      Reply
  3. Jerry
    June 1, 2011 at 6:48 am (7 years ago)

    Being an introvert myself, I could really relate to your article.  Naturally also, I would prefer to go to the dentist rather than have to interact in a room full of strange people.
    It’s not that I’m afraid, I just have my mind made up to be uncomfortable.  I believe this type of hang-up requires a lot of practice in creating positive networking experiences.  I did find some free informational tools that could be of help to your readers.  I got some fresh insight from Paul Aaron Travis at:   http://relationshipcapital.co/op/?utm_src=bl

    Reply

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