Six Survival Strategies for Introverts at Trade Shows

Crowd at trade show
If this photo fills you with dread, you need this article.

Conferences and trade shows can be a boon to your niche marketing and networking – but often they mean schedules packed with programming, presentations, exhibit hall chitchat, client meetings and more.

If you’re an introvert – and 60 percent of attorneys are – exhaustion can quickly set in at an event like this. While it may sound appealing to stay in your hotel room and cruise the event hashtag with room service, you’d be losing out on face time….and considerable conference ROI.

Jennifer Kahnweiler, the author of The Introverted Leader, says people often equate introversion with being shy or antisocial, but that when it comes to networking, introverts possess a key advantage over their extroverted counterparts: Skilled preparation.

Indeed, you do not have to change or be inauthentic to be successful; you just need a battle plan. Here are six ways to get the most out of your next conference or trade show:

One: Be selective. Determine why you are going to the event and whether it’s worth your time. Instead of attempting to hit every annual event for your industry, pick a few that you think will be the most lucrative for your business, so you can adequately prepare and give each event your full attention.

 Two: Plan and prioritize. Schedules and vendor lists are often available ahead of the trade show. Preparation is key, and you don’t need to visit every vendor or attend every seminar. Kahnweiler suggests researching the organizations and individuals ahead of time so you know exactly what booths to visit and exactly which connections to make going in to map out your day.

She also suggests scheduling interviews with potential clients in advance of the trade show. By knowing who you will be speaking with and when you can anticipate conversations and feel confident in your preparedness.

*Tip: If you are more productive during a certain time of day, plan to utilize that time for your most difficult networking opportunities to maximize your efficiency. If you already hate mornings, you will not be enthusiastic for breakfast meet-and-greets.

 Three: Build in breaks. While it is imperative to plan where you will be at a trade show, it is equally as essential for introverts to plan when they won’t be there.

Morra Aarons-Mele, a small business owner and author of Hiding in the Bathroom: A Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You’d Rather Stay Home), says monitoring your energy levels is the key to surviving a trade show. All of the smiling and schmoozing can “zap” your energy, Aarons-Mele says, so it is important to know your limits.

Stay at a hotel close to the event for a quick escape if you need downtime, Aarons-Mele says.  If you find yourself overwhelmed, take 10 minutes for a walk or a latte.

*Tip: Creating small rewards like skipping the cocktail hour after an event for room service and Netflix can be great motivation during a long day.

Four: Set goals. Aarons-Mele says that giving yourself a job or a goal can give you a sense of reward or purpose and help curb anxiety. Whether you are determined to meet a specific individual, collect a certain number of business cards each day, or volunteer to help with the trade show in some capacity, acting with intention and taking on a specific role can help introverts thrive in the hectic trade show environment.

 Five: Bring a buddy. Long days of networking can seem overwhelming for one person. Bringing an extroverted friend or colleague to share the limelight — or the burden of networking — can help introverts out of their shell.

 Six: Commit. If you go to a conference but do not clear your calendar, it will leave you feeling stressed and scattered, rendering you unable to get what you need out of both. Be present and commit fully to the event; this will ensure you are making the most of your time and your money.

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