Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Engage!11 Guide for Introverts

Engage!11, the semi-annual conference for companies serving the luxury wedding market, is coming up at the end of May at The Grand Del Mar in San Diego. I have been at all six of the Engage! conferences so far, either as a speaker or attendee, and have found each one to be a benefit to me, both personally and professionally. As an introvert, I want to share some insight on how to make Engage! work for you in case you also happen to fall in to camp "I love people, but in moderation, please."

Some of the most successful people are the shyest. 
If you think you're shy, you might be surprised to learn that some of your industry heroes are even shier. The secret is that they've learned to manage it well. This is one thing I personally have to work very hard at, and while my personality is the same throughout, it is really hard for me to introduce myself to someone. Some great opportunities have come out of my being the first to say hello to someone, however, as it is a relief to the other that they didn't have to make the painful move of introducing themselves first. Most people who attend Engage! are kind, so if you introduce yourself to someone and they're rude to you, move on. There are a lot more great people to meet.

Have some sort of game plan before you go. 
Is there anyone specific at Engage!11 you want to meet? Do you have questions for a specific speaker or attendee? At the very first Engage! in June of 2008, I asked Marcy Blum during one of the cocktail hours, "when did you stop charging what everyone said you should be charging and start charging what you had to in order to make it work?" Her answer included advice I still follow to this day and my getting over my shyness and just asking it allowed a friendship to begin. Another colleague knew that someone was attending whom she had long admired for her ability to balance work with motherhood. She made it her goal for that Engage! to get to know her and now they are friends and able to talk about the challenges their businesses face. For the most part, people at Engage! are very open with information, so if there is someone you want to learn from, seek them out and introduce yourself.

Branch out.
If you're attending Engage! with your spouse or business partner, make sure you're not attached at the hip the entire time. Eat meals with people you don't see very often or ever, rather than your roommate or the people you may see in your local industry all the time. We create our own luck, so if you only hang out with people you know, you only have yourself to blame if opportunities go to someone else.

Stick around.
As stellar as the speakers may be, the magic of Engage! is always the people in the room. And the most valuable insights, conversations and opportunities tend to happen after the sessions, sitting by the pool or in the lobby bar. The Engage! experience offers a glue that bonds people and if you're not participating, you won't get as much out of it. For introverts, this means planning ahead so that you have time to be by yourself to re-energize. Maybe it means going for a swim or a hike by yourself early in the morning or simply stealing away for 30 minutes to hide in your room in quiet so you can get back out there and socialize without killing anyone. Just don't disappear for the rest of the evening as soon as the sessions are over, or you'll miss out on some of the best and most beneficial parts of the conference.

Hold a drink. 
Introverts tend to cross their arms more so than extroverts because they subconsciously are worried about what to do with their hands. The unintended body language that results can leave you looking very unapproachable and intimidating. To get around this, hold a drink. If you're not drinking alcohol, ask the bartender to make you something without it. I usually just ask for something "not too sweet and with no alcohol" and haven't ended up with a bad drink yet. Holding a beverage gives your hands something to do while you're making conversation.

Have you attended Engage! before? If so, leave your advice for new attendees in the comments below. If you want to follow along on Twitter, the official hashtag is #engage11.

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