8 Ways To Make The Most of #Engage15 (Especially If You're An Introvert)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Engage!15, the semi-annual conference for companies serving the luxury wedding market, is next week at the Four Seasons Resort in Orlando. I'll be speaking on the role of neuroplasticity and margin in business, and am excited be sharing a new topic with never-before presented content.

This is the tenth Engage Summit I've spoken at, and the fourteenth I've attended, and I've found each one to be beneficial to me, both personally and professionally. I love people, but I'm definitely an introvert, meaning I need alone time in order to recharge. If you're new to the Engage Summits, here are some tips to help you navigate the event and make the most of your experience and investment.

1. Some of the most successful people are the shiest.
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.

2. Have some sort of game plan before you go.
Is there anyone specific at Engage!15 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 a specific question about business finance. Her answer included advice I still follow to this day and my getting over my shyness 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.

3. 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.

This is the 16th Engage! and there is a solid mix of new attendees and people who have been several times in the past. At this point, Engage! is kind of like a semi-annual family reunion, so don't allow yourself to be intimidated if people seem to be really close — just go up and say hello.

4. Stick around and hang out.
As stellar as the speakers may be, the magic of Engage! is always the people in the room, who are just as talented, if not more so, than the people on stage. 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 run 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.

5. 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 a mocktail. Holding a beverage gives your hands something to do while you're making conversation.

6. Don't stress out about clothes. 
Seriously, don't. Dress professionally and in something you feel confident in and you'll be fine. The Appy Couple Engage!15 app has dress code suggestions for each group of activities with weather, event location, and comfort in mind. Business chic for the educational sessions (aka dressy business casual, but not boardroom suits). Some people like to change for the evening events and some simply opt to add dressier jewelry for a day-to-evening transition. For the gala, think fun cocktail attire like you would wear to a dressy holiday party. Some people like to coordinate with the color palette, but you don't have to and you won't stick out if you don't.

7. Education
Engage! is not a how-to conference. If you come in with an open mind you'll be able to connect the dots. The swag bags do not include magic wands or silver bullets and very little will be spelled out -- connecting the dots that pertain to their own businesses and lives is the job of the attendees. Everyone takes different things away from it because everyone is in different places in life and business.

Some people take notes on laptops, many are on iPads and others use plain old-fashioned pen and paper. Bring what works best for you.

8. Check your ego.
Even if you don't think you have one, check your ego at the door. No one will know who you are. And they wouldn't even if you were famous so please don't take it personally. For the most part everyone is in their own little bubble in their own city working hard, and while they pay attention to the larger industry, they don't pay attention.

If you want to follow along on Instagram and Twitter, the official hashtag is #engage15. This coming Engage! is sold out, but registration is open for the Summer 2016 event at The Breakers in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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