How to Network at Conference & Not Get Overwhelmed as an Introvert

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How to Network at Conference & Not Get Overwhelmed as an Introvert

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AOTA’s Annual Conference is almost here! We’re sharing tips for you as you prepare—from how to brush up your networking skills to how to handle being around 13,000 colleagues as an introvert.

Tip 1: Be Yourself

When you try to impress someone or tell people what they want to hear, your anxiety increases and you feel inauthentic. Instead, try being yourself. Talk about topics that are interesting to you and ask questions that you want to know the answer to. Get more strategies from the Harvard Business Review.

Tip 2: Offer to Help

If you see someone who looks lost in the convention center or is in need of help, go up and ask them “can I help you?” Offering your help is an effective way to build long-lasting connections. Read more about how offering to help can make you instantly more likeable.

Tip 3: Check Your Posture

Just sitting up straight and walking with your chest held high can help you exude confidence and make you look more comfortable. Even if you’re nervous, this can help you make a good first impression. Get more tips here.Attendees networking at Conference

Tip 4: Brush Up Your Openers

You’ll have lots of opportunities to start up a conversation at Conference, so try opening a conversation with these questions instead of asking “where are you from?”

  1. Tell me about you.
  2. Working on anything exciting lately?
  3. Have you been to an event like this before?
  4. What was the best session you went to today?
  5. What has been the highlight of Conference so far?

Get ten great openers here.

Tip 5: Introverts—Pace Yourself, and Be Strategic

There are more than 1,600 educational sessions and a lot of fun events to celebrate the Centennial. Pro tip: you can’t attend all of these. Instead, make a strategy and plan your days. There’s no reason to attend every event. If you are a morning person, plan to go to early sessions. If you are a night owl, sleep in and go to the evening events. Also, schedule in time to recharge by taking a walk, getting ice cream, or watching a movie in your hotel room. More tips here.

Tip 6: Introverts—Figure Out How Many People You Want to Meet

Yes, there will be 13,000 of your colleagues at Conference, but there’s no need to get everyone’s business cards. Don’t feel guilty about turning down a lunch or not going to a reception. Ask yourself what will success look like for this conference? Do you want to meet someone in particular? Do you want to make 5 new connections? Set a goal and when you reach it go back to your hotel room and relax. Learn more about setting goals here.

Tip 7: Introverts—Give the Speech

This might surprise you, but events like Conference are easier if you’re giving a presentation. Because once you’re done, everyone knows you and wants to talk to you about your session, according to Susan Cain. It’s too late to present at this Conference, but even a short 5-minute talk during a breakout or speaking up during a Conversations That Matter Networking Lounge can help break the ice. You can also try out the Storytelling BoOTh.

Tip 8: Introverts—Prepare to Calm Yourself

Your OT colleague, Stacy Turke recommends planning in advance by bringing items with you to Conference that will calm you such as fidgets, essential oils, or chewing gum. She also recommends bringing headphones and having some music or podcasts on your phone so that you can sit away from the crowds and listen as a retreat. 

What tips do you have for networking at Conference or for not being overwhelmed as an introvert? Tell us in the comments.

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