Conferences 101: An Introvert's Guide to Networking

By: Eden Hensley; Photos by: Justin Hackworth for Alt Summit

Whether you are attending Alt Summit Winter for the first time or the second time, the thought of making small talk with hundreds of creatives and bloggers can leave you weak in the knees. These seven tips will have you networking like a pro.

Do your homework. Know what you want to get out of the conference. Connect through social media before you arrive and be ready to ask questions. Having a set of questions already prepared will help with nerves and ensure you accomplish your goals.

Arrive early. If large crowds overwhelm you, make plans to arrive at the keynotes, lunches, and the parties early. Arriving when doors open gives you the opportunity to get comfortable with the space. 

Push outside your comfort zone. Look around for those who are standing off by themselves or sitting at a large table alone. Chances are they are introverts or new to the event and as nervous as you. Go up to them and initiate a conversation.

Have a wingperson. The idea of initiating conversation strike dread in your heart? Pair up with a fellow attendee who is outgoing. Let them handle the introductions and the ice breaking.

Focus on quality and not quantity. Have a set of questions you ask each person that are tailored to your goals and really listen to their answers. You never know who will be able to teach you something. So design your basic questions to help identify people you want to follow up with after the conference when you are in a less intimidating environment.   

Sarah of Sarah Hearts, one of our Alt Reps for Alt Summit Winter 2015.

Find a friendly face and check in. If you get overwhelmed, look for a face you know. Or, scan the room for someone nearby who is smiling. Make eye contact and breathe as you walk towards them. A short conversation can help you get your bearings and give you the confidence to meet new people.

Take a break to recharge as needed. It is important to put your best foot forward when you are networking. When you are full, take a break. Staying past your limit is not beneficial. Know yourself and prepare to leave before you are exhausted.

What networking strategies have you found to be helpful? Anything we missed?

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Eden Hensley

Marketing creative, community engagement specialist, technophile, photographer, food and wine enthusiast, and the founder and editor-in-chief of The Road to The Good Life, a lifestyle blog about appreciating and enhancing your life by being grateful for the "haves" instead of lingering on the "wants." There you will find personal stories about my life and family weaved in with real-life, achievable entertaining tips, recipes for hearty home cooked meals, and DIY projects for capturing and sharing memories. I believe the best place to swap stories is over a shared meal, preferably a Thai-meal served family style, and teach an online introduction class to Thai Flavors and host the Family Dinners at The Station supper club in San Francisco.