More often than not meetings and conferences are aimed at those who thrive in an environment full of people. There is loud music, audience and group interactions, and very little time to yourself. Basically, we plan our events for extraverted people. Not everyone is naturally extraverted and often our events can come off as overwhelming to an introvert. Below are definitions of both:
An introverted person tends to be preoccupied with their own thoughts and feelings and minimize their contact with other people.
An extraverted person is likely to enjoy time spent with people and find less reward in time spent alone. They tend to be energized when around other people, and they are more prone to boredom when they are by themselves.
The reason we naturally plan our events for extraverts is partly because it is easier that way and partly because it is the way it has always been done. For example, we assume people learn better in groups so we sit them at rounds of 8 or 6s and make them discuss the content of the session. Or we incorporate a live auction into our gala event to make it fun and interactive for the audience. When in reality there are a lot of people who are uncomfortable with these types of situations.
Much like in a classroom setting, teachers are adjusting the way they teach to benefit their students’ learning styles, planning your event to be both introvert and extravert friendly is something that you should strive for. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about incorporating introverts into your event.
- Think about your seating. Instead of having those typical rounds of 8s or 6s, think about adding some more casual seating. Perhaps theatre style with coffee tables in between the seats. Your sessions can still include discussions, but it is much less intimidating this way. Do mixed seating, so that you can incorporate both your introverts and extraverts comfortably.
- Networking events at a conference can be a nightmare for introverts. They may be coming to the event with very few connections. Consider making this part of your registration process by asking delegates if it is their first time at the event and, if so, pair them up with a veteran. It is much easier meeting new people when you have someone to help initiate conversation and set you up with the right person.
- Trade Shows can be very overwhelming. Dozens of booths, flashy displays and big crowds are not an ideal situation for an introvert to be in. Consider adding an option to schedule appointments with exhibitors. Your exhibitors will be appreciative of the opportunity to have one on one time with your delegates and your introverted delegates will appreciate not having to rush the crowds.
- Create a quiet space. Your event likely has a busy reception area or break area. Think about adding in a room to function solely as a quiet space for delegates to get away from the hectic breakout sessions and plenary room. It doesn’t even need to be a large space. Make it cozy and comfortable so your introverted delegates feel right at home.
Our delegates are now expecting more from us and the regular cookie cutter conference just won’t cut it anymore. Start thinking about who attends your conference and what your introvert and extravert ratio might be (the industry you are planning for will be a good indicator). Step into the shoes of the introvert and make sure they are thought about in your planning process.