Marketing budgets are tight in this economy, we all know that. The CEOs I work with at CEO Connection tell me their own budgets have been cut, which of course means that those cuts are trickling down to the marketing department.
And what that means for you as a marketer is that if you have the opportunity to attend a conference, you must approach it with a clear intent to get a return on the investment the company is making in you. But if you happen to be an introverted marketer, which likely means a conference is not the most comfortable of settings, you'll need a strategy for ensuring your company gets its money's worth—in a way that is comfortable for you and honors who you are.
Defining the Terms
Let's first look at the difference between introverts and extraverts, so that introverted marketers can better understand strategies that are more comfortable for them, and extraverted marketers can have a better appreciation of their introverted colleagues.
According to the Myers & Briggs Foundation, introversion and extraversion can be defined as follows:
Where do you put your attention and get your energy? Do you like to spend time in the outer world of people and things (Extraversion), or in your inner world of ideas and images (Introversion)?...Everyone spends some time extraverting and some time introverting. Don't confuse Introversion with shyness or reclusiveness. They are not related. [Emphasis mine.]
Take a minute to ask yourself which of the following descriptions seems more natural, effortless, and comfortable for you.
I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I'm excited when I'm around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.
I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I'll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.
Introverts and Conferences
Conferences are paradise for extraverts: crazy busy, usually chock-full of activities to become immersed in, and buzzing with hundreds, if not thousands, of attendees. Just the thought of them is enough to wear me out!
So what's an introverted marketer like me to do when attending a conference?
1. Avoid avoidance
Your company is investing in your attendance. The return you foster will come from creating new relationships, gathering market intelligence, and gaining new insights that'll keep you and your company on the leading edge.
You can attain those outcomes only if you are an active participant in the events offered by the conference. Your natural, introverted tendencies will tempt you to skip a few of the events or perhaps avoid some of the networking opportunities. Avoid avoidance: Make a schedule prior to attending the conference—and stick to it.
2. Go with a "one-on-one" mindset
You might not have been comfortable reading the previous paragraph that encouraged you to fully immerse yourself in the conference. But introverts can do so in a way that is much more comfortable for them: Attend with a "one-on-one" mindset.
That means connecting, ahead of time, with people you know who will be there or with people you want to meet, and arranging to participate in various portions of the conference with them. For example, arrange to meet one person for a cocktail the night before the conference begins, one person for breakfast the next morning, and another person in the lobby of a major presentation prior to its start.
Introverts can be quite daunted by the idea of walking into a room full of people. Arranging such meetings in advance limits the number of times you might consider not showing up and ensures that you'll either be creating new relationships or nurturing current relationships, one person at a time.
3. Network with a "one-on-one" mindset
Just as walking into a room full of people can be daunting, so too can hanging out among countless people at a networking party. Introverts can empower themselves by applying their one-on-one mindset to networking, too, because doing so gives them control and supports their preference to do things "with one or two people," as noted earlier.
For example, go to a large conference party with the intention of introducing yourself to one person at a time, and engage each of them in conversation. Ask them what their objectives are for the conference and how you can be of help to them. We introverts are wonderful listeners! Focus on listening, and give your full attention to the person you're talking with instead of being intimidated by the crowd swirling around you. You'll feel 99% more comfortable!
When you've completed your conversation with one person, move on to another person who is standing alone or seems to be on the outskirts of a conversation, and start the process again. You will meet your conference objectives, and you'll be much more comfortable as you're doing so. Plus, those one-on-one conversations—which are generally much more fruitful than casual conversations among a group of people—may lead to collaborations, new sales, or even lifelong friendships!
4. Schedule time to recharge
Yes, I told you to fully immerse yourself in the conference, but the reality is that as an introvert you absolutely must schedule downtime to recharge your battery.
Once the conference has begun, for example, you could skip the cocktail hour to allow yourself time for rejuvenation before dinner. Arrange to have dinner with a small group in a quiet place, which will make you much more comfortable and will likely lead to a more fruitful and fulfilling conversation. And you won't be completely drained for the networking parties that occur later in the evening.
In addition, make clear to your boss that when you're at the conference you're going to be fully focused on the events and not on other work assignments. That way, your downtime can truly be spent recharging rather than doing work. Help your boss understand how that will enable you to get the most from the conference and the company's investment.