How to thrive as a conference-going introvert

Pound for pound, geeks tend to be more introverted than the general population. Clearly there're lots extroverted exceptions (I'm looking at you, Scoble and Calacanis) but if you grabbed a random sampling of geeks and non-geeks, it's safe to say there'd be more introverts in the geek group.

Hmm, maybe I should back up a bit and define my terms. It has been my experience that there's a surprising amount of debate surrounding the terms "introvert" and "extrovert" and for the purposes of this post, I'm using this definition: an introvert is someone who 'recharges' his or her energy by being alone. That doesn't mean they don't like people or can't talk to people, but at the end of an exhausting day, they need time alone to recover. Maybe they go home and read a good book. Conversely, extroverts recover by being around people, so at the end of that same exhausting day they might head to the local pub with a group of friends.

Gina Trapani, founding editor of Lifehacker, author of "Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better" and now blogger at SmarterWare, is an introvert and she's headed to SXSW this weekend. As you can imagine, this is not her first big conference, and she's developed some conference survival skills that she's shared with us today in The Introverted Nerd’s Conference Survival Guide.

She's got lots of good advice and coping mechanisms to offer, such as:

Talk to everyone, BUT minimize time with the bores and maximize time with interesting people. Introverts are just as shy about getting out of conversations as they are about getting into them. While you’ll meet all sorts of fabulous people you wish you could talk to for hours, there are just as many dolts who will chew your ear off endlessly and drain you of all patience for humankind. Don’t waste your time on these vampires.

Obviously worth a read if you're an introvert, but even if you aren't, it could help you to relate to any introverts you're attending a big conference or convention with.

As an introvert myself, one tip I'd offer is to (as much as possible) avoid scheduling too far in advance. If I make plans to go to a big lunch meet-up tomorrow, I'll be there (and will probably enjoy myself) but if I planned to attend three weeks in advance, I'd invent a dozen reasons why I couldn't make it. Anticipation of the event causes my inner introvert to start dreading the energy drain and I go into avoidance mode.

Have any tips to add to those of Ms. Trapani and myself? Please leave a comment and share.

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