Navigating Convention for Introverts

Networking2One of the best reasons to go to APA Convention is to meet new people and share ideas. Whether it is speaking to a psychology role model, sharing your own research, or starting a new collaboration, sometimes APA Convention can seem daunting, especially to those who consider themselves introverted. Convention seems to be geared towards the social, outgoing extrovert, but introverts have a lot to offer too. We have gathered advice from other fellow introverts to help your through Convention without feeling too overwhelmed.

  • Set small goals– Goals may include talking with three different people, approaching your research idol, or staying at a social event for 30 minutes. Whatever the task, set a goal and stick with it. Afterwards you can feel free to excuse yourself from that setting and feel accomplished in your task (of course, if you are enjoying yourself, you can stay too).
  •  Attend events with a friend or identify a “safe” person – With networking, it is nice to have a familiar face to make you feel more comfortable. If you go with an extroverted friend, they can introduce you or start conversations. If you go with an introverted friend, you can enter into a conversation together with others so it is not as intimidating. And if you go solo, you can identify someone you have already interacted with as a “safe” person to go chat with if you feel uneasy.
  • Avoid being a tag along– Related to the previous point; if you socialize/network with a friend or safe person, make sure that you are engaging and not just blending into the crowd. By setting a goal to talk to a certain number of people, this shouldn’t be a problem. Another way to avoid being a tag along is to observe the crowd and find others who are shy or not engaged; they may be introverted as well and may be looking for someone to talk with. Helping out a fellow introvert can make you feel more confident and comfortable (plus the shared experiences of being an introvert can be a great conversation starter).
  • Take advantage of organized sessions– APA convention has several speed-mentoring sessions that are more structured networking activities as compared to socials. By engaging in these activities, the purpose is clearer and networking may be easier for introverts. Also, these speed-mentoring activities are usually time limited, giving you a realistic goal for socializing.
  • Get creative with networking– There are a ton of different socials to attend during the APA convention, but if that’s not your style, find what is right for you. Knowing your own introversion-style is important in making decisions on how best to proceed. Poster sessions are a good place to talk to others one-on-one about research, but it can be overwhelming with the amount of people and information. If you are good at introductions you can introduce yourself after someone’s presentation and strike up a conversation. Conversely, if you are not as forward, consider pre-coordinating a meeting at convention through email.
  • Plan ahead– By preparing a bit before attending convention, you can make those social opportunities less anxiety-provoking. First, have your elevator pitch ready (including your research interests, clinical interests, and long-term goals). You can also think of two or three questions/topics to start conversations at posters or after presentations.  If there is someone you are really interested in meeting or talking to at convention, send him or her an email expressing your excitement (another great conversation starter when you see him or her at a social).
  • Have an exit strategy– Some introverts may feel over-stimulated during convention. If this is a possibility, you can safeguard yourself by strategically placing yourself near doors and restrooms. If you start to feel over-stimulated, just excuse yourself to the restroom or out in the hall. You can also mention in your conversations that you have a previous engagement and that you need to leave in a few minutes. This way, the person you are talking to already knows that you will be excusing yourself (even if you don’t really have a previous engagement).
  • Pace yourself, know your limits, and self-care– Make sure to secure your alone time and reboot. It can be tempting to load your schedule full of presentations and socials; however, this can be really draining, especially if you feel you are “on” all day. The time off needed is individual to each person, so know your limits. Also make sure to follow healthy habits – getting enough sleep and hydrating are important for everyone when at convention.
  • Don’t feel guilty about being an introvert– Embrace your introversion and strength to talk to people individually and be reflective in your thoughts. By knowing and accounting for challenges, you can really shine and stand out as an introvert!

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