Ah networking; has there ever been a topic that was more polarizing? Well, yeah, there are a few others that come to mind, but if you’re an introvert, this one is definitely on the list. Introverts the world over know why they should network, but they also know the joy that comes from calling it an early night and ordering room service. If you read my earlier post, then you know that I’m not the most experienced networker, but here are a few tips that have helped me to break out of my shell.
Written by: Tara Luther, Promega
Often, networking events at conferences consist of hundreds of people milling about, and the very nature of these events can be daunting to an introvert, especially when you’re at the event alone. If you’re anything like me, a million questions go through my head as I stand frozen in the doorway. Which group should I talk to? How do I join a group? What will we talk about? Before long, I’ve talked myself out of even trying and am back to the comfort zone of my room.
Instead of trying to break into a group, try striking up a conversation in the buffet line. In this space, each person goes through individually, so you’ll be starting on common ground, and you have built in conversation! Maybe make a casual comment about how you love bruschetta, or how no one makes Swedish meatballs quite like Ikea. Whatever it is, I’ll bet you’ll have at least one person respond, and then the ice has been broken.
As an introvert, this likely isn’t news to you, but small talk can be draining. Yes, bruschetta may have opened the door, but now is the time to start talking about something more meaningful. You came to the conference for a reason. Whether it was to learn more about massively parallel sequencing, or to explore bringing investigative genealogy in-house, or to better manage limited lab resources, talk about that. Your fellow bruschetta fan may be able to help, and I think you’ll find the evening much more rewarding.
Be yourself. This may seem obvious, but in a world that seems to favor extroverts, it can be tempting to try to emulate one. Trying to be something you’re not, however, is futile, so be confident in what you bring to the table. I understand this may be easier said than done, so if having a libation helps you to feel more confident, grab a drink first. To borrow from Mary Poppins, just a glass full of wine helps the introvert make the rounds! Ok, I may have taken some liberty on those lyrics, but I’m pretty sure that’s what she would have said if her charges were introverts over the age of 21.
Create networking goals prior to the event. Whether it’s topics you hope to discuss, speakers you’d like to meet, or simply a number of people you hope to chat with, having set goals can give you something to focus on other than your nerves, and will build confidence as you cross them off the list. If all else fails, look for familiar faces from the ISHI registration desk. We’re always happy to help make introductions and meet new people.
Now that you’ve met a few people, remembering names and affiliations could be the next hurdle. While exchanging business cards and making notes on the back about your conversation helps, not everyone has business cards to exchange, so what then?
Did you know that each spring, teenagers and adults from around the country compete in the U.S.A. Memory Championship? The winner of the 2016 competition memorized the order of a deck of playing cards in under 19 seconds and recalled a sequence of 483 numbers successfully after only five minutes of study time.
These tasks may seem impossible, but these memory athletes have some tips that we can all use, and it starts by practicing every day. The process they use is called ‘elaborative encoding’, or relating disconnected numbers, words, or facts to existing memories and knowledge. Joshua Foer, winner of the 2006 championship, recommends creating mnemonic devices to visualize when remembering names. In an article with The Atlantic, Foer explains that a bearded man named Mike may be visualized as a man with a beard made of microphones, or how Bill with the crooked nose may be visualized as having a duck bill.
We’ll have many networking events at ISHI in which you can put your new skills to use. The week opens with the Welcome Reception on Monday evening, followed by the optional 80’s themed trivia event (registration is limited). During lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday, grab your lunch and bring it to one of the focused topic lunch tables, where experts will be leading discussions on topics of interest to the community. On Wednesday evening, the ISHI Street Party is the place to be. Oh, and don’t forget to come say hi to us at the registration desk, because we look forward to networking too.
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