5 Ways To Keep Introverts in Their Rooms at Conferences

5 Ways To Keep Introverts in Their Rooms at Conferences

©AboutYOU, Inc. 2016

 “Time’s Up! Move to your next partner” Ellen, the well-meaning trainer shouted into the mike. I could feel the large room shudder with the silent eye rolls of the mostly 200 introverts. The current exercise was meant as an icebreaker – to get us to loosen up and discover what we had in common. But the time was too brief to learn anything of substance and her staccato-like, loud interruptions were jarring, even to us extroverts.

I have found that most facilitators, trainers, and speakers are unaware of the impact their actions can have on the introverts in the crowd. It is possible  that they are missing out on 40%-60% of their audience and sending those introverts running back to their hotel rooms.

Here are 5 “rules” to follow as a trainer, facilitator or meeting planner that will ensure you lose a good part of your audience.

Rule #1 Turn up the lighting and blast the sound.  Introverts are more sensitive to outside stimuli than extroverts so be conscious of the mood you are setting.  Ask an introvert how the setting feels to them.

Rule #2 Cram seats close together. Physical space is important so give everyone breathing room. When you are talking to introverts be aware of how close you are standing to them.

Rule #3 Provide short breaks. With time only to grab a quick cup of coffee and no opportunity to recharge by themselves, introverts will most certainly lose steam by midday and will skip out of those afternoon sessions.

Rule #4 Introduce everyone to everyone. Assume everyone wants to network all the time and pull people who are standing alone over to meet others. Though you may be well meaning, restrain every matchmaking chance. Respect people’s ability to meet others in their own time and own way.

Rule #5 Put people on the spot. Ask introverts to introduce themselves to a large group without preparation. This can be very anxiety producing. This also goes for pulling “volunteers” up on the stage for activities and demos without a private request before the program. This also includes Likewise for putting a mike in their face.

If your goal is to reach your entire audience and keep people where the action is – at programs and at networking events – take a moment. Stop and  ask yourself “What would an introvert prefer?”

And if you are unsure, ask the nearest introvert. They are probably sitting next to you at this moment. One last piece of advice: wait for their answer.

Also take a look at an article I wrote with Canadian speaker David Gouthro called Get Me Out of Here Please . We suggest more practical tips for engaging ALL of your participants. Good luck!


7 thoughts on “5 Ways To Keep Introverts in Their Rooms at Conferences

  1. Laura Sultan

    Oh, this is precisely on point. I’m an introvert business owner in digital marketing, and I love the quality of the presentations at tech conferences. However, by the end of the day, I’m utterly drained. I drag myself back to my hotel room and skip the after hours networking events. The noise level alone is just too much for me. Why do they crank up the music between sessions? How are people supposed to do any networking while being continuously assaulted with noise? Honestly, I don’t even try. I couldn’t hear what the other person said anyway.

  2. Susan RoAne

    Whether people self-identify as introverts or not, one way to prevent people who want to meet, mix and mingle with others is to have ear-drum damaging loud music and barely lit rooms. Whether it’s a conference, fundraiser or wedding, both loud music and dim lighting discourage people from conversing….unless they want to harm their vocal cords or strain their eyes.

    1. Jennifer Kahnweiler Post author

      Thank you for your response Susan. Great comment about connecting lack of conversing to loud stimuli. I love your work on networking. I have noticed that the noise levels
      seem to go up and up. I was getting gas for my car the other day and blaring t.v. announcers invaded my thinking time.

  3. Joan

    Thank you for this article. I can totally relate. I like going to conferences, but I really don’t do well when they give you time to share with strangers. I do it, but I can’t wait to escape to my room and just breath. Also, in terms of lighting I’ve just noticed in about the past year that I require more light–the dimmed light that some people like in the work place just isn’t for me. It’s depressing actually. And the loud noise like you get a coffee shops and restaurants, I feel very unsettled–it’s definitely not relaxing to me.

    1. Jennifer Kahnweiler Post author

      Thanks for your comments and experience Joan. Interesting that your require light. Goes to show we can’t make generalizations about what the brain and people require! I suppose we need to speak up and let meetings leaders know about our desires and at least let our voices be heard. Thanks again!

      1. Joan

        Hi Jennifer. It’s great to hear from you. I’ve been following right along with everything you send. I am trying to speak up. Wen I’m in a restaurant, I may ask the wait staff if they could turn the music down. Sometimes they do and sometimes they just look at me like I’m crazy. I also make sure that I fill out every survey I’m given because I feel like they really want to know. So the majority of them are very positive, but I’m learning to not be afraid and I put things that they could improve on to make future experiences for me and others better.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *