I'm an introvert INFJ personality type to the core: I crave deep, personal connections with others; I can be intermittently shy and reserved – and yet...I want to be viewed as a leader by others, serve others well and encourage others with my creative mind as the guiding light.
Does this sound like you? Good – glad I'm not alone!
Now that I'm in it full-time with my business, I've continually, intentionally pushed myself to leave my familiar introvert comfort zone and explore conferences and events that allow me to connect with other entrepreneurs and creatives.
Earlier this month, I hosted my first-ever solo speaking engagement at a local social media conference here in St. Louis, where I spoke to a crowd of over 100 people (what?!) about the importance of creating visually compelling content for social media. Although 100 people may not sound like many to some, it was a lot for an introvert like me!
Now that I've gotten through some of the preliminary anxious feelings that come along with attending conferences and events, I want to share a few tips that have helped me successfully navigate standing out in crowd of many, connecting with new business friends and making a lasting impression.
Ready to leave those pre-event jitters at the door? It's time to boost that confidence!
Bring along a business buddy
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you're feeling apprehensive about attending a business-related conference or event alone, bringing along a friend who will mutually benefit from the event is a great idea . It never hurts to have a friend by your side as you navigate networking and introducing yourself to new people. Plus, you never know if either of you will have acquaintances pop up at the event. Plan to review the conference agenda prior to the event and make a game plan for attending different sessions!
If you do bring a business buddy along to an event, remember: it's OK to bring a friend for additional company, but they aren't someone to completely lean on for confidence and guidance. Continually remind yourself that you're capable and worthy of getting to know, and then put yourself out there.
Practice your elevator pitch – and then practice again!
Oh, elevator pitches – I have such a love-hate relationship with you. For me, condensing down what I do into 30 seconds or less is tough, but I've been able to do it with a little practice. If you don't yet have an elevator pitch, this is what I mean: how would you be able to concisely and accurately describe what you do and what your business is to a complete stranger in a short amount of time?
For me, the winning formula looks a little something like this:
Hi, I'm [NAME] – nice to meet you! I help serve [TARGET AUDIENCE] achieve [GOALS], through my business called [BUSINESS NAME], which I started in [YEAR]. Currently, I've been working on projects like, [EXAMPLE PROJECT] and [ANOTHER EXAMPLE PROJECT]. So that's a little about me – tell me about yourself?
On weeks leading up to conferences or industry events, I practice my elevator pitch in front of the mirror until I feel completely comfortable talking about myself (which is something I'm admittedly not the best at!), and feel comfortable with tone I take while speaking about my business.
Although this may feel weird at first, I promise it will help when it comes down to shaking hands with a stranger and mustering up the courage to share a piece of your life with them.
Bring along 3 favorite talking points and questions
One thing that I love most about conferences and events? The happy hour. And it's not just because I get to enjoy free snacks and a little wine! These mixing and mingling portions of events are one of the most important for meeting new people – and are also the scariest and most intimidating for someone like me.
Thankfully, I've found a way to combat this by prepping three of my favorite talking points or questions prior to an event. Because if there's one question or topic of conversation that I find overused and tired, it's the age-old, "So...what do you do?"
Instead, I like to carry a few of these questions in my back pocket when I go to creative conferences and events:
• Who is your ideal client, and how would you serve them?
• What's the last great business article or book that you read?
• What are some of your favorite blogs? I'm always adding to my reading list!
• Who's the best speaker you've seen at past events?
• What's your favorite account to follow on Instagram?
I think you get my point: all of these questions are outside-of-the-box, but great conversation starters for creatives! Practice asking these questions in the mirror as you would your elevator pitch. As an introvert, I've found that practice brings me peace when it comes time to introduce myself to new potential friends, partners and clients.
What are your best tips for battling the jitters that can sometimes come along with attending events and conferences? What are some the creative conferences that you want to check out in the future? Leave them in the comments!