The Introvert’s Guide to Not Hiding in Your Room for the Entire RWA Conference

Hi, my name is Sonja Foust and I’m an introvert. You might not think that, based on my online persona, but it’s true. Crowds exhaust me. I love talking to people, but after a while, I just need to be by myself. And I imagine at least half of you feel the same way – probably significantly more than half, as the writing profession tends to attract introverts!

Worry not, fellow introverts! This introvert is here to give you a quick-and-dirty little guide to having a great time at conference, even though there will be scads and scads of people there.

introverts guide to rwa conference

My first sneaky-ass dirty little trick is to find an extrovert and make friends. If you already know someone from your chapter or critique group or whatever who fits the bill, all the better. This is not one of those ice-breaker games where you are required to choose someone you’ve never met. (Ick! I hate those!) Have someone in mind? Perfect. If you don’t have anyone in mind, don’t worry – chances are, they’ll find you. Extroverts are good at that.

Once you’ve latched onto your pet extrovert, you say this to her: “You are so amazing with people! I am a total introvert and all these introductions scare me a little. Would you mind if I sort of followed you around at the cocktail parties?” If they say no or act awkward about it, leave them alone, but chances are they’ll be flattered and also feel kind of sorry for you and so will say yes. (Puppy dog eyes FTW, ladies. I’m not above it.)

This is not cheating! This is knowing your skill set and enhancing it with the aid of a willing partner. It’s consensual networking. Do not be ashamed.

If all works according to plan, your extrovert will start all the hard stuff and you can jump in and feel charming without having to know whether you’re butting in or not, and all that other stuff we introverts who are also shy and a little anxious tend to worry about. You let her take the lead, and you be your sweet, wonderful self by her side.

Here’s my other tip: Schedule some time when you don’t have to talk. For me, this was workshops. Sure, there were still people around, and I couldn’t, like, pick my nose or scratch my butt or anything, but I didn’t have to talk or perform, so it was relaxing.

For you, it might mean skipping one session to read quietly in your room. Don’t feel bad about your need to recharge by yourself, and don’t neglect that need, either. You’re going to need to be recharged to take in everything conference has to offer, so take care of yourself…

To a point. Here’s where I shake my finger at you and tell you that you might need to step outside your comfort zone. Inertia is powerful among us, the socially anxious hermit-like writer people. It’s going to seem way easier to skip cocktail hour than to put your shoes back on and refasten your bra and talk some more. But you might enjoy it.

I know, I know, I sound like my mother (and probably your mother, too), but you might really, actually enjoy it. I met so many wonderful ladies at conference that I never would have gotten to speak to at all if I hadn’t pushed myself just a little past where I felt comfortable and reached out to talk to them. And if you don’t enjoy it? Hey, it’s a possibility, but the worst that could happen is you have a less-than-stellar time. Oh well. Boohoo. See, the potential awesomeness far outweighs the worst that could happen.

  • Thanks for this. I am going to a conference in September and was nervous about how I was going to deal with the crowds. I am an extreme introvert, even spending too much time on twitter makes me want to go hide for a few hours. This was just what I needed to make sure I actually show up for the conference!

  • Andrea J. Wenger

    Excellent advice, Sonja. Consensual networking–I never would have thought of that!