When I read Susan Cain’s Quiet last year, I realized that I’m an introvert. That doesn’t mean I’m shy, or dislike people. It means that I find it restorative to be by myself, and less restorative to be in a crowd. I participated in a speed PR session once where something like 50 people pitched me story ideas for 90 seconds each. At the end, I was in a puddle on the floor. Whereas someone like Bill Clinton would find meeting 50 people for 90 seconds apiece incredibly energizing.
Writing works well for my sort of temperament (as opposed to running for elected office). But, of course, the problem is I can’t only write. I need people to write about. I need people to read what I’m writing. I need editors to hire me, and other writers to cover whatever I’ve cranked out.
So I wind up going to a fair number of events and conferences where I meet such people. And these days, despite my introversion, I genuinely enjoy myself there. Why? Because I’ve learned to give myself specific goals. Some sample ones:
- Talk to three people I’ve only met virtually, so we can all put faces with names.
- Find someone who’d make an interesting source for a story and get her information.
- Learn about a new website or publication I should be reading.
- Pitch my books, or myself as an expert, to two people.
- Start conversations with three people I haven’t met before and look them up afterwards.
I always like a project, and having these goals for an event pushes me to start chatting with people, rather than checking my email. It also makes me more relaxed when I realize that a particular panel is useless, or if I have to race out of an event to catch a train (really, Amtrak, does 10:10 have to be the last train out of DC?) My goals are independent of these realities, and so I can feel I handled a conference or event well even if certain aspects are sub-optimal.
What do you do to maximize networking opportunities?
In other news: Modern Mrs. Darcy has a post on how women’s under-representation in leadership roles means we’re leaving half the talent on the table. She likens this problem to that of Canadian hockey teams (using the famous example in Outliers), where most of the players are born in the first half of the year. That’s a fact that stems more from the birthday cut off for competitive leagues than anything inherent in the talents of those born in December. It’s a nice post, but what’s fascinating to me are the comments, some of which seem to buy — hook, line, and sinker — into the idea that you cannot be professionally successful and be a good mother. I don’t want to hijack her comment thread, so I’ll just post the link here.
Photo courtesy flickr user nightthree