I’m an event planner—and a self-proclaimed introvert. As many of my fellow introverts can attest to, we learn how to “act” extroverted when moments call for it, but the act can take quite a bit of energy to maintain for long periods of time, especially at events.
How one responds to stimulation is a simple way to describe the difference between introverts and extroverts. Susan Cain, author of the 2012 best-selling book QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, explains in her TedTalk that introverts thrive in quieter environments while extroverts crave stimulation. Between a third and half of the population see themselves as introverts, yet our society is designed for extroverts and their need for stimulation.
Events—from incentive programs to meetings and conferences—center around stimulation and social engagement. There’s handshaking, small talk, ice breakers, networking, group discussions and teambuilding activities—an extrovert’s paradise. But what about us quiet individuals who’d prefer to observe from the outer edges than dive into the fray. How can the event planner in me help to create an inclusive and collaborative environment?
Here are a few simple tactics you can use to encourage participation from all attendees—introverts and extroverts alike.
Group Participation & Discussion
Cain states in a short RSA video that “the opinions of the loudest person, or the most charismatic person, or the most assertive person—those are the opinions that the group tends to follow.” Introverts enjoy participating in group discussions so long as the objectives are clearly articulated and they have enough time to process the information they would like to share. Consideration: Don’t fill every gap of silence with noise. Ask speakers and presenters to build some quiet time into their sessions. Allow me some time to reflect individually or to collaborate on questions and opinions in a more intimate group of two or three.
The Dreaded Q&A
Suddenly calling on me to answer a question or offer an opinion can be a stressful, jarring experience. Even those who thrive in large crowds can be intimidated by the thought of posing or answering a question in a room full of strangers. Consideration: Don’t ask me to line up in front of a mic stand to ask a question. Consider using anonymous outlets such as live polling forums. There are quite a few good platforms available today:
Navigating the Lunchroom
Where will I sit at lunch? This age-old question has haunted the best of us since our high school cafeteria days—and it’s especially daunting to those like me who have more introvertive qualities. Consideration: One easy solution is to provide assigned seating. The assignment process could be entirely random or based on factors such as industry, experience and title. Also, try to create smaller spaces that allow groups to more comfortably network with one another.
Recharging Your Brain
Some events can be a full- or multi-day investment filled with lectures, discussions, panels and lots of networking. It is important for introverts like me to take a moment or two to reset. Consideration: Incorporate small nooks or lounge areas with soft seating and access to power outlets into your event space. That way, I can sit back, relax and recharge my phone—and my brain—throughout the day.
Please use these simple tactics to create an inclusive, collaborative event for all attendees to thrive and succeed. My introverted self—acting extroverted—thanks you!