Meetings

Plan Meetings With Introverts in Mind

By / May 29, 2015 (iStock/Thinkstock)

All meeting planners want to make it easier for conference attendees to connect. Is the way to go about that to think of all attendees as introverts? Maybe.

As a self- and Myers-Briggs-diagnosed introvert, my ears perked up earlier this week as I was using Twitter to lurk online around BizBash’s Elevate conference (a classic introvert technique, I suppose):

Avoid speed-networking sessions and the rush to secure as many business cards as possible.

Attendees were live-tweeting the event’s closing general session, which looked at how millennials are changing the event landscape in terms of technology, participation, and so forth. One of the panelists, Audrey Gallien, senior events associate at Catalyst, Inc., suggested that meeting planners treat all attendees like introverts in order to put together an event that makes it easier to connect with others.

Reading that made me think of ways I would feel more comfortable at a large meeting where I didn’t know anyone else. Immediate ideas fell along the lines of small-group discussions where I was matched up with others based on our similar interests or even some team-based activity like a trivia game.

Turns out I wasn’t the only one interested in the topic. I came across a number of other blog posts, articles, and white papers that tackled it, too. Here are some of the ideas that stood out to me:

In an article for the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers’ magazine [PDF], authors David Gouthro and Jennifer B. Kahnweiler looked at how planners can design meetings that meet introverts’ personality needs. Among their suggestions:

Provide smaller physical networking spaces throughout the conference facility, and have slightly longer breaks between sessions and events. Rushing to get coffee and then back to the meeting does not restore energy for an introvert. Gouthro and Kahnweiler also have advice for speakers: Provide pauses and opportunities for reflection during sessions and include breaks for small-group discussions so introverts can share ideas and input with tablemates.

On CollaborateMeetings.com, Jeff Hurt shared six tips for planning introvert-friendly meetings. My favorite: “Avoid speed-networking sessions and the rush to secure as many business cards as possible. Design networking experiences that encourage deeper, authentic relationships and facilitate learning. Ask people to spend 10 to 15 minutes asking a series of questions to one person to find what each other is passionate about.”

In a post on the TFI Talking Points blog, Oliver Franks says planners should consider helping attendees build relationships and get to know people before an event. This could be done via the meeting’s app, an association’s private member community, or another social media tool. “By familiarizing themselves with the other delegates in the lead-up, introverts are often more relaxed at the conference itself,” he writes.

These ideas are a good place to start for association meeting planners looking to make their events a little more inclusive for introverts. Now it’s your turn: If you created a meeting where all of your attendees were introverts, what would it look like? Let me know in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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