(I wrote this post right before heading to Content Marketing World in 2017. Lucky for us, the community and the conference are consistent in their amazingness , making these tips evergreen.)
It’s that time of year again – the orange takes over, excitement fills the air, and we all descend on to Cleveland to attend Content Marketing World.
It’s no secret that Content Marketing World has a special place in my heart, along with the entire CMI team, and the incredible people I’ve met over the past three years.
But it can also be overwhelming. I’m an ambivert and conferences where I am “on” all the time for 4 days straight can take a lot out of me. My energy gets zapped once the adrenaline wears off, especially if I’m not practicing self-care throughout the conference. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten a lot better at preserving my energy in order to survive the week as an introvert.
I want to share a few of those tricks with you. I also reached out to the #CMWorld Slack Community to get their input.
So, here are a few ways you can survive Content Marketing World as an introvert.
Planning is crucial.
From the second you pick up your badge at registration, it’s going to feel nonstop. It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you don’t have a game plan for sessions, networking, and “me” time. Before you arrive at the convention center for the first day of sessions, have a plan in place.
Block out “me” time
I cannot get through an entire day of sessions and networking without taking a break. It can be going for a walk outside, or even back to my hotel room to decompress for 30 minutes. The amazing thing about conferences like CMWorld are the ample opportunities to network, which gives you a chance to walk away for a little bit.
“Make sure to schedule some alone time. It’s OK to head back to your room for an hour, or walk offsite for a cup of coffee to recharge your batteries.” – Erika Heald.
Use Twitter to your advantage
I absolutely love Twitter because it allows me to keep connected even when I’m not in the room. Throughout the conference, use a tool like Tweetdeck so you can have a column dedicated to the #CMWorld hashtag. It’ll allow you to engage with others before you even meet them face to face.
As a result, you’ve already made a connection without the awkward small talk that comes from walking up to strangers. I’m personally a prolific tweeter during conferences, both during sessions and networking events. It helps me feel connected and lets my personality shine before I awkwardly stumble over my words in person.
Prepare to take risks.
Last year at Content Marketing World, I challenged myself to introduce myself to 5 new people every single day. Trust me, it was a daunting task. I tend to stick to my quiet corner or huddle with the people I know. It was a daunting task that I made a little easier by simply going up to people, extending my hand, and saying, “Hi, I challenged myself to meet new people today and you’re one of them. I’m Berrak.”
Sounds a little silly and it definitely felt a little silly but you know what? It worked because it was a straightforward ice breaker. The worst thing that happened were people politely shaking my hand, saying their name, and being uninterested in engaging beyond that. It happens. Even at a networking event, you won’t connect with everyone you talk to but you know what? It’s OK to take that risk.
It goes the other way too. Ben Rome, a CMWorld attendee I met at lunch last year who I’m running a session with this year suggests the following:
Typically a wallflower at networking events? Challenge yourself to talk to 2-3 people. Overly extroverted? Challenge yourself to listen more and engage the conversation, rather than dominate it.
Break the ice.
I know, the idea of striking up a conversation with a stranger can be daunting. The great thing about CMWorld is that our badges have a few key pieces of information that can help break the ice. I just talked about my ice breaker trick, so let me share with you a few suggestions from fellow CMWorld alums.
“What made you want to come to this conference?” and also, “Who was your favorite speaker/who are you most excited to see?” – Jason Schemmel
“Is this your first time seeing Joe’s Orange suit?” – Jeff Renoe
Keep the conversation going
The most important thing about connecting with new people at Content Marketing World (or any other conference) is the follow through. Last year, I was so excited about the conversations and connections I’d made, I started a CMWorld Community Slack (You should join us!)
“Reaching out to the handful of people I connected with at last year’s event and using LinkedIn to email leaders of workshops, sessions and labs I’m considering taking. The latter has a twofold benefit: honing down the wealth of learning opportunities and two, making a human connection.” – Lorraine Thompson
As intimidating and exhausting a conference can feel to an introvert, it is possible to survive it with your energy intact. I have one last tip to share with you before I see you at the opening reception:
There are more of us introverts than you may realize. There’s a good chance the person sitting quietly next to you isn’t sure how to start a conversation, either. Keep it simple, and keep it kind. A welcoming “Hello” can go a long way.
If you haven’t bought your ticket for Content Marketing World 2018 yet, register now and save $100 by using the code SARIKAYA and I hope I’ll see you at my session on Friday morning! But I mean, I’ll see you around all week too!
See you in Cleveland, content nerds.