You’re Just Not That Into Me (the introvert’s guide to attending a conference)

Mack Collier wrote an exceptional post last week called, “The Introvert’s Guide to Speaking.” As both a speaker and an introvert myself, I found the post very relatable and was touched by Mack’s raw candor in regard to his speaking fears.

There is another fear that most introverts (and many extroverts) have when attending a conference or networking event that I’d like to address: the fear that no one will want to talk to us.  You know what I’m talking about, right?

To be honest, I used to avoid networking events if I was not absolutely sure that someone I knew would be there – someone for me to “hang out with.” This was a real detriment to my career as it drastically limited my exposure to executives outside of my little “bubble,” and prevented me from making wonderful new business connections.

Here’s what I dreaded: the moment when you walk into a room and you search the faces of people who are there, looking for someone who seems interested and willing to talk with you.  And what I always got back (in reality, what I thought I was getting back) was the professional version of “I’m just not that into you…” 

It played in my head as, “these execs don’t think I’m at a high enough level to be interesting,” “they are not interested in my connections,” “they don’t see any value in getting to know me…”

All of this changed for me the day I was hired by Andy Whitman to work with MENG, the Marketing Executives Networking Group.  When you’re consulting for a company with the word “networking” in its name you’d better know a thing or two about it!  Working with Andy was a tremendous blessing because he is an extraordinary networker and I was able to watch and learn from the best.

What did I learn from Andy Whitman that all introverts should know?

1.  Virtually everyone – executives, assistants, musicians, introverts, extroverts, you name it – is uncomfortable to various degrees at networking events and conferences because it forces us as humans to go outside our comfort zone.  Thus, I was not alone.

2.  Many people have a hard time being the one to extend themselves and have that same “they’re just not into me” tape playing in their head.

3.  If I extended myself – made the first effort to extend my hand, introduce myself and offer a very genuine smile, 90% of the time I was actually helping the other person out immeasurably. I was putting others at ease.

4.  When I learned to enthusiastically make that first, warm, genuine introduction of myself, what I received back was invariably a warm, “it’s so nice to meet you” in response! It was like magic I had never known about… No one had actually been sending me an “I’m not into you” signal – it was all in my head!

A few weeks ago I had the great fortune of attending SOBCon 2010 – a small conference made up of some of the greatest minds in social media, many well-known social media “celebs” included.  I was admittedly quite nervous about attending but I extended myself on every occasion possible and you know what?  I discovered that many of the social media “celebs” are actually quite shy themselves!

Instead of just assuming that “they weren’t into me” because I wasn’t a celeb, I introduced myself and received back such warm and often enthusiastic responses, that it was clear they appreciated my effort. 

So, my dear introverted friends, the next time you are invited to a networking event or you go to a conference:

1. Go – don’t back down and make an excuse not to go, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to meet amazing people who could become great collaborators or even friends. Take advantage of all the networking opportunities that the event or conference offers you.

2. Walk in the room with a genuine, warm smile.

3. Extend your hand, smile, and say “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met, I’m so and so, it’s so nice to meet you” and see what unfolds for you!

Wishing you exciting new experiences! Please share your thoughts and experiences  in the comments – I’d love to know if any of you have had similar experiences and how you’ve handled them!

UPDATE: My new eBook, “The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership” is NOW AVAILABLE! You may Download it at for only $7.99 or BUY IT at Amazon for Kindle! 

This 60+ page eBook is for introverts who want to use their introversion to their advantage in business and leadership, and for extroverts who lead introverts and wish to be more effective leaders.

About the author

Lisa Petrilli

Named a Forbes Top 20 CMO based on social influence, Lisa Petrilli is Chief Operating, Marketing, and Strategy Officer for The Thread Global Empowerment Platform. She is also an expert speaker and consultant on the topics of leadership and introversion, Author of the eBook “The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership,” Harvard Business Review blogger, Co-author of The Character-Based Leader, Featured in the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt, & Co-Founder & Co-Host of the original #LeadershipChat on Twitter. During her years in the corporate world, Lisa led and ran a $750 million med/pharma business within Baxter & was Chief Relationship Officer for CEO Connection. Passionate about visionary leadership, Lisa writes the Visionary Leadership Blog, and has been featured as a leadership and introversion expert in The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc. Magazine, US News and World Report, The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post, TIME, Philadelphia Business Journal and Working Mother Magazine, among many others. As an executive at Baxter Healthcare, Lisa moved up the corporate ladder to run a $750 million medication delivery business while negotiating global licensing, commercialization and co-marketing contracts with pharmaceutical companies. When faced with a PR challenge by Greenpeace, she led a team that created a solution so unique and environmentally friendly that she presented it for Baxter to a United Nations Environmental Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. She spent a year as an Executive Leadership Trainer at the Baxter Institute training corporate-wide executives on leadership principles and strategies, as well as how to create and communicate a vision for their organization. Lisa has an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management in International Business, Marketing, and Organizational Behavior, and a B.S. Degree from Indiana University’s Honor’s College & Kelley School of Business. She was named one of the Top 100 People to Follow on Twitter in 2014 by Huffington Post, and her blog is consistently ranked a Top Leadership Blog. Lisa has been doing the WorQ with Vanda for 6 years and has experienced it blossoming in every branch of her life. She wholly believes it can connect to you your soul, awaken your knowing, and raise the level of your life in every aspect of who you really are. You may reach Lisa at Lisa@TheThread.Life. She is on Twitter @LisaPetrilli.

104 Responses to You’re Just Not That Into Me (the introvert’s guide to attending a conference)

  • Roving Jay

    I attended my first Blog World event in LA last year, and the challenge I run into, is that lots of attendees already seems to be in little cliques and groups – and it intimidating to try and break into an existing group. So I went to the stands where there was nobody else visiting, and it was easy to strike up a conversation, and the other person was grateful that “somebody was into them”.

    It’s tough to do. Networking online is so much simpler – but I made a really good contact at Blog World, and was able to pick up some motivational tips about pod casting. So it’s worth making the effort – it’s just tough to do for us introverts.
    Roving Jay´s last blog post ..Living in Harmony, Population 18

  • […] Guide to Success In Business and Leadership,” writes about how introverts can network. In one post, she writes about her experience as an introvert at a conference. Petrilli suggests overcoming the […]

  • Valentin

    This is a great tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate information… Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read post!