Why I Love Conferences Even Though I’m an Introvert

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I’m a certified introvert–one of those people that draws energy and strength from time alone to think and process. I’ve taken the Jung Type personality tests numerous times and have flip-flopped on everything else except introversion. With all my need for alone time it always surprises me how much I love conferences. But I do! I’ve been thinking about why and here is what I’ve come up with.

Expanding my world of ideas

A common description of introverts says that we like to spend time in our “inner world of ideas.” And that is very true of me. I can be in a crowd of people and be totally withdrawn into my own thought-world. If someone says my name, I’ll come back to the group. If you need me, you will have my undivided attention. But if you don’t need me right now I’ll just be here in my head.

The thing about a conference is that it feeds this inner world of mine. New ideas from keynotes and workshops get added into my own mix of thoughts. I think pretty good thoughts on my own, but I think even better thoughts when my brain has more tumbling around up there. The talks I go to at conferences energize my introverted self because they give me more to think about.

One-on-one conversations

Another thing about introverts is we tend to be more comfortable interpersonally with one-on-one connections. Having gobs of people together in one place can be a bit overwhelming (see above about withdrawing into my inner world). This in itself can be reason enough for many introverts to avoid conferences altogether.

I don’t let that sea of people scare me away though. Instead, when I go to a conference I like to carve out time for deeper, more intimate, conversations. Sometimes this means talking with my husband about what I’m learning. But oftentimes I find one or two other participants that I can talk with about what we’re thinking about, what life is like these days, or how we’ve been growing in our faith. By nurturing one-on-one connections at a conference, my introvert friendship needs are wonderfully met.

The rule of two feet

Even though my inner-world of ideas and my intimate friendships can be nourished at conferences, there are times when the whole thing gets to be a little too much for me. Sometimes my brain is too full for just one more remix of “let’s all say where we’re from and what we do and who we came with and why we’re here and what we really, really love about being here.” Sometimes I just can’t do another thing with another human being.

When I feel like that I exercise what my Deaconess sisters refer to as “The Rule of Two Feet.” We have this understanding among us at our Deaconess annual meeting that if a given scheduled activity is too much, or if you are just too tired and need a nap and you can’t come to every, every thing it is okay. We trust your “two feet” to take you where you need to be throughout the event. Even though other conferences don’t state an official two-feet rule, I find that my ability to appreciate any conference is enhanced by respecting my two-feet.

True to type?

While it may not make sense on the surface that a confirmed introvert could be so exuberant about a conference, it works for me. In fact, paying attention to my introvert needs is what makes a conference so great for me. I don’t speak for all introverts because their experience could be very different from mine. I’m simply sharing what works for me and why I love conferences.

What about you? How do you feel about conferences? How does your personality influence how you participate in large group events?

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Russell Brownworth on June 22, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Have felt this for years. Thanks for articulating it so well.

  2. Thank you for this reflection Jennifer. I call it taking the environmental workshop – sneak off for a walk!

    Some people presume that a hard core introvert like me couldn’t do a task like facilitating a big conference, but I’m actually quite good at it. When you think about it, introvert predispositions help with skills like paying close attention to one speaker at a time, ensuring that each contributor has their space, making connections and providing synthesis.

  3. I love the rule of two feet!

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