Last week I attended my first Romance Writers of America national conference. For you extroverts this probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for a shy introvert like me? Epic proportions. For those of you on the fence about attending ACFW, maybe my experience will help you decide.
Did you know that shyness and introversion are not the same?
Shyness is a “feeling of apprehension, lack of comfort, or awkwardness” around unfamiliar people especially in new situations, largely due to fear. Most of the time, a shy individual will avoid social situations.
Where does shyness originate? Some evidence suggests that shyness is genetic. It can also originate from a person’s environment or personal experiences. Perhaps mine resulted from being burned as a toddler and enduring countless pointed fingers and stares. Whatever the reason, I’m in my fifties now and fear still drenches my palms and tension knots my tummy during social events, so I don’t think it’s going away.
Introverts prefer to be by themselves, and “are easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings.” Where extroverts thrive on energy from a crowd, introverts usually feel drained after interacting in a social situation…much like the beautiful hummingbirds that buzz across the neighborhood backyards, flitting from feeder to feeder.
|Hummingbird in garage|
Occasionally they find their way into our garage. Because they just keep fluttering to the ceiling, they exhaust themselves and sometimes die trying to escape. Just last week, I dragged the ladder out and rescued this little guy. Once outside the confinement of the garage, their energy is renewed. That’s a bit how an introvert feels in the midst of a social setting. Exhausted and drained, wilted until they can escape.
So, how can a shy introvert prepare for conference?
Persist. I refuse to let shyness rule my life, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t rear its ugly head. Keep putting yourself in situations where you are forced to deal with that awkward uncomfortable feeling. Don’t give up.
Practice. If you’re planning to pitch, practice every day for two to three weeks until you’re comfortable with the words and flow. Cover possible topics and get to know the person you’re pitching to by following them on Twitter. Doing this gave me tremendous courage.
Book a hotel away from the conference site. By the time I registered, the conference hotels were already booked, or I wouldn’t have discovered this valuable gem of a tip. My hotel was only a couple blocks away from the conference site but the short walk was worth the time to myself. Also, it was less crowded and quiet compared to the constant buzz in the conference hotel.
Pray. You’ve probably all prayed or read the NKJV of 2 Timothy 1:7 before ~ For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind, but here’s another translation (TLB) that spoke to this shy introvert:
For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them.
Isn’t that fabulous?
Tips for a shy introvert to stay calm during a conference:
Remind yourself that the benefits outweigh your fears. Determine what your goals are beforehand so you can remind yourself as often as necessary.
Limit caffeine as much as possible. It’s less upsetting on the tummy.
Schedule down time. Did you see the RWA 2014 schedule? Hundreds of workshops, parties, book signings, publisher spotlights, you name it. Events started at 7:30 AM and lingered well into the night. Not for me. I attended the classes but reserved evenings to recharge.
Find a chill spot. It’s not impossible, and definitely worth the effort. Before my pitch session, I found this perfect spot to chill and pray.
What about you? What's your biggest hangup about attending a conference? What suggestions would you share to help someone enjoy their conference experience?
Devastated after the brutal murder of her husband, Chelsea Hammond vows never to love another lawman. Intent on rebuilding her shattered life, she turns her focus to helping troubled teens. But when an angry father bent on retaliation, threatens her, Chelsea must turn to the one man she never thought to trust: Deputy U.S. Marshal Trey Colten.
When Chelsea is snatched from her home, can she put aside her fear, and trust Trey with her life? Can she forgive him for destroying her past and let him help to rebuild her future?
Where one journey ends, another begins…