May 31, 2017

Making an Introvert Feel Comfortable Around 2,000 People

I love quiet.The silence replenishes me.My head is clear and the ideas just flow.Ironically, 360 Live Media specializes in the strategy, design and marketing of experiences that connect thousands of people. The good news is that, as a writer, I usually get to focus on driving other people to attend our clients’ events.Here’s where my story takes an unexpected turn.Last week, I found out that everyone at 360 Live Media would be going to the first-ever Xperience Design Project (XDP). It wasn’t too big of a surprise, mind you. After all, we partnered with ASAE for the past two years to design, build and launch this endeavor.However, I did not expect to become an actual attendee of the experience. I’m the guy who feels comfortable in the shadows, remember? Not the spotlight. Please, not the spotlight.Yet, as I sat there in our internal planning meeting, I realized it was inevitable. I would be attending XDP. Of course, as an introvert, I kept thinking:Am I going to survive two days surrounded by 2,000 strangers?Obviously, yes. I did. I am alive and well. Thank you for your concern.But the reason I survived (and thrived) at XDP was because it was created with diverse personalities and perspectives in mind—extroverted, introverted…veteran, early career…association professionals and industry partners—each with unique motivations and values.That meant the content, programming, speakers, venue, food, entertainment—everything had to be curated with precision. And it was. I truly felt at home the whole time, and I left with a ton of great insights that will prepare me to be even more effective at my job. I’ll share some now.To help you design an experience that even an introvert can enjoy, here are some of my highlights from XDP:

  1. Personal touch

The night before XDP, I received an email from John (my team leader). Wow, well done. I did not expect a personal email. He told me what to expect the next day, and that he would be there to help guide our discussions.It was nothing fancy. Simply a text email from someone who cared about my experience. That definitely gave me a great first impression and made me feel confident about the event before it even began.

  1. Small-group learning

The first day of XDP was dedicated to learning, which I love to do. Even better, I was assigned to a small group of nine people—including John, the team leader. This made me feel so much more comfortable compared to a normal general session where you don’t know anyone and you end up sitting in a dark sea of people all staring at the stage.Instead, XDP arranged our group (and hundreds of others) in a tight circle within the larger arena. The physical arrangement provided the conditions I needed to feel relaxed. It encouraged me to introduce myself to my tiny team. I even exchanged business cards with a few folks. That never happens for me!

  1. Playbook

On my chair was the XDP Playbook. It was more than a program—it had creative exercises and pages for me to jot down key takeaways. I loved having a physical book to write on. Instead of pulling out my laptop and potentially getting distracted by emails or leisure web surfing, I was able to stay focused and enjoy being in the moment. Plus, I now have new tools that I can use over and over again to make my job easier and more effective.

  1. 1-on-1 face time

Day two of XDP was all about business. In fact, they called it the Business Exchange because it was a space dedicated to intimate, 1-on-1 conversations. What I loved about this, as an introvert, is that our appointments were for the most part, set up online ahead of time. That meant I knew who I would be meeting with and what they wanted to talk about. Instant ice-breaker! I never like walking tradeshow floors, passing booths to see who has great giveaways. Instead, I met 8 amazing people with whom I had something in common. The meetings were genuine and effortless.

  1. Two days

To some people, events are like fresh fish—after two days, they start to stink. With XDP, I had the perfect amount of time to learn, get inspired and do business. I never felt like it lagged, and I had enough energy to get back to my work routine the next day.Was everything perfect? No. Of course not. But only the mediocre are always at their best.This was the first-ever XDP. There were kinks. But they were mainly logistical and can be fixed in the future. All things considered, I would definitely do it again. And that’s saying a lot coming from someone who rarely attends events like this.Next time you plan an event for your organization, remember that 16 to 50 percent of your audience is probably introverted like me. If you can design an experience that removes negative cues by easily facilitating connections among your participants, I expect you to receive rave reviews.

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