Introvert’s Guide To Surviving A Reception

Still waters run deep, but no one goes Still-Water Rafting.

Still waters run deep, but no one goes Still-Water Rafting.

I didn’t get around to posting anything yesterday.

Instead I spent nine hours engaged in an aggressive form of socializing under the name of “Accepted Student Day” at one of the Universities that I am considering for graduate school.

The idea was for prospective students to get to know one another and see the campus and meet some of the professors in each of the disciplines of study. I *think* it was meant to be fun; maybe in the same way that whitewater rafting is meant to be fun: which is to say it is fun for the people who are good at it (*ahem* Extraverts) and nerve wracking for the people who aren’t.

I am beginning to learn some Introvert Survival Tricks for big events like this.

The first thing I do is get something to eat and/or drink. It gives me something to do with my hands so that they aren’t shoved in my pockets (looks like apathy), crossed over my chest (looks like I am closed off) or constantly shifting (looks nervous).

Having something to eat also gives me something to look at. If there is a lull in the conversation or if there is an awkward war of glances while the other person waits for me to think of something to say I just look at the plate, shove something in my mouth, and then have enough time to gather my thoughts.

Having full hands also gives me an excuse to elbow in to a table or bar even if I am by myself. I have an excuse: “Hey, can I set this here for a sec?” This gives me time to gauge whether I am welcome in the group or if I should gather everything up and move on.

The hardest part about a big reception or networking event for an Introvert like me is the feeling that you need to speak to everybody. If there are 120 people at an event that is potentially 120 cold introductions that you might need to make and that is very intimidating.

I have discovered that I can compensate for this by reminding myself that it is OK to just meet a handful of people and to hold a meaningful conversation with them. It won’t matter how many people that I meet if I can’t remember their names or anything about them afterwards. This relieves the pressure and allows me to find a place to plant myself that is near to the action so that I can get to know people one or two at a time as they pass through. Highboy tables are especially good for this- everyone stands rather than laying claim to a seat and there is a natural ebb and flow. You can only get four or five people around the table at a time which means you are close enough to everybody to hear what they are saying even in quite a loud environment. And receptions are almost always oppressively loud environments.

Lastly, I have discovered that Los Angeles is an Introvert’s best friend for escaping from an event if you are wildly uncomfortable: all you have to do is glance at your phone and say “Crivens! My parking meter is about to expire!” and you can beat a hasty retreat without being rude. Everyone understands the dread of a parking ticket.


~ by Gwydhar Gebien on April 6, 2013.

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