I just skip the banquets
January 5, 2013 9:15 PM Subscribe
How do I learn to be less shy in professional situations with groups of strangers?
posted by redlines to human relations (14 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in academia, and often attend conferences where I don't know many people. The institutions I've attended are prestigious but very small, so there isn't typically a big cohort in attendance. I also do a lot of interdisciplinary work, and it ends up that my research doesn't align directly with most of the scholarship in a given discipline, so people generally aren't familiar with my name. (I mean, I'm not well-known or anything even within my subfield, but it's worse when I step into a venue outside it.)
I'd really like to make connections at conferences, or at least, not wander around like a lost dog, but I find it intimidating to approach people and introduce myself. I've tried striking up academic conversations at posters, but that usually doesn't lead anywhere.
Part of my difficulty is my personality -- I'm introverted and shy, only started training myself to feel at ease around people a few years back, and have a somewhat stiff body language (which I'm trying to overcome) that is amplified in awkward situations. Part of it may also be that I'm female in disciplines that are very male-dominated. I find it reasonably easy to proactively meet other young women at conferences, but there are only a small number of them.
Any ideas for (1) being less socially awkward in general among strangers and (2) how to work the room at conferences when you don't know anyone?