Contrary to popular myth, extroverts don’t necessarily love crowds and introverts don’t necessarily dislike people. It has to do with what energizes us. If you go to a party, do you leave feeling pumped up and full of ideas? Or do you leave drained? If you’re pumped up by being around and talking to other people, chances are you’re an extrovert. If you feel drained, even if you enjoyed yourself, chances are you’re an introvert. I happen to be an extrovert, and my coauthor Rachel Wilder is an introvert. She works in sales for her day job and is an excellent party planner. My husband is also an introvert and is an excellent stage performer. Despite being an extrovert, large crowds give me anxiety attacks.
So, what’s this got to do with conventions like RT?
Simple. It’s about networking.
There’s a great book by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger called Do What You Are. It’s a book about finding a job that is deeply satisfying. One of the ideas I found revolutionary is that the different types have different approaches and preferences for a job search and the process of networking. An extrovert likes to have lots and lots of contacts. Yup. True for me. An introvert prefers to have select relationships with carefully-selected individuals that they can trust and with whom they can discuss sensitive things like business or job search. True for Rachel and my husband.
When at a convention, an extrovert like me will likely say, as I have done in the past, “It’s a great place to collect business cards!” and I gleefully go about collecting every stinkin’ business card in the place – I once even got the card for the hotel concierge. What’s that got to do with writing or the convention? Nothing. But I might need some information from a concierge and this one I’ve gotten face-to-face with. An introvert, on the other hand, might only come away with a handful of cards, but those cards have been selected and pre-screened, if you will, for suitability.
I think both ways of doing networking have things to teach the other. If one collects cards because one is just collecting cards, they’re functionally useless. If one makes a point of writing on each one where they met the person and one or two memorable things about them, and then uses the email for contact with a timely fashion (by “timely,” I mean within a week of the meeting), then it’s more effective. If one is unused to collecting cards and rarely gives out their own, one risks not having enough new information in one’s network. A milestone of, say, “collect five new cards today” might be useful.
There are lots of tips online about how to informationally interview people, such as an editor of a publisher with whom one would like to work. But at a minimum, remember that people like questions. An email along the lines of, “I met you at RT 2016 in Las Vegas and would love to hear more about what you do on a daily basis as an editor for The Big Publisher With Whom I Want To Contract. What’s it like being an editor?” People like questions, in general, and are more likely to answer if you ask thoughtful ones.
You never know. The next person you meet at a convention might just change your life. What are you waiting for?