Introverts get a bad rep. They're often labeled as shy individuals who don't work well in teams and have little to no leadership skills, according to Psychology Today. But some of the most influential people in history were more introspective, including Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Rosa Parks and Mahatma Gandhi, according to Inc.com.
With introverts comprising a large percent of the population, it's safe to assume they will make up a good amount of your conference attendees and even some speakers. To pull off a truly inclusive and successful event, meeting planners must take their needs into account. Below are a few suggestions for getting started.
1. Rethink Networking Breaks
Contrary to popular belief, introverts don't hate socializing. According to Business Insider, they enjoy social situations but prefer to do so in smaller groups and in settings that aren't too noisy or overwhelming.
Rather than corralling everyone into a large, crowded conference hall, MemberClicks, a membership-management software company, recommends creating intimate gathering spaces for networking. Consider setting up small, dinner- or cocktail-style tables in a breakout room. The tables will help limit the number of people in a conversation, making them more approachable.
2. Create an Onsite Quiet Space
Introverts need time alone or in quiet spaces to recharge, according to Heathline. This is particularly important for multiday events that can be draining.
MemberClicks suggests setting aside a designated quiet space at the venue, where attendees can get a little rest and relaxation. A dimly lit "Zen Den" could include couches, light snacks, a sound machine and even massage therapists. Thirty minutes in the Zen Den will have guests feeling refreshed and ready to rejoin the fray.
3. Prioritize Wellness Activities
Wellness is a rapidly rising trend in the meetings industry. According to Social Tables, an event-planning software company 56 percent of meeting professionals believe health-and-wellness programs impact overall meeting success. They're also a great way to recharge.
As such, meeting planners might want to consider adding in a few health-minded activities to the conference schedule. A morning yoga session or a mindfulness meditation at the end of the day are two good options.
4. Allow People to Submit Questions via Phone
Q&As at the end of a conference session are always a gamble. Microphones sometimes don't work, running through the aisles to pass the microphone to the next person wastes time, and introspective attendees might be hesitant to speak up in a crowded room.
Instead, Social Tables recommends inviting people to submit questions via the event app, or through social media platforms like Twitter. The session speaker can then select a handful of the most pertinent submissions to answer.
A few minor adjustments can go a long way to improve the event experience of introverted attendees. Some changes, such as submitting questions via Twitter and moving networking breaks to a smaller room, won't even cost a thing.