I recently attended the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey, CA. In addition to taking place in one of the lovliest locations in the U.S., this gathering of IT-focused info pros from all types of libraries offers a great mix of sessions, workshops, and keynotes. And lots of opportunities for networking among people with shared interests.
In spite of the stereotypes, this conference has its fair share of extroverted attendees. They're the ones that stay up late chatting in the bar, and they don't struggle with striking up a conversation at the workshop luncheon. They share ideas and business cards, and some will stay connected throughout the year - building their network of colleagues.
Then there are the rest of us. We never know what to say, and we exhaust ourselves just trying to make small talk. We know we should be networking, but we nevertheless find every excuse to scurry toward any place where we can be alone. So, how do introverts get any sort of networking done at conferences and trade shows?
The answer is to get involved. Find a way to volunteer for the planning committee, moderate some sessions, or become a speaker. I've presented at Internet Librarian and other conferences for several years, and I've learned that many speakers are, in fact, introverts. When you're involved, it's easy to connect with others that are involved. You have some common ground.
I'd also like to encourage conference planners to help the introverts get involved. Internet Librarian does a great job of this, with their interactive sessions on gadgets and new technologies.
So, don't just attend a conference - get involved. You'll meet the nicest people.