By Meredith Parker, account associate
I’m the type of person who would reach the brink of insanity only days after being shipwrecked alone on a desert island. As an extrovert, I feel the most at ease when I am having meaningful exchanges with other people.
When I was informed that I would be attending my association’s annual conference within weeks of beginning my new position, I was ecstatic. The idea of meeting and greeting hundreds of people at the registration desk seemed like a great way to keep myself engaged and entertained as well as play to my strength of intrapersonal communication.
At 7:00am on the first day of the conference, I made my registration desk debut with gusto, making small talk and showering smiles upon every person who came into my presence. By 5:00pm, my feet ached in my too-small shoes and my skull was throbbing. After closing down Registration, all I could think about was fueling up with some hot food. I went to the Exhibition Hall and filled my tiny plate with an impressively large selection of eggrolls, sliders, and ravioli noodles. I had just taken a steaming bite of an eggroll when an attendee, alerted to my role by my STAFF name tag, tapped me on the shoulder and began to ask some conference-related questions.
At that moment, I could see her lips moving, but the words emitting forth were garbled together like the sounds coming out of a voice-changer toy. I sloshed through the mud of fatigue enveloping my cerebral cortex in an effort to understand what she was saying. I knew that the right words were there, but they were struggling to break free from behind a layer of gunk that had built up over 10 hours of expending energy through beatific smiles and energetic follow-up responses.
I composed myself and after a few moments of contemplation and was able to adequately respond to the member’s concerns. As soon as I had sent her on her way, I took my plate of food and went upstairs to my room. Sitting there, polishing off sliders and ravioli, I thought about the exchange.
Though I am an extrovert, I had never before reached my limit of interpersonal interaction; however, my first day of conference work taught me that even extroverts need to reserve their energy so they are able to provide a high level of customer service throughout a long day.
When registration opened at 7:00am on the second day of the conference, I was still warm and friendly in my exchanges with conference attendees, but I toned down the small talk and giant smiles. My colleagues and I also took advantage of low-traffic periods to take small breaks in the staff office. Even as an extrovert, I found that I needed those 5 or 10 minute periods of “me” time in order to recharge.
Utilizing this strategy for the rest of the conference allowed me to meet members with an appropriate level of customer service while still taking care of myself. I advise all personality types to be intentional about rationing their energy while they are at a conference so they are able to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities.
Have you ever found yourself “hitting a wall” at an event? What tips have you found that help to maintain a healthy balance during a conference?