I did an inward eye roll at a recent strategy meeting. There: I admit it. I'm not proud of it, believe me. I'm fully aware that the cause of my eye roll, a comment made by a fellow conference planner, was very well intentioned, indeed.
However, as I sat listening to this person animatedly explain why a Burning Man theme would surely add the needed spark to our client's been-there-done-that annual conference, all I could think about were the introverts.
You know Burning Man. It takes place once a year in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, drawing tens of thousands of people who gather together to create art, and to celebrate (sometimes brazenly so) self-expression and community.
Now, to be clear: We weren't discussing the extreme version of Burning Man─naked body painting and the like. No, my colleague was suggesting an ice-breaker called Passion Heart, which would play off a central Burning Man premise that every intention has a motivation.
“So, we ask attendees about what makes their hearts sing" she enthused, “and we have them write down why they are passionate about attending the event!"
This is the point in the meeting where I began shifting uncomfortably in my seat. Then came my inner eye roll and a primal desire to protect the introverts.
Why? Because if an introvert is asked to publicly share what makes their hearts sing, well, they'd probably shrivel up into the fetal position and stay like that until the conference came to an end.
According to a trending Huffington Post article, 23 Reasons You're Secretly an Extrovert, which received 1.3 million 'likes' on Facebook, “introverts are notoriously small talk-phobic, as they find idle chatter to be a source of anxiety, or at least annoyance. For many quiet types, chitchat can feel disingenuous."
I think you get my point. Plus, I've planned enough meetings, conferences and tradeshows over the last 30 years to know that approximately 50 per cent of attendees are introverts. Given the stats, why oh, why would we purposely plan pain inducing activities?
Logistics like geographic location, venue, accommodation, food and beverage are hugely important, but a planner with her eye on the ball knows that intelligent and thoughtful meeting design begins with people.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Take this five-minute quiz from Fortune magazine