The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos is not the easiest event for me – I have a serious disability: I’m an introvert. Dana, my (much) better half, lovingly mentioned yesterday that a hermit is more extrovert than me… So the question is – how to survive a high network event such as this? It’s not easy, but I’ve honed my skills over the years. Here are some tips and reminders that help me get the most from such events without totally collapsing in a dark corner of the Convention Center.

I remind myself that:

 I’m not alone: half the world is introverted, which means that even at the WEF a certain number of people are like me. They won’t admit it as it’s probably akin to admitting to a venereal disease, but they are there, lurking in the corridors too…

The number of name cards collected is not that important: many flaunt how many cards they gathered. But introverts know this is not a good objective: what really matters is the quality of the interaction. Introverts know it’s better to have 2 good interactions than 150 cards from people you don’t remember!

I’ve also identified some effective tools at my disposal:

the toilet break: when in need of a well-deserved break and time to reflect, I head towards the place where I am nearly sure I will not have to interact: the bathrooms. Despite the unsavory environment, it can provide the few minutes I need to gather my thoughts. Considering how many cubicles are busy at all times (and for long periods of time), I think I’m not alone in this…

the gadget: when I need a break, I tweet, send a message or check my email on my phone, tablet or computer. I have seen all of you, o my peers, going up and down in corridors, eyes glued to your gadget… I’m not the only one!

the sessions: a great place where you do not need to talk to many people; I concentrate on the person next to me and if I am lucky…

the companion: my life is so much easier when I’m with someone at a conference and we can play tag!

This said, I regularly kick myself, get out there in the den, smile, introduce myself, shake hands, make small talk, listen and even share name cards… but, dear peers of mine, if you meet me, grab me and let’s have meaningful conversation somewhere quiet, and if you have more tricks for all of us introverts, don’t hesitate to share with me!


Author: Sebastien Marot, Executive Director, Friends-International, Cambodia; Regional Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Asia, 2009.

Friends-International works to protect marginalized youth, providing them opportunity to become productive citizens. It offers a range of social services for children, young people, and their families, including education, vocational training, and job placement. To increase its impact, the organization has developed extensive community safety networks as well as partnerships with businesses working in travel and tourism. Friends also works in Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Egypt, Mexico, and Honduras.

Image: A participant is reflected in a mirror during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos – REUTERS/Denis Balibouse