Conference excitement—or anxiety? How to maximize your experience of large-group settings

Does the word “networking” boost your energy level? Or does it give you social anxiety? When it comes to large conferences, people’s comfort levels with socializing can vary. No matter where you land on the conference trepidation scale, we have a few tips to help you get the most out of AASHE—and any other networking events you might have on your calendar.


It’s AASHE conference season!

So, how do you feel about that?

Whether you’re a newbie or a repeat attendee, you might anticipate conferences with jubilation or trepidation.

You might fall into the extroverted camp—you can’t wait to take in all the ideas, meet new people, catch up with old friends, get inspired by this annual meeting of sustainability leaders from all over North America.

Or you might be like a great many of us: anxious. You probably picture yourself entering a gigantic convention center expo hall amidst a sea of faces and feel lost, alone, self-conscious, and overwhelmed.

You’re not alone. Really.

We have all been there—or rather, are still there. Even the most gregarious-seeming among us may be secretly harboring a desire to sneak off to our hotel rooms to hide under the covers and watch Friends reruns.

Even if you’re an extrovert, conferences can be challenging. GreenerU’s change management team gets human behavior. It’s foundational to how we do our work. So we pulled together a few tips and tricks to cope—and thrive—at AASHE this year, and anywhere else you may be conferencing.


If you’re low on the conference jitters scale

If conferences excite you, awesome! This is your opportunity to help out your fellow conferees, especially the ones who may be new and don’t know anyone, and/or may not enjoy the social parts of conferences.

  • Think croissant, not donut. When talking in a group, open up your circle to signal inclusivity.
  • Strike up a conversation pre-presentation. Invite someone to sit next to you who is trying to find a place to sit, then introduce yourself. And—don’t forget—ask that person some questions to get to know them. 
  • Play matchmaker. Find the overlaps of interests between people you have talked to and introduce them to each other.


If you’re high on the conference jitters scale
  • Smile, look around, and say hello. It’s amazing how a friendly face attracts other friendly faces.
  • Work the edges. Introduce yourself to someone on the edge who is looking down at their phone. There is a good chance they are also wondering how to connect.
  • Join in conversations. Look for people who aren’t standing too close together—a sign they could be having a private conversation—and introduce yourself.
  • Have a buddy system. If you know someone there, make a deal to introduce each other to at least three other people, even those you just met.


Talk to us—we want to connect

We love to chat about anything—serious or silly—and our booth is set up to be an escape if you need it to be. We’ve got Jenga trivia and mini bean bag toss and an opportunity to guess where AASHE 2020 will be. And you can feel good about taking a break with us: when you play our booth games, we’ll make a contribution to The Gold Standard, a nonprofit that verifies carbon offset programs.

To help you start the conversation, here’s who you might find at our booth:

  • Lisa is an avid biker, marathoner, and co-op dweller in downtown Boston 
  • Dallase loves to sew and is a little obsessed with The Great British Baking Show right now
  • Jen is a cocktail master and wants to see pictures of your pets (like this one or this one)
  • David fences (with an epee, not pickets) and has a soft spot for vinyl records and jazz

Remember, at its core, the AASHE conference is about building community. Sharing great ideas and learning doesn’t only happen at workshops and presentations, but from the connections we make and relationships we build. And working together is what it’s going to take to solve climate change.


If you are attending AASHE in Spokane this year (October 27–30), come join us for games and conversation at our booth—you don’t have to soldier through a huge conference alone. Come visit us and tell us what challenges you’re facing right now! We are set up for on-the-spot consulting. Or just come decompress and play a game. See you there!

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