5 Survival Tips for Introverts Attending Big, Crowded Events

An introvert walks through a crowded event

Big events or parties can become overwhelming for us introverts, so look for little ways to maintain your energy.

I have no problem socializing with my family or close friends. I am comfortable doing so because I have known them for a long time, and I interact with them just a few at a time. There’s no having-to-get-to-know-you period.

But it’s an entirely different matter to attend big, crowded gatherings where almost everyone is a stranger (hello, holiday parties or awkward job-related networking events). Sure, for a short amount of time, I can make small talk. Of course, I need to recharge my energy afterward.

Yet, in everyday life, social interactions are required. The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to maintain your energy as an introvert when you have to attend a crowded event. 

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How Introverts Can Survive Crowded Events

1. Arrive early so you can pick the best spot.

One study found that about 20 percent of employees regularly arrive late to work. If you are an introvert, you can’t afford to be late for an event because people will notice your tardiness (hello, suddenly being the center of attention!). In addition, you may have to engage in unnecessary awkward interactions as you make your way to an available seat. Plus, you may have to explain your lateness later, which will further drain whatever energy you have left.

So arrive early and be prepared to stay for a while. When you arrive early, you can choose the best seat or standing spot for your needs. That way, you can still be alone among the crowd.

For example, find a seat or table on the fringes or near the back, which will enable you to move freely without having to ask people to move whenever you need to get out (i.e., escape to the bathroom). You could also choose a spot near the exit for the same purpose. 

2. Go with a “human shield,” a.k.a. your favorite extrovert or outgoing introvert.

As an introvert, you may find it challenging to interact with many people at once. But some people you know may actually like doing so. Your family members, friends, or your significant other may be more outgoing — and they may thrive in crowded situations. See if they’re willing to go to the event with you. This will enable you to talk less, since they will happily do most of the talking for you.

Or, you can go to the event with a colleague who enjoys socializing. There’s no shame in using them as a “human shield” while representing your company or department. While they schmooze with everyone, you can thoughtfully listen and pick up points for discussion later on (i.e., at the next company meeting).  

And, speaking of talking less…

3. Embrace your listening skills.

Remember: As an introvert, listening is one of your superpowers. We speak about 125 to 175 words a minute, but we’re able to listen to about 450 words a minute. Therefore, you’ll learn more by listening than by talking a lot. Also, when you aren’t talking, you can pay more attention to people’s body language, which can offer more information about their state of mind than what they actually say.

Plus, people feel understood and cared for when someone listens to them. So you may make a great first impression just by listening!

Once you’ve absorbed everything they’ve said, take the time to process it before adding your thoughts. That way, you’ll have something valuable to say based on all your gathered information.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

4. Look for small groups talking about topics you care about.

Even at the most crowded events, small groups tend to form because people with similar interests gravitate toward one another. That’s great news for introverts, as you’ll feel more at home if the topic is one you’re passionate about. Even if the group is talking about something similar to a topic you want to bring up, now’s your chance to change the subject to that one instead. And, when interacting in a small group, you won’t get socially burned out as quickly.

5. Block out the noise.

As an introvert, there may be times when you can’t take all the noise, small talk, or all the people anymore. But you also can’t leave the event… yet. In that case, you need a way to block out the noise.

You can do this in many ways: Listen to music or an audiobook (or just put on your earbuds to make it look like you’re listening to something or on a call; they’ll still help tune out some of the noise!); make an actual call; or excuse yourself to “step outside for a moment.” If you’re worried that these things will make you seem aloof or antisocial, remember that most people aren’t looking at you, anyway, and won’t even notice.

Yes, I know, having to attend crowded events and make small talk can be a nightmare for introverts. However, the more prepared you are, the more you’ll preserve your energy.

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