Volunteering: An Introvert’s Path to Conference Networking

IEEE Computer Society Team
Published 03/05/2024
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How to volunteer as an introvertAttending a conference and networking typically go hand-in-hand, and both can expand your knowledge and your social and professional circles. If you happen to be a bit of an introvert, however, your insides might curl into a fetal upon hearing the dreaded networking word. To help yourself unfurl, try volunteering.

Volunteering at a conference gives introverts and other small-talk-averse humans a structured entry point to begin enjoying the advantages of both conferences and networking. It can also open doors to other opportunities down the road.


Benefits of Volunteering at a Conference

The biggest benefit of volunteering is that it gives you a formal role to play alongside other volunteers. This structures communications around tasks during training and during the event, making conversations with others a lot easier.

Depending on the size of the conference, volunteers can play varied roles. Smaller conferences with fewer staff members might even let you define your own role or play several roles over the course of the event. And the best part? Talking with people is almost always part of the job.

Other benefits of volunteering at a conference include the following:

  • Easy networking opportunities. In addition to meeting other volunteers and conference staff members, many volunteers also help conference attendees, speakers, and/or vendors. These interactions might include small talk about the event, but they can also lead to deeper discussions about ideas and interests, and you never know where you might find common ground.
  • Free stuff. Volunteers are typically offered at least one day off to attend the conference and conference sessions free of charge. Many conferences also offer discounts on lodging and free meals during the event.
  • Vantage points. Depending on your role, you might be able to observe the conference sessions, attendees, and speakers and vendors while you’re volunteering. Watching other people navigate the events can make participating on your own less intimidating.
  • Knowledge. While learning how to set up tables or look up names for registration might not change your life, interacting with new people and getting more comfortable with it can. You’ll also learn during sessions, whether observing as a volunteer or while attending on your own time.
  • Resume building. Some conferences let second-time volunteers level-up in their responsibilities. You can also parlay your experience volunteering at one conference into higher-level roles at another.



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Identify Opportunities

The first step in volunteering is to explore which events recruit volunteers and which make sense for you to attend. Most larger conferences have volunteer pages on their website; examples include the following, which can give you a more detailed idea of the roles and perks of conference volunteering:

If you’re interested in smaller conferences or workshops that don’t include volunteer information on their site, send an email to the general information contact and let them know that you’d like to volunteer. When you do, consider listing your skill sets. Small events are often understaffed and have far fewer resources, so the roles available might offer greater diversity and greater opportunities to shine.


Get Started

To find a conference or workshop aligned with your location or your interests, you can search https://confs.tech; you can also search for IEEE Computer Society events by keyword, date, and/or region or check out our list of Top Computer Science events.

For broader advice on how introverts can better manage networking at a conference, this Entrepreneur blog provides five essential tips, while Esri offers a 30-point guide. To dive into why networking matters, see “Five Reasons Why” to attend networking events. If you’re interested in opportunities to volunteer and network in various capacities year-round, check out the IEEE Computer Society’s Volunteer page.