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Lessons learned from #Inbound12, Susan Cain, Rick Roberge, and Marcus Sheridan

Posted by peggy on 04, Sep, 2012

I am really nervous. What if people do not like Susan’s talk? What if people start to leave the room? My stomach hurts. Should I sneak out of the room? Here I am a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders, sitting in an inbound marketing conference at a psychology talk. I am uncomfortable.

Postwire teammates Cliff Pollan, Peggy Kriss & Carrie Kuempel at Inbound12

Some background. I am at HubSpot’s Inbound12 conference–not for mental health first aid–but rather to work my other day job helping to bring Postwire, a Sponsor of Inbound12 to market. I am standing at our booth in the Marketplace, but I decide how cool to hear a “psychology” talk at a sales and marketing summit.

I had already gone to Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah’s talk on the launch of HubSpot3 and thoroughly enjoyed the good cheer and positive energy of the room. Everyone seemed comfortable and no one was leaving.

It’s that horrible after lunch hour, and everyone knows that is the hardest time to keep an audience happy. Digestion leads to loss of attention and fatigue. Oh dear.

Susan Cain starts out with a sensitive story about what it was like for her to be an introvert at camp. She speaks with a quiet voice and a zen-like energy field. OK, sensitive start, I think. She explains that she is getting over bronchitis, and, although she doubts it, might have to leave the room temporarily if she gets a coughing attack. Hmm. What if she has to leave? Will that be OK? Will people start to get antsy?

I listen and wonder when she’s going to get to the connection to inbound marketing. When is she going to mention HubSpot3? Are people wondering if this talk is going to be worthwhile?

Try and just listen. Then she says something that makes me sorry I did not leave: she tells us that we are going to break up into groups of six and talk about an anxiety provoking social experience we each have had. What?! They do this in business settings?! They can barely get away with this in psych conventions! I hear the rumble of discontent and my anxiety heightens. Time passes slowly. Then I hear in the same zen-like quiet voice: “I am only kidding.”  It was said without modulation, very in the moment, but everyone seemed to hear it. I found that very interesting. Everyone  seems to have heard the quiet bombshell.

I begin to relax, stay put and see what I might learn. I am still worried that people will  leave.

Susan starts to present some psychological research. She shows Solomon Asch’s work on group conformity and demonstrates that group situations can create “groupthink”–the opposite of creative, unique thinking. Everyone agrees with each other and new and different ideas are nowhere to be seen. She explains that introverts are not smarter than extroverts, but that they are less susceptible to “groupthink” (as they like to spend more time alone) and therefore do have an edge on the probability of innovative thought.

Hmm. Introverts might like this talk. She is saying some very nice things about them.

Susan does not like group brainstorming, but interestingly says that “electronic brainstorming” is OK as the Internet provides the needed buffer (i.e., quiet, time, space) to allow more individualistic thought to be produced. I am starting to like this talk. I am feeling somewhat less anxious and enjoying the intellectual content. I am still wondering how the rest of the audience is doing.

Susan says acceptance of introverts is going to be the next great diversity issue. I sit taller in my chair. I like diversity talk. Pictures of open plan office configurations abound on the screen–the American Disabilities Act should be read.

Susan makes the point that businesses will be way more successful and innovative if they pay attention to the needs of 30 to 50% of the workplace population: introverts, of course.

Leadership is being discussed. Susan says that too many people mistake extroversion for leadership. Another positive plug for introverts.

Susan quietly ends her talk. There is applause. Something very strange is happening. There is a sense of zen-like quiet and contentment in the room.  No one rushes out like they did in the other talks. Slowly, people start to get up and I hear quiet personal conversations: “That’s me.” “I think I am both.” “Can you be both an introvert and an extrovert?”  “You are? No you aren’t!” “Yes I am”.

I think about myself.  I am definitely an extrovert, I think. I ponder my hour long anxiety, being reminded of lots of other socially anxious moments, and tell myself to ask Susan if you can be both.

Over the next few hours I get a chance to ask people what they think of Susan’s talk. I am a bit nervous again, wondering what they will say. I particularly am nervous about the men. Yes, I am definitely stereotyping. I start to hear reactions that surprise me. The reactions I hear are quietly very positive. Rick Roberge–a la @Rainmakermaker–was quite taken with the talk. I, like many that day, express surprise that he self-identifies as an introvert. But he does and he wrote a blog to prove it.

I am  glad that I left the Marketplace to hear Susan’s talk. It reminds me that lessons are great–intellectual ones and also life ones.

Funny, this morning, as I prepared to write this blog, I read a life lesson from Marcus Sheridan’s blog, a la @TheSalesLion. What an impact Inbound12 had on us all. Thank you HubSpot, Susan, Rick, and Marcus!

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