I volunteered to be part of the planning committee for our annual office End of Year Retreat (aka holiday party). I did so for the express reason of making it more introvert-friendly, as it is traditionally an event I loathe, even though we get out of work early and get free food.
Usually, the gathering consists of some mingling time before food comes out, some eating, and then some kind of annoying, attention-drawing activity. The worst was the White Elephant exchange. That wasn’t just the introverts that hated that game though – you might say the white elephant in the room was that everyone hated the game (haha!). I always dreaded the moment when it was my turn to go pick a package and have everyone stare at me while I unwrapped some crappy “gift.” I always just picked the one closest to me, and never took the option of “stealing” someone else’s gift. This was designed to minimize the amount of time everyone’s attention would be on me. We haven’t done the White Elephant game for the past few years, which is nice, but one year we had something even worse—karaoke. Our director was donating $5 to charity for every person who got up to sing, so I really felt pressured to do it, and I did (I sang “Livin’ On a Prayer” with a few other people), but it was a very introvert-unfriendly activity.
I also hate the mingling time. So this year, the mingling time will be minimized by having the food come out earlier, and also having more of a meal instead of just appetizers. This wasn’t my idea, but it serves my purposes very well. [Insert evil laugh here.] Food gives introverts something to do besides stand around awkwardly if they are not engaged in an interesting conversation. It also provides a built-in conversation topic. Someone suggested that we should have assigned seating to force people to interact with different people, but I vetoed that. That is one thing I absolutely loathe. It’s fine for conference lunches and other events designed for networking, because it forces me to do what I’m there to do, but an “End of the Year Retreat,” with people I work with every day, should be a chance to relax, kick back, and have fun. The last thing a introverts find relaxing and fun is being forced to have an awkward conversation with someone with whom they are not choosing to socialize.