Come talk to me, because I won't come over to talk to you.

A strange and arrogant title if you read the title without context, but let me explain. I’m what people would call a regular conference speaker. I do not see myself as such, but I do spent a lot of time on conferences around the world. I talk about a broad range of subjects, resulting in speaking at a broad range of conferences. It’s really great being able to travel a lot and meeting lots of people.

But the truth is, I don’t really meet that many people. I will be around them, but not really meet them. During these conferences, you will see me hanging around working on a computer, probably strolling around the conference venue or even around the block if it’s nice weather or just a lovely city to be at. But I won’t participate a lot in the what is called the “hallway track” a lot. This hallway track is what happens during coffee-breaks, lunches, and even when people skipping talks and just sit around socializing (most likely those will be speakers, as we are less interested in other talks because we’ve already seen them a few times already). I most likely won’t be at socials, or when I do, it would be not for long.

But my lack of participation is not voluntarily. It’s just that I just really can’t do it. The reason for this is that (after over 30 years of trying to figuring out what’s wrong), I’ve been diagnosed with the Asperger Syndrome. A mild form of Autism that manifests itself with me - among other things - as being a very inward and socially inept person. I find it really difficult to talk to others, because not only is this a very energy-consuming endeavor for me, but also I’m just not able to socialize they way others can. I find it really hard to talk about nothing, or even be among others for a long period of time.

For those who know me, but didn’t knew this, they might find this as a bit of surprise. Because most likely they converse and socialize with me just the same as with the next guy. And on many occasions, I can do so because either I know you - which makes it much easier for me to talk to - or, you started and are leading the conversation. And this makes it a bit strange from an outside perspective I guess. And especially considering I speak at conferences as well. People automatically think this is only reserved for extrovert people who like to be in the spotlight. And lot of speakers do, but I know lot of speakers who don’t. They just want to talk about the things they really love.

Try the following experiment with me (and make sure I’m not aware of it, otherwise your results might be tainted): talk to me one on one. After a few minutes, get somebody else into the conversation. Most likely that I will stop talking and just go into listening mode. I probably won’t even say a single word anymore. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not that all of a sudden I don’t like to speak anymore, speaking is exhausting for me, and it’s much easier for me to listen to others, and I really enjoy listening to others. But this is something that is considered anti-social behaviour: sitting around with people, not saying a word makes you a bit of the odd-one-out. It happened in the past, and it still happens a lot.

So, next time I’m at a conference, sitting quiet in a corner, or just strolling around. Just come over and say hi, or ask me anything you want to ask. If i’m busy, i’ll let you know, but most likely I would enjoy conversing with you. Either about me, what I do, the subject I speak about. Anything really, it’s just that I’m not really able to start them…

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