Chances are you've attended at least a few conferences in your career and already know the basic tips and tricks to make them successful: Go for drinks with people you've met after the conference; don't be shy; know your elevator pitch; plan out your schedule; etc.
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This is basic advice any Google search can give you.
That isn't what this article is about.
Rather, this article is focused on the micro-details – the very small things that make all the difference at conferences. Check out five of them below:
1. Hold Your Drink With Your Left Hand
Let's imagine the scenario: You go to a conference after-party and someone wants to shake your hand, but alas, your right hand is occupied by a freezing cold drink! You switch your drink to your left and remove any remaining moisture from your right by wiping it on your pants. Smiling awkwardly (and probably apologizing), you finally meet hands with the person standing across from you, welcoming them with a cold and slightly wet mitt.
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Does this sound at all familiar?
If so, then join 90 percent of people. The good news is there's a simple fix. All you need to do is hold your drink with your left hand.
This means no more cold hands, no more water marks on your pants, and no more awkward first impressions. Plus, now you get to chuckle to yourself every time you see someone else performing the handshake shuffle.
2. Learn How to Toast Properly
This one is primarily for North Americans. When they raise a glass, they usually look at the glasses as they clink and then proceed to take a healthy sip of their beverage.
No problem, right? Well, that's fine if you're only meeting with people from your continent. In many European cultures, however, it's very rude to not look someone in the eye when you toast. If you're superstitious, it's considered incredibly bad luck.
If you want to make great, lasting impressions, then you need to stay informed on cultural customs and standards. Every country has slightly different traditions, so educate yourself – especially if you know you plan on meeting with an executive from outside your country.
3. Never Discredit Anyone
It's a small world, and you never know whom you're talking to or whom that person might know. Making a great impression on someone who is lower down in the company can be a way either to learn more about the inner workings of the business or to get a foot in the door to talk to more senior members.
Tim Ferriss has a great speech on this. He describes going to a conference and talking to a gentleman for 10-15 minutes, not expecting to get anything significant out of it. As fate would have it, the man's cousin was Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold), which earned Tim an introduction and led to him being featured on Spurlock's show, A Day in the Life.
The point is simple: Don't dismiss anyone, because you never know whom they're connected to. Don't discredit anyone or look over your shoulder for someone else to talk to. Instead, devote your full attention to the conversation you're in and figure out a way to ask the right questions. When you feel it's time for the conversation to end, politely excuse yourself.
4. Use Mnemonic Devices to Remember Names
If you're one of those people who hears a name and instantly forgets it, don't worry. You're in good company. It's highly common to meet someone and immediately have their name escape you.
Your solution? Mnemonic devices.
A mnemonic device is a technique a person can use to help improve their ability to remember something. In this case, word association is the technique.
People have a tendency to make snap decisions based on the way people look and act. In a study, researchers suggested it takes one-tenth of a second to make a judgement about someone. That's fast, and it means you're already making snap decisions about people as soon as you meet them. You can actually use this to your benefit.
Say you meet someone named Betty who looks like a sweet older lady. You can instantly relate that sweetness with dessert and dessert with Betty Crocker. Yes, this does require just a little bit more effort, but you'll thank yourself later when it's time to go through your business cards and you have names saved to faces.
5. Clean Up Your Social Media Pages
If you haven't done this already, get on it now. This is an important tip for any professional – especially those who are about to attend a conference. It's almost guaranteed you will have one or two people go to add you on social media, and there is no telling which page that will be. Twitter and Facebook are just as likely as LinkedIn.
Do an audit of your internet presence. If your Myspace account is still up, it's time to get those photos taken down. It's great if you made an awesome impression on people at the conference, but if they go to your Facebook and see pictures of you from your college days partaking in unflattering activities, then you can say goodbye to any clout you may have earned.
In addition to deleting inappropriate pictures, it's also good to update your profile picture and maybe even create a few posts that are loosely business-related in the days leading up to the conference.
Taylor Kerby is a film buff, a photographer, and the creative director at Cave Social, an international marketing agency with offices in Fort Lauderdale and Toronto. You can connect with him on Twitter or via his weekly marketing series In The Cave on YouTube.