Have you ever given a presentation and thought afterward, “Well…that could have been better…”?

We’ve all been there. You thought you had it figured out, you had a plan and you played the tape beforehand in your mind. It all seemed good – until it wasn’t. We teach our clients that true mastery of presentations and content requires real practice or rehearsal.

Guess what? The same is true for social events – you need just as much preparation there. And as we enter the first big conference season of the new year, here’s an easy top 5 list for being memorable (for the right reasons) at your next conference social event.

1. Have a plan. Why are you there and what is your purpose? You are there for a reason – know what that is. There is always something to be gained – personally and/or professionally – know what you want to achieve. Just as a conference has an agenda, you should have your own personal agenda as well. And just like more formal presentations, showing up and “winging it” is rarely your best play.

2. Have a solid greeting. Make it personal – to you and the person you are meeting. Ask a question – “How are you?” or “How was your day?” Sometimes that’s the whole conversation!

We were working with a client recently, and the Head of Sales was making this same point to a group of salespeople – they laughed at how seemingly obvious and stupid this greeting sounded. He then asked them a question – “OK, who is the salesguy you know who’s most comfortable being spontaneous or off the cuff?” The whole room answered with the same name. The Head of Sales then demonstrated the 7 different opening lines and voice/tone inflections that Mr. “Spontaneous” actually rehearsed meticulously – all to make the person he was meeting feel comfortable and get them talking.

Meet and greets at the conference social are key. The conference gives you the meet, you need to bring the greet, and that requires thoughtfulness. Now if you tend to forget names after introductions –my colleague Eli Murphy has some helpful advice there.

3. Tell a story. Not about work! Don’t be the person who can’t flip the switch from professional to social. You’ve been talking and listening to shop stuff ALL DAY. Give it a break. It’s a social event after all. Keep the story light and short – 60-90 seconds is a good general starting point.

If the other person wants to talk shop, they can ask. But research shows they will remember you for a good story – not your company description.

4. Tell a joke. If jokes aren’t your thing, have a good anecdote. Either way, run those by some trusted friends to make sure they are appropriate and actually have some element of humor. Without pre-planning, too many attempts at humor end with nothing more than the sound of crickets.

5. Smile. It makes everyone feel a little better after a long day at a conference.


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