Conference Primer: The Sycophant’s Guide to Attending Conferences

After attending yesterday’s second annual YouComm conference, I wanted to pass along my new knowledge to other conference attendees. I’d attended conferences in the past and felt like I’d been left along the sidelines, unable to hob knob with my favorite tech comm celebrities. If you’ve ever felt this way, this guide’s for you. I cover tried-and-true strategies that have been used for years by the top thought  followers leaders to irritate other conference-goers and attempt to get themselves ahead.

This guide is broken into three sections to help you get the maximum sycophant value with the most amount of work.

Before the Conference

There are several things you should do to prepare for the conference before you even leave your house.

First, if you truly want to be a sycophant, you’ll need to review the posted presentation schedule to determine where your favorite presenters will be and when. Then you can build your schedule around finding them.

Second, make a mental copy, along with a mobile copy, of the venue map into your brain so you can head people off at the pass when they’re trying to go to the bathroom. It’s the best time to get someone’s attention, when other people likely won’t go there.

During the Conference

Your best sycophantic opportunities arise during the conference. Here are some focused sections that will help you reach the most people.

Compliment the Person

Gush openly about how great the presenter is. Bonus points if they’ve written books, been published in real publications, or appeared in videos/podcasts with other thought leaders. Be sure to point out as many pieces of content as you can remember from each publication, and use strong language such as, “OMG, the way you wrote [] was just so, I mean, inspiring.” [Pause for emphasis and drama, then continue] “It practically changed my life.”

Invade Personal Space

To truly show how much you value these people’’s contribution to the industry, get as close as you can.

If they back away or seem squeamish, lean in closer. They’re just being shy because, sometimes, it’s hard to be a celebrity. They don’t want to intimidate you by showing dominance and would prefer for you to do it instead.

Make Inappropriate Eye Contact

Stare deep into the person’s eyes, and even if they look away, be sure to hold your connection to their eyes for at least one minute.

Shamelessly Beg for Selfies

Because nothing says “I am your biggest fan” like insisting on the 21st century version of the autograph. Better still, make sure you continue hang out in the crowd surrounding all keynote speakers, and get yourself included in their selfies too.

Write Special Messages on Your Business Cards

Want to leave a lasting impression? Don’t just do what everyone else does by handing out a business card and never following up. Write a special message to your presenter before delivering the card, or share personal details about yourself to help them remember you. For example, you could say, “I was the tall lady in the green dress who asked for the autographed copy of your book while you were in the middle of eating lunch.”

After the Conference

Keep Networking!

If you want to be a LION you have to roar, so be sure to send LinkedIn invites to every person on the attendee list… all of them. Make sure you use a template message like “It was great meeting you at [name of conference]. Let’s connect and stay in touch.” If you want to add the contact from the hotel catering staff, that’s always a plus too.

Totes McGill

Totes McGill is a freelance journalist who spends most of her time reviewing the world of tech comm conferences and other cutting-edge events. She received an honorary graduate degree in emerging communications at Dakota A&M University. She is excited to take on her next role as an adjunct professor at the university. You can reach her at @totesmcgill.

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