Channel Your Inner Animal This Conference Season

We’ve all been there. Day one at a massive conference and the wave of people in the convention center threatens your composure with its undertow. How do you keep your poise and navigate through the event’s activities? Here are some tips from the animal kingdom to help you make the most of your time.

1 – Be Bold
The Peacock with its large array of colorful feathers and eye markings easily attracts the attention of peahens. How can you stand out in the crowd? Psychologists Stephen Palmer and Karen Schloss of UC Berkeley studied people’s preferences to color and found that “…brightly saturated colors were preferred over the same hues that were muted or pastel”[i] and “Bright reds, blues, and green, were the most highly favored colors.”[ii] So show up in your brightest attire and strut your stuff!

conference songbird

2 – Have Your Pitch
Songbirds are always well equipped with a tune to woo their mate, and can sing it repeatedly. “Just as a male’s song advertises his territorial boundaries to rivals, it also lets nearby females know that he is strong and able to defend a good region.”[iii] What’s your ditty to win clients and collaborators over? In your head, set your pitch to a melody so you will have it ingrained and at the ready.

conference dolphin

3 – Socialize
Dolphins interact with other dolphins and sea creatures on a daily basis through play that helps them connect and learn to read behaviors. “Play…allows dolphin calves to learn important social skills and acquire information about the characteristics and predispositions of members of their social group, particularly their peers.“[iv] Taking a playful approach is a great way to break the ice with new people. Try out a few jokes and see how people react.

conference tortoise

4 – Pace Yourself
Like the tortoise in The Tortoise and the Hare fable, “Slow but steady progress wins the race.”[v] We don’t advocate walking in slow motion—that would be torture for everyone on the stairs or escalators—but remembering to slow down can help you engage fully in activities without overdoing it!

conference elephant

5 – Memorizing Names & Faces
Elephants have some of the best intellectual capacity in the animal world and remember events from many years back essential to their survival. They can even remember dead relatives. “Studies have also found that the elder female elephants exhibit signs of a superior memory, alerting the herd if a familiar danger arises or an old feeding site is recognized.”[vi] Take a note from the elephant and use memory aids like GULP, “Get it, Use it, Link it, Picture it”[vii] or link things you learn to rhymes[viii]. You met a Mary, a Mark, and a Tom in that order. Picture Mary eating a bun, for one-bun, imagine Mark wearing tennis shoes, for two-shoe, and Tom climbing a tree, for three-tree, etc.

conference kangaroorat

6 – Takeaway
Kangaroo Rats are keen packers. With pouches on the outside of their cheeks, they store seeds and carry them back to their burrows to use later.[ix] While you may not have “cheek pouches”, you will likely have a new tote bag and some great new contacts. According to Elisa Brenneman of Ethos 360, “Strike while the iron is hot, don’t let more than a week go by before following up the meeting.”[x] Turn those business cards into real relationships.

What conferences will you attend?
Meet us at the watering hole at the NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Jose this March and ComNet16 in Detroit in September! Reach out to us if you plan on going—we hope to see you there. Like this post? Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more to come!

[iv] Kuczaj, S. A., & Eskelinen, H. C. (2014). Why do dolphins play? Animal Behavior and Cognition, 1(2), 113-127. doi: 10.12966/abc.05.03.2014