Going to conferences is very much about connecting and networking. Actually, the success and financial and strategic benefit of the conference depends on the people you connect with and the quality of the relations you build while at the event.

However, there are many ways to connect. It all comes down to an active choice. Is your approach serious, a bit shy, energetic, cautious or jaded? Being aware of how you to approach people is your first step to getting the most out of events such as Qonnections.

You've heard it before: connecting with a smile as your go-to choice can have a huge impact, both on your own mood and on your success at a conference as well.

I believe you can benefit from a smile and that it can influence our success, sense of happiness and the opportunities presented to us during the course of a day or even more when attending a conference like Qonnections.

1. Endorphins are released when you smile

According to Jennifer Smith in her post 7 Benefits of Smiling and Laughing You Didn't Know About, "Endorphins are triggered by the movements of the muscles in your face, which is interpreted by your brain, which in turn releases these chemicals. Endorphins are responsible for making us feel happy, and they also help lower stress levels. Faking a smile or laugh works as well as the real thing—the brain doesn’t differentiate between real or fake as it interprets the positioning of the facial muscles in the same way. This is known as the facial feedback hypothesis. The more we stimulate our brain to release this chemical the more often we feel happier and relaxed."

2. Smiling helps you relax

Conferences can be loud, overwhelming spaces with too much information and too little time to process and digest it. Even extroverts can find themselves challenged not to feel fatigued at conferences, and it's not an exaggeration to say that those who self-identify as introverts can find them downright nightmarish.

So here's the good news: the endorphins that are released when you smile help to decrease your stress levels and aid relaxation.

250px-Guillaume_Benjamin_Amand_Duchenne_Courtesy_Wiki_Commons.jpeg3. Smiling makes you happy

Did you know that there is a name for the smile that is the most authentic expression of pure joy? It's called the Duchenne smile, named after Guillaume Duchenne, a 19th century French physician and one of the founders of modern neurology. He spent a lot of time uncovering the connections between muscle control and brain functions, which is apparently how you get the "authentic smile of happiness" named after you!

And there is research to back up the claim that smiling this particular smile makes you happy:

"... Berkeley researchers concluded the Duchenne smile is so effective that 95% of people who use it experience authentic happiness. That means only 5% of people are able to fake happiness with this smile.

The message of this research is incredibly simple: tug at that zygomatic major (the corners of your mouth), then scrunch up those orbicularis oculi (the corners of your eyes) … then feel positivity and good energy flow, unleashing myriad health and life benefits."

4. Smiling is contagious

In a paper published last year, Adrienne Wood, a Ph.D. student in psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, details research showing that people unconsciously mimic facial expressions when trying to understand them. From her report entitled Fashioning the Face:

"When we observe a facial expression of emotion, we often mimic it... When people simulate a perceived facial expression, they partially activate the corresponding emotional state in themselves, which provides a basis for inferring the underlying emotion of the expresser."

In short, when you see a facial expression such as a smile in someone else, your brain automatically begins calculating how to interpret it and to formulate the appropriate social response to it. In so doing, however, our facial muscles unconsciously mimic the same expression and end up triggering that same emotional state.

5. Smiling makes you appear more approachable and trustworthy

So now that you know that a smile from you will automatically elicit an unconscious smile from anyone you come in contact with, is it any wonder that we generally find people who smile more approachable? (And, conversely, how we can all too easily infect others with a bad mood.) The good news here is that even if you're a natural introvert, you absolutely can be that charming, magnetic person who draws people to them.

And appearing approachable and trustworthy is highly important at events like conferences, where attendees' senses are assaulted with sound, images and event scents, all vying for their attention. With a smile, you can welcome that new prospect or important lead into your happy world. 

What if I don't feel like smiling?

But all this begs an important question: what if I don't feel like smiling? Won't my smile look fake? You just said only 5% of people could fake a Duchenne smile!

track your happiness.pngIf you're not comfortable "faking it 'til you make it," here are a few tips to help bring a smile to your face:

  • Do what makes you happy. If you're happiest surrounded by family, make sure you spend some time with them before you leave for Qonnections or whatever event you are attending. Kiss your spouse; play with your kids; walk the dog. Getting your base happiness in line before you leave will make it easier to feel happy at the event.
  • Track your happiness. There is a fabulous not-for-profit research project made into an app called Track Your Happiness that is currently asking tens of thousands of test subjects to rate their happiness level at various points throughout their days. While the app isn't designed specifically to increase your happiness but rather to gather data for research, it will help you to be more mindful of when, where and under what circumstances you do report being happy. And that insight can help you to be more mindful of daily actions you can take to increase your happiness.
  • When all else fails, watch cat videos. If you're just not feeling the endorphins, never fear! Watching cute cat videos, funny TV shows or even parody videos on your favorite video site can instantly buoy your mood. I dare you not to give a Duchenne smile after watching this baby elephant playing with a ribbon.