Conference Etiquette 101
|My most recent conference = Mom 2.0|
Conferences are a big part of doing business these days. Regardless of whether you are attending trade shows for your retail store, social media events for your blog, or just taking part in a local commerce activity, there is a need to understand how your behavior and expectations can directly influence whether the cost of attending a conference will be worth it in the end. Before you shell out big bucks for that conference ticket, check out our must-read list of basic manners for the conference attendee:
1. Be prepared to work.
This is especially important if you are representing a brand at an event. Attending a conference isn't just so you can hang out with other bloggers at parties and take home swag. In fact, those that get the most out of events from a business and cash flow perspective come armed with a strict work ethic and a focus on relationships – not freebies. Attending sessions, chatting with peers, and keeping up with the day-to-day of your business can be tiring, but it will pay off in the end for those who are committed.
- Don't overstay your welcome.
This is a classic newbie mistake. You find an expert in the industry or someone you know from online, and are taken by their IRL (in real life) approachability. You talk, hang out for a bit, and proceed to tag along with their next activity. Even if a new contact at a conference doesn't explicity say so, you may be infringing on their plans and flexibity to pursue other conversations and sessions. Unless invited to go with them in their conference plans, wrap up your conversation when appropriate, exchange business cards, and be on your way.
- Keep cool.
Overdrinking, getting loud, or even full-blown catfights have occurred at conferences. As if the eventgoers have somehow forgotten that they are, indeed, someone's mother, they get crazy and lose their heads. Remember that even if it wasn't bad business to act out and do inappropriate Lohan-style antics at a conference, it can kill your personal life, as well. You don't want to end up on someone's Flickr feed with your head in the toilet. It may not reflect well on your PTA position or your church volunteer duties.
- Follow Up.
Handing out cards is just step one of “getting out there and meeting people.” As you've probably received some cards, yourself, it's a good idea to reach out and make contact again within one week of getting back from any conference. Follow your new contacts on Twitter, subscribe to the really good one's RSS feeds or Google connect accounts, and shoot off a personalized email thanking them for chatting with you and including an action item to make sure you keep in touch. For extra emphasis, you may try sending a handwritten note of thanks to those that you really want to remember you.
- Respect the Sponsors.
Conferences just couldn't be without sponsors. Whether you have a sponsor for your own trip, or just want to get to know the exhibit hall attendees better, there are a few guidelines you should follow to keep on their good side. First, don't have a “gimmee” attitude towards them. They shell out big bucks to be there and have their brand messaging all around you. Asking for samples or advertising, when it isn't being blatantly offered, is tacky and will likely get you blacklisted from furture partnerhips. You will also want to follow the rules of the event with regards to promoting your personal sponsor. Do not leave business cards on tables, host events at the same hotel, or try to steal attention away from the official sponsors of an event without permission from the conference organizers. Most have clear rules on these types of activities.
Conferences change a little every year in format and focus. The rules of engagement for making them work, however, have not. Use common sense, business manners, and a sense of pride when attending, and you'll go far to promote yourself and your brand.
Are there any seasoned attendees in our audience? What conference rules would you like to share?