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Attending conferences is a time honored tradition for those in the business world. It can be an unforgettable experience where you have the opportunity to learn about new and exciting trends in your industry, gain valuable insight, and have the chance to make incredible connections. There’s also sometimes the added bonus of getting out of your office or city for a couple of days as well.
But all those speakers you listen to, sessions you attend, and contacts you meet can also provide ample opportunities to turn a great opportunity into a disaster. Seasoned conference goers know how to manage their time, as well as stand out from the crowd. To help you become one of the elite, we’ve gathered some of the best advice from various experts to help you from committing a conference no-no.
Here’s what they had to say.
Bob Phibbs,@TheRetailDoctor. Author, blogger, and professional speaker on retail sales, training and marketing:
“Don’t share your “woe is me” stories about an order, your business or your personal life with others. That tends to encourage others to share theirs and we end up trying to come up with our trophy bad story that can go on a shelf just a bit higher than the other guy’s. We get so busy thinking about our own hard luck story that we aren’t really in the moment listening to the other person. This does no one any good. Instead ask them, “What are you most proud you did this year?” That’s a great way to open a Window of Contact because you’ll be able to share what you are most proud of. Could be your new logo, your grandson’s wedding or going on a dream vacation. If it is something you are most proud of – you’ll be smiling and engaged and that’s all we need to become friends.”
Eszter Hargittai,@eszter. Associate professor of communication studies and research associate of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University:
“Too many people naively think that what happens at a conference gathering stays at a conference gathering. Not so. What one says and does under such circumstances is just as likely – if not more so! – to make lasting impressions as what happens during more formal interactions on panels. Of course, this is not meant to scare you from these get-togethers. The goal is simply to recognize the reality of the situation and remind you that whether at a talk or at a reception, you are still at a professional meeting and thus should behave accordingly rather than confusing it with what you might do at the surprise birthday party you just threw for your best friend.”
Lindsay Griffths,@LindsayGriffith. Relationship facilitator & “jill of all trades” at the International Lawyers Network:
“Don’t be a speed networker. While you do want to meet as many people as you can, it’s more valuable to have deeper conversations with fewer people than to thrust your business card at 20 people as you’re moving on to the next person. The people that do the latter are only memorable because they’re considered rude, and their cards generally end up forgotten or in the garbage. Make memorable, instead of trying to make many, connections.”
Jonathan Eisen,@phylogenomics. An evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis:
“Don’t make an opening statement when asking questions like “That was a great talk” or “That was an interesting talk” or anything like that. Don’t be a suckup. Just ask your question.”
Rob Alderson,@RobAlderson. Writer for The Guardian, The British Journal of Photography, Creative Review, Dezeen, BBC.com, and many more:
“Don’t ask questions that are essentially rambling, point-scoring exercises and/or self promotional statements. Challenge things you don’t agree with. And most importantly give the organizers feedback. Most events have some sort of feedback form they send out to delegates after the event, and I can’t tell you how useful it is to get considered and constructive thoughts from ticket-buyers, whether that’s positive or negative.”
Allie Siarto,@allieo. Photographer, podcaster, and instructor in MSU’s ADV department:
“Don’t go to networking events with friends. Too often, people are intimidated by networking events, so they ask friends to come along. Then they spend the whole event talking to no one but the people they already know. I try to make a point to go to networking events by myself when I can. This forces me to branch out and meet new people, and I’ve made some really amazing connections this way.”
Liz Ryan,@humanworkplace. Fortune 500 HR SVP:
“Don’t scan the room while you’re talking to someone. It’s impolite to look over a person’s shoulder while you are talking to them, scanning the room to see if anyone more interesting is around. When your conversation with one person has reached its natural end, say “It’s so great to meet you!” and if you like, exchange business cards. Then go off and start a new conversation. Just be sure to keep your attention on the conversation you’re in!”
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article, and if you have any advice of your own to share, let us know in the comments.