Tools to Survive Your Next Industry Event
By Colleen A. Rickenbacher
looked forward to attending his first industry conference. He was
entering his third year in the accounting field, and wanted to meet
the right people and stay on top of industry trends. Unfortunately,
he was unprepared for his conference. He didn’t know what to bring,
so instead of asking someone for help, he packed only casual
clothes. There was a black-tie dinner, and he ran around the city
looking for rental tuxedo. Michael also forgot to bring the latest
company brochures and ended up giving away all of his business cards
before the end of the three-day conference. While he was able to
overcome some of these issues, they left him stressed and anxious,
and he wasn’t able to enjoy himself. Michael vowed to be better
prepared the next time.
Conferences, trade shows, seminars and meetings should be wonderful
learning experiences, and also fun. The education and connections
will happen naturally, but there are a few “etiquette” tips that
will help you make the most of your events. Follow these and avoid
any embarrassing, or even costly, mistakes. Here are some
The Opening Reception:
to attending to the conference, do your homework and figure out
whom you would like to meet and see over the next few days.
Scan through the welcome packet and highlight any names of
people you’d like to see. Upon arrival, make it your mission to
network with the highlighted attendees.
come so hungry that you attack the bar area and food area as
soon as you arrive. Networking is the time to meet and greet,
and then eat and drink. About a half hour before the opening
reception, get a snack. Make it something light but filling,
like an apple or a smoothie. Then, you won’t be starving during
the opening session. The purpose of this event is to meet and
greet people, which can be difficult when you’re carrying a
drink and a plate.
you are alone at the networking or opening session, start off by
approaching another individual or small group of two to three
people. It can be awkward to approach a larger group, as they
are harder to break into and to start a one-on-one conversation.
After you have your initial conversations, ask your new contacts
to have a drink with you or meet you near the buffet for food.
around the room. When you meet someone, introduce yourself,
exchange business cards, talk, possibly set-up another time to
meet, or a time for a call when you return to the office. Shake
hands as you leave, thank them and then move on to the next
General Sessions or Educational Sessions
to the session prepared with notebook paper and pens. If you
forgot to bring some, you may be able to find a notepad in your
hotel room or at the front desk, but better to be prepared ahead
take up two or three seats. Move right on in and meet someone
new, sitting next to you. Introduce yourself. Enjoy their
company before the speaker begins. Arrive early, sit in the
front and learn as much as you can.
is a time to learn. If you’re with a chatty attendee, politely
tell them that you would love to talk after the session. Be
polite, sincere, and firm. Tell them right at the beginning of
the conversation. If you wait too long to say something, you can
get hooked into the conversation, and it will be more
uncomfortable to get out.
Respect the speaker. As a speaker, it can be frustrating to be
on a stage in front of a group and realize attendees are
chatting amongst themselves. If you must have a conversation or
make a phone call, please leave the room out of respect.
hundreds of your business cards. Your purpose should be to meet
and hopefully bring back business to your company. Don’t run out
mid-way through the tradeshow.
and end each conversation with a handshake. Always stand-up when
you meet someone to shake hands.
Making small talk is easy, even if you’re shy. Ask people about
when they arrived, their travel, their hometown, the weather;
talk about the conference, trade show or the speakers. These
topics open up the conversation; just avoid any emotional topics
such as politics or religion.
people questions about themselves. People love to talk,
especially about themselves. They will even bring out the
pictures of their kids and pets. Genuinely listen to each
conversation and you’ll find yourself making a lasting
your name badge. Instead of using a lanyard, which makes the
badge nearly impossible to read, pin it on your clothing,
preferably on the right side (it’s easier to read when you shake
The Final Night Closing Gala
is usually a seated meal, so remember the basics: Introduce
yourself to everyone at the table. Don’t reach over the table to
shake hands. Get up and move around the table, or meet everyone
before you sit down.
Use the code: BMW. This is an easy way to remember which utensil
belongs to you. From left to right it means Bread and
Butter plate is on the left, Meal is the middle, Water
(and all drinks) on the right. When you sit down, immediately
take your napkin and place it on your lap. Remember, if it is in
the coffee cup or your water glass, remove the one to your
right. If someone takes your bread and butter plate, ask the
wait staff for another plate, place the bread on your entrée
plate or don’t eat any bread.
Do not eat until everyone at your table is served. If you are
waiting for a special meal, let everyone know it’s okay to start
eating because your meal will be late.
are the etiquette basics that will allow you to have a comfortable
and fun time at your next industry conference.
Read other articles and learn more about
Colleen A. Rickenbacher.
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