By Rickenbacher, Colleen
Business Credit , Vol. 110, No. 4
Michael 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; 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 a 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 guidelines:
1. The Opening Reception
* Prior to attending the conference, do your homework and figure out who 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.
* Don't come so hungry that you attack the bar 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. The purpose of this event is to meet and greet people, which can be difficult when you're carrying a drink and a plate.
* If 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.
* Move 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 person.
2. General Sessions or Educational Sessions
* Come 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 it's better to be prepared ahead of time.
* Don't 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. …