Based on Colleen A. Rickenbacher's books Be on Your Best Business Behavior and Be on Your Best Cultural Behavior, here are a few guidelines to follow to improve your experience at trade shows and conferences.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the August 27, 2008, edition of Quirk's e-newsletter.
Fall is typically a busy time for attendees of marketing research conferences. At their best, conferences, trade shows, seminars and meetings can be wonderful - and fun - learning experiences. To make the most of the events you attend, and to help you avoid any embarrassing, or even costly, mistakes, here are some guidelines from Colleen A. Rickenbacher, a business etiquette expert and author of the books Be on Your Best Business Behavior and Be on Your Best Cultural Behavior:
- Prior to attending 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.
- At networking events, 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.
- 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. Ask 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 connection.
- This is a time to learn. If you're seated next to a chatty attendee before a presentation starts, 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 talking amongst themselves. If you must have a conversation or make a phone call, please leave the room.
- Wear 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 hands).
For more information visit www.colleenrickenbacher.com or call 214-341-1677.