Attending a conference on behalf of your organization is an exciting opportunity. You engage in professional learning and network with others in your field. For all that you gain by taking part, there are real expectations for your behavior. Learn business conference etiquette to cover all bases before participating in your next event. When you follow the rules, you will walk away knowing that you represented yourself and your company well.
Going to a conference is a privilege; it’s not an entitlement. Only ask your employer if you can attend if it will benefit your organization in a significant way. This includes improving your knowledge and skills or strengthening the company’s visibility. If there are a number of conference opportunities that would serve your business well, prioritize the list based on budget. Choose local or regional conferences over national ones to respect dollars. Rotate events in future years to maximize coverage. Further, consider colleagues as alternate attendees. A great opportunity for you might also be great for, or more deserved by, someone else.
It’s important to remember there is a dress code for business conferences – even when your event is hosted in a hotel or in a locale where people vacation. Honor this dress code during formal conference hours. If you take part in events after hours with fellow conference-goers then dress as you would for a similar function with colleagues. Choose clothing that is professional and functional. Business casual is acceptable. You should also be well-groomed, including hair and fingernails. Avoid strong perfumes or colognes. If you are presenting on a conference panel, then dress more formally.
Business conference etiquette extends to networking. Though it may feel cumbersome, always wear your conference badge. Project yourself in a friendly, confident manner when meeting new people. Politely initiate conversations instead of waiting for others to approach you. During introductions, mention your name, organization and title. Use good nonverbal skills such as eye contact and handshaking. Exercise good listening skills whenever other parties speak. Offer your business card before walking away, as appropriate.
Your conduct during conference activities should be similar to what is desired at the office. Be on time for all sessions and special events, even though you are offsite and not being observed. Focus on learning as much as you can during seminars. Turn off your cellphone and eliminate all other distractions -- including side conversations with fellow conference-goers. Take clear notes to reinforce ideas. Once you return to the office, share them with colleagues who were not fortunate enough to attend.
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