Twelve Do's and Don’ts For Getting The Most From A Conference

Shaking hands at a conference

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Spring is when conferences are being planned and manufacturers, distributors and associations are inviting you to come together.

Here are 12 do's and don'ts on how to get the most out of your attendance:


  • Bring plenty of business cards. It is awkward to reach into your wallet or purse to discover you are out. I had a client in Malibu who had done work for Goldie Hawn. She saw her in a swanky restaurant. Goldie came over and said she wanted to get some new clothes but couldn’t find her. My client did not have a card to present with her new address and never saw Goldie again. You never know who will want to follow up with you – carry plenty of cards!

  • Take notes. While I used to think it was essential to take down exactly what the speaker was saying, it isn’t. Listening to a speech is really just a gateway back into your head. Through their words, the notes you should jot down are actions or brainstorms you think might work for you or your business. That way, you have your own words to empower yourself. Back home, they’ll have much more meaning.

  • Listen. Be in the moment. We spend too much time staying distracted; turn off your cell phone and computer. No one is so important they need to “take this call.” People will wait; that’s why there’s voicemail. The only way to let your own thoughts through the gateway the speaker creates for you, is to focus on what you are hearing.

  • Say “Hello” and introduce yourself to anyone sitting next to you before the event begins. Everyone is overwhelmed and feeling out of their comfort level. Take the first step instead of waiting for them to come to you.

  • Be seated about five minutes before the program. You don’t want to rush around trying to get a seat when someone is speaking from the platform- you’ll feel your neighbor’s stares.

  • Use conference hashtags and post golden nuggets you hear if you're on Twitter.

  • Tell the organizers if you really like something. They’ve gone through much hard work to make it special for you. Specifics are best – if you really loved the seating music – tell them. If the speaker moved you to change something – tell them exactly what. Meeting planners tell me just one or two things in person or by email is really appreciated.

  • Drink plenty of water. I know it sounds like your mother, but the truth is that you probably will be eating later than usual and probably having a few drinks. That, coupled with less sleep, is a recipe for dehydration.


  • 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 can share what you are most proud of. It 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.

  • Don’t sit with the same people you always do. Later you’ll have time to go to dinner and connect. Remember, lifelong friendships could be waiting for you in another aisle.

  • Don’t immediately analyze what you didn’t like about a speaker or program like you were a talking head on CNN. Instead, try to find some specific idea you got from it and tell others. More people will be encouraged and glad they spent that time listening and connecting with you.

  • Don’t try to “catch people in the hall” while they are running to a meeting. It’s tempting to ask your vendor about an order or another dealer about a delivery. Save that for an email you both can track. Hallways between sessions aren’t much good for more than “Hello, we’ve got to catch up afterward.”

How To Wrap It Up

Before you leave the conference, sit down with a pen and paper. Write out two things you plan to change when you return to your business and why. If it is fire the girl you know is not cutting it, write it down and why you think you must do it. If you have four customers to follow up on who might not be your raving fans, write their names and what you need to do. These are your words and your concerns with your solutions.

Place the paper in an envelope and address it to your home, put a stamp on it, and give it to the front desk at your hotel. That way, when you get home, it will remind you of what you felt so strongly about and help you move forward. Even better is to bring the self-addressed, stamped envelope and paper with you to the conference.

Remember, the only currency any of us has is time. Conferences are a great use of yours - especially if you leave with new ideas fostered by some great presenters on how to change and grow.