If you’re like me and you dread the idea that someone, somewhere, no matter how remotely positioned or how unimportant, may get a bad impression of you at a conference, then this should really come in handy. There are a few basic rules on how to behave during a conference. If you do attend conferences quite often, then these tips may help you seem like a cut above from all the usual that surround you.

The very first thing that you should realize is that a conference isn’t just a sort of a bigger meeting. You go in. You listen. You go out. Nope. Every single detail matters. A conference, in this sense, is an experience. It’s an experience that begins from the first moment that you leave your home, and ends when you get back.

Therefore, when I say “during” a business conference, I actually mean during the entire day of a conference. Let’s have a closer look at all the stages.

How to Behave during a conference

The Departure

After you’ve left home in a perfectly arranged dress, or suit, you need to make sure that you get to the conference still looking okay. The subway or the bus are out of the question – you may get there looking like you’ve been to hell and back. Also, if the traffic conditions are rough, don’t drive. This may also be a good decision if they decide to serve a few alcoholic beverages after the conference. You can take a taxi. Or hire a chauffeur, provided you have enough money. Still, a cab should suffice.

Never forget to dress appropriately for the occasion. And never eat something strange or extra-spicy before a conference, no matter how dangerously you like to live.

The Arrival & Elevator Etiquette

There are a few sub-stages of the arrival. First, there’s the way you enter the building. You need to have a steady, confident, and calm, contented walk. Sit up straight, look forward, smile, and if you see someone you know, a simple wave will do.

Next comes the tricky part.

Your meeting is on the 76th floor, for example – no reference. There’s no way to take the stairs. The only thing left is the busy elevator. This may not sound incredibly important, but the people you meet in the elevator might just be your next investors. What are the social rules implied when taking the elevator and there are a great number of people already inside?

  • You press the button to call the elevator. This button depends on the elevator, but usually, if you want to go up, you press ‘up’, not ‘down’ like some people do.
  • You enter the elevator. If there are too many people inside, politely wait for the next one. Do not utter a word, and do not be persuaded to squeeze in.
  • Wait for people to come out. Fist the elevator empties, then it refills. It’s a simple principle, but some do forget it.
  • Take note of entry order. Don’t go in before the elderly or disabled. If someone’s in a hurry, let them in first. Also, be mindful of your turn to enter, don’t barge in over people who were already there.
  • Don’t chat on the elevator. No additional explanation needed. Also, talk in whispers if you do need to talk to someone.
  • Don’t push, and let other go through. When you arrive at floor 76, tell others that you need to get out, and they will make room. If others want to get out, make room for them. Simple.

How to behave during a conference: social etiquette

After you’ve successfully completed these small but important steps, you should be safely in front of the conference door.

Enter the conference with confidence, just like you did the building.

The Conference Itself

First, this cannot be stressed enough, appear interested. Even if you don’t like the subject, don’t start puffing your cheeks, or playing Candy Crush. Be mindful of what is said. Take notes. If the speaker’s presentation is excruciatingly boring, doodle, or pretend to be interested.

Don’t forget to look through the names of the presentations. All conferences should offer a schedule. If you see something that you think you might not like, skip it. Although it is not advised that you skip anything, it’s better to leave politely before something starts, than to skulk in agony, and showing disrespect to the speaker by leaving in the middle of the presentation.

During breaks. Don’t stuff your cheeks with food. Use moderation in all things – that’s my motto. And if you appear like a gentleman – or woman – you may impress those attending enough that some may approach you for a chat.

Don’t talk only with the big guys. A decent person talks both with the important people and those in the lower positions who are attending. These talks may prove to be extremely interesting, don’t go just because we’ve said so. Being authentic is key to appearing natural and confident.

If you’re interested, ask questions. If some presentations appears particularly engaging and appealing to you, you should take note of the dilemmas in your mind and ask questions at the end or during breaks. If you don’t have experience in the field, wait for the break, this can make sure that you don’t embarrass yourself.

How to behave during a conference: social etiquette

Leaving the Conference

After you’ve had enough, you can go. But be sure to wait out until all the speakers have had their say. Also, the ending is usually the most interesting, and that’s where true business connections are made, over a glass of wine, water, or some other drink.

Don’t say goodbye to everyone. If you have a few friends – new or old – say something to them before you go. But don’t be obnoxious. This is sure to label you as the odd one and will scare off potential friends that would be interested in making business arrangements.

Quietly exit the space of the conference. Nobody needs to know when you leave. It’s sort of an unwritten rule of conferences that people slowly and stealthily leave. Don’t break this rule.

Elevator etiquette. The same as when you were arriving. This time though, be extra careful not to make a bad impression on those who were in the conference with you.

On the road home, think about what has been said. Try to remember the faces of the speakers whose presentations you appreciated. Consider which of them might like to work with you, or for you. If you actually liked some of them, imagine that you ask them to apply for a job at your company. Some of them might actually be unemployed and might be more than willing to accept your offer.

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