I’ve been to a bunch of conferences the last month or so. More than usual and I’m really tired. But I have a few random observations to make.
As the days go on fewer and fewer people are at breakfast. People tend to stay up late eating, drinking, and talking. For many the best part of the conference but it means that getting up in the morning gets harder. You don’t want to present first thing in the morning on the last day of a conference. Actually you probably don’t want to present the last day of the conference at all.
The higher “ranking” people have or think they have the less likely they are to be wearing their name tags. This is not universally true as I was a high ranking VP wearing his the other day. But this feels like an exception. I’m not sure it is because they think that everyone should know who they are though. I had one of these senior people without an ID tag introduce himself to me. So obviously he doesn’t expect everyone to know him. It may be because they are constantly on stage and the ID tag looks dorky when you are on stage. That makes more sense to me.
Conversations are often the best part of a conference. It doesn’t seem to work to say “hey let’s all get together for three days and see what random conversations happen.” though. You need other events/talks to start more conversations. So you should go to some sessions but at that same time if one session or one chance meeting starts a good conversation you have to be a little flexible.
Some people wear their ID tags around their waist or hung from a belt. The upside is that it keeps the tag out of your way if you are working on something. The down side is that people either can’t see your ID or they find themselves looking at you in a way that looks a lot like they are looking at your crotch. Not comfortable. Either way it defeats the purpose of name tags.
People often forget business cards or carry them in places where they are hard to get at. If you are at a conference and taking it seriously you are going to meet new people and you are going to want to exchange contact information. Business cards are still the best way to do that. So get serious and take a bunch of cards and keep them where you can get at them easily. I keep mine in the pouch that holds my conference ID. That way I am always ready and there is no silly hunting around for a pen or a piece of paper.
Lastly some advice for “cocktail parties” and receptions. There are two parts to these events – the food and the conversation. The conversation is the most important part and a lot of people get so wrapped up in that that they forget to eat. Jump in early, get some food first and fast, and then jump into conversations. You’ll get as much talking down and you will not find yourself at midnight looking to find food, any food, after everything good is closed.