Last month, I attended the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, an incredible day-long conference with over 5,000 attendees and more than 100 speakers. Between hearing from a line-up of well-known personalities like Marion Jones, Tory Johnson, Shama Kabani and um, the feminist who led the entire women’s liberation movement, Gloria Steinem, I attended sessions on the future of social media, traditional publishing vs. self-publishing and making the transition from employee to entrepreneur.
In the midst of frantically jotting down notes at each session and feeling inspired by the driven and successful women around me, I found myself getting increasingly frustrated with my fellow conference go-ers. Instead of taking full advantage of the resources surrounding them, many attendees were indulging in just plain bad conference-going behaviors. Now don’t get me wrong; I think conferences are a fantastic place to share knowledge and network. But some bad behaviors I simply can’t forgive.
Here are three ways to avoid being THAT person at the next conference you attend:
1. Don’t ask a question so super specific that it only pertains to you and your individual situation.
You know who I’m talking about. That really annoying person who raises their hand, introduces themselves and their company/side biz/book/whatever they’re trying to promote, and proceeds to go into extreme detail with their question. They try to turn what is supposed to be a general, open forum into their own personal coaching session. Definitely not cool or helpful to anyone else in the audience.
If you have specific questions, ask the speaker after the session, or better yet, email them later, after they’ve had some time to unwind from the conference. Besides being polite and respectful to other session attendees, you will most likely get a better and more personalized answer.
2. Don’t challenge the speaker in the middle of their session.
On at least two different occasions at this conference, people stood up to disagree with the speaker and share their own insights with the group. I could feel the other women around me cringing and rolling their eyes.
No one pays a hefty ticket price to see a session get hijacked by a fellow attendee. If you were the expert, you would have been invited to speak at the conference. Even if you disagree with something the speaker says, it’s never appropriate to interrupt them in the middle of their session to spout off your own opinion.
Instead, take the conversation to Twitter or write a blog post about it. It’s absolutely okay to share your point of view, but do so when it’s appropriate and makes sense.
3. Don’t push your business card at everyone and anyone who will take it.
As I waited to say a quick hello to author Emily Bennington (who by the way, wrote a fantastic career book called Effective Immediately) after her combined session with a high-profile former editor-in-chief of a prestigious magazine, I witnessed a conference attendee push to the front of the line of others waiting to talk to the speakers and thrust her business card into said editor’s hand. The attendee didn’t preface the business card pushing with any kind of hello, handshake or conversation. She simply said, “Here. I wanted to give you my business card” and walked away. There was no call to action and certainly no real reason to give the editor the card.
The editor took the card and politely thanked the woman, but I couldn’t imagine what was going through her head at that moment. Handing out business cards with no real purpose or goal is completely useless; if someone doesn’t remember you or the conversation they had with you when they look at your business card, they most likely won’t be contacting you any time soon.
Instead, this particular woman could have used her quick thirty seconds with the editor to comment on the content from the session or share information about a relevant blog post she recently wrote or saw. After a real conversation, perhaps it would have made sense to exchange a business card. But in this situation? It just felt awkward and self-serving. Not the way you want to be remembered.
What bad behaviors have you seen at conferences lately?