Event season is upon us and there’s no better time to catch up on Facebook, respond to old emails and make some Amazon purchases, right? Of course not. But in this age of short attention spans and social media consumption, the term “face to face meeting” is rather quaint and seemingly optional – even if you show your face at a conference. So easy is it to hide behind your screen, typing away, checking statuses and news updates and not doing what communicators do: communicate. As the PRSA annual conference approaches, followed by PR News Media Relations Conference, the Bootcamp For Emerging PR Stars and other industry events, it’s a good time to take stock of your Conference M.O. and avoid these mistakes made by others:
- Finding a seat away from everyone else. Instead, sit near a stranger or business acquaintance who most likely shares some of your interests, since you are at the same event.
- Constantly checking your email. There’s nothing wrong with checking in at the office and responding to urgent emails, but not every 10 minutes. Unless you’re supposed to be at the office rather than at the conference.
- Pretending to be listening. You know what I mean. You’re there, in the conference session room, but you’re not comprehending the content. Listen with the intent of soaking in the knowledge being shared with you, for you.
- Networking with your workmates. You can do that back at the office. If there’s a networking break, reception or other opportunity to meet new people, seize it. Put yourself out there, as you never know whom you might meet and what it may mean for you and your company.
- Collecting business cards to collect business cards. How many of us have hundreds of cards stacked on our desks or in our drawers and don’t know the difference between Jane Smith or John Thomas? I am guilty of this. A good tactic is to write a detail on the back of each card about that person, so you can follow up with meaning. Next step is to actually follow up within in a week with those people whose cards you collected – a quick email to begin the relationship.
- Being a Social Media Zombie – the non-stop tweets and status updates might be appreciated by some of your followers who couldn’t make it to the event, but it removes you from reality, from the chance to learn from the conference content and connect with people face to face. To truly communicate.
- Being Incognito. Instead, evangelize for your brand – come to the conference with a story to tell about your company, your brand, your job. You’ll be amazed at how helpful your new conference friends will be and how interesting you are, in person.
Do you have some conference attendee “mistakes” you can add to this list? Please share!
— Diane Schwartz
On Twitter: @dianeschwartz