Attending seminars is one of the best ways to keep up with changes in your industry. Even more valuable, it is the chance to network with others who work in your field. These contacts can be helpful resources when you need to ask questions or compare notes regarding industry issues. It can also be a good source of leads if you ever decide to change jobs.
But there are a few things you should never do at a seminar or convention. Here they are:
- Act like you know more than everyone there, including the speakers. This should be obvious, but we’ve all attended conferences where there’s one guy who disagrees with everything said and constantly tries to correct the speaker. If that guy called you later in the year and asked for a job what would you say?
- Talk constantly. This is closely related to the one above but with one difference. This guy might be asking legitimate questions and sincerely want to learn. But you can’t take up everyone else’s time because you’re behind on the learning curve. If you’re new to the industry, read and research as much as possible before you attend the seminar. If the speakers have books and CDs then buy them to add to your knowledge. There’s nothing wrong with asking a few questions, but know when to stop.
- Stopping the speakers on their breaks to chit-chat. Again, in moderation, to tell the speaker you enjoyed their talk and you’re learning a lot is one thing. But to make a pest of yourself is another. A speaker’s schedule is often very full and when they get a chance to grab a bite to eat or make a few calls you should respect their time. If you spend a lot of time talking to them at their vendor table then be courteous enough to buy something.
- Remember, while you’re at a convention or seminar you are representing your company. We all enjoy time away from the normal routine and like to have some fun while we’re out of town. But don’t do anything that’s going to harm your reputation.
Recently, in a small county in Florida, it came to light that a few of the department heads that had been sent to an annual conference had spent the week partying. They had attended few classes. This did not sit well with the taxpayers whose money had been used to send them to the conference. They were all four fired after a public scandal that included some rather unsightly photos in the local paper. Always use discretion in your activities.
Seminars are the perfect place to meet and network, but make sure the impression you’re leaving with others is positive.