How to master conference etiquette in 7 easy steps

How to master conference etiquette in 7 easy steps

You can spot a seasoned conference attendee by a number of things: swanky carry case, world weary appearance, general apathy towards conference they are currently attending.

But a more subtle thing, something you won't notice, is that these experienced individuals - jetting in and out of the world's finest conference hotspots - know what they're doing as soon as they enter the generic venue of choice.

For want of a better phrase, their 'show etiquette' is finely honed, crafted over the course of years on the circuit.

If you're new to conferences and you're after a running start, however, take what you can from this useful guide we've compiled, and try to avoid some of the more obvious pitfalls people tend to fall into.

Don't stare, it's rude

There's a reason name badges remain popular at conferences.

Not only is it an easy way for security to identify chancers that have snuck into a venue with the hope a free canapé or two, it's also a very useful way to see the name of the person you're thinking of approaching, and the company they represent.

But linger too long on a person's name badge, or make it really obvious you're checking out their credentials to see if they're worth talking to, and you'll not only seem callous, but also ill-informed about the movers and shakers in the business you work in.

Either that, or they'll assume you're checking them out. Pocket Gamer's not one to stand in the way of romance.

Be civil with everyone

You'd have to have a dent in your head to get angry or speak aggressively with one of your peers at an event, as it'll ruin your career in the long run.

But you should extend the same courtesy to staff too.

I really can't stress this enough: no one will be impressed with you for treating the serving staff, help desk members, or the cleaners like subservients.

Even if you're a bit shot suited and booted striding around the venue with confidence, by getting uppity with the staff you run the risk of being seen doing so by a potential client or, worse, a journalist who is yet to find their "big story" at a show.

If you bump into someone, apologise

Basic human courtesy is all too easily forgotten when you're in a rush, but always try to be pleasant to others when you've inconvenienced them in some way.

Turning up to a meeting late is never good, but if you do miss an appointment, make sure to either apologise, or make a self-effacing joke out of it to lighten the mood.

Likewise, if you accidentally shoulder check one of your fellow attendees, a quick apology is usually sufficient to ensure they forget it ever happened in a matter of moments.

People understand that this is how conferences are – busy, crowded, and rushed – but fail to extend this common courtesy, and you risk offending someone. Someone that potentially may want to give you money in the future.

Give a definitive and clear place to meet

At large conferences, such as MWC, you can easily book meetings that are literally a 20 minute walk away from one another.

Once the person you're meeting there has arrived, the last thing they want to do is spend another twenty minutes figuring out which "booth by the door" you meant when arranging the meet.

Go for dedicated meeting rooms if possible, or prime and easily reachable locations if not.

Tell the person you're meeting a distinct element of your appearance they can look for to know it's you. Or alternatively you can link them to a picture of you online - perhaps on your LinkedIn or Twitter profile - so they'll recognise you.

And for goodness sake, whatever you do, don't go wandering off for 5 minutes while they're finding you.

People always have places to be, don't get in their way

If you're blocking a hallway entrance at a conference, everybody for that fleeting moment hates you. It's as simple as that.

People are running late for appointments, need to speak with someone who has a five minute window of availability, or are otherwise running around trying to get everything done in a limited amount of time.

So don't stand in doorways chatting. Don't stand in twos on an escalator. Don't bring your massive travel case with you past the baggage drop off and in with you into the show.

Don't look at the conference guide in the middle of the hallway. Don't take up two seats in a talk and don't mutter under your breath when someone tries to squeeze past you to sit further down the row.

Body language is important

Goodbyes are hard, aren't they?

Knowing when someone is wrapping up a conversation with you, or doesn't have time to speak, or is engaged with something else important, is an incredibly useful tool for any conference goer.

It stops you being the kind of person that gets in the way of people securing important deals, and it ensures that you don't overstay your welcome with a person.

It's usually nothing personal if someone wants to move on, it's just that time at these events is limited.

Keep your nose clean

'Conference flu' is almost an inevitability when you travel around the world attending the big events. You're run down, you've drunk too much, you've been up late and if you've left your time zone, your body clock is all over the place.

As a result, scores of people get ill after a show - almost in tandem if you follow their tweets on Twitter - though it's rarely anything more than the sniffles.

Since you pretty much know you're going to get ill, prepare for it and meet it head on. Take tissues, paracetamol, any other drugs you can think of and even some vitamin C with you so that you can deal with feeling awful.

More important this is to keep your damn germs to yourself. Hand sanitizer is a good call, but more than this, simply don't engage in disgusting activities, like the guy sat opposite me who is, as I write this, picking his nose.

That said, he's now looking at me funny. Either he's looking for my press badge or... hey guys, shall I ask him out on a date?

Die hard Suda 51 fan and professed Cherry Coke addict, Peter Willington was initially set for a career in showbiz, training for half a decade to walk the boards. Realising that there's no money in acting, he decided instead to make his fortune in writing about video games. Peter never learns from his mistakes.


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Joseph Fargnoli
#5 People. Seriously, number 5!