I know there are lots of first-time attendees coming to BlogHer next month, and lots of nerves and questions being thrown around, with people looking for guidance and advice for all things conference-going. These are some things that will help at most any blog conference you attend.
I wanted to share a few etiquette tips and suggestions on how you can be the best attendee when you're in a session.
Here's how many of the sessions go down:
5-10 minutes before scheduled start time: People are wandering into the room, finding seats, trying to find a place to charge their phones/tablets/laptops.
At scheduled start time, the speaker will say something along the lines of “We've got a lot to get to today, so please take your seats so we can get started!”
If it's a solo speaker, he or she may just stand and wait; if it's a panel, they'll be taking last minute sips of water and cracking jokes to one another before the mics are live.
These speakers have spent lots of time preparing the information they're going to share with you, and I can almost guarantee they're nervous. Even if you've done it a thousand times, it's still nerve-wracking and no presentation is ever exactly the same. So how can you help make the session better, as an attendee? Here are a few suggestions.
- Turn off the sound on your devices. Ring tones, Twitter notifications, all of those sounds are distracting and, even in a huge ballroom, they can come across as louder than you might think.
- Don't chat with your tablemates during the presentation. Again, you might not think you're that loud, but there's a decent chance the murmuring will disturb those around you, and possibly the speaker.
- Be aware of where you put your stuff. These conference rooms can get crowded with tables and people and stuff, so please pay attention to where you put your bags and other things when you sit down. Tuck them under the table at your feet, try to keep them out of the way… and personally, I wouldn't put it on a chair next to me, because that's just discouraging someone to sit next to you, and you could miss out on making a great connection that way!
- If you have a question during the presentation, make a note of it. They will ask for questions, but it might not be until the end of the session, and nothing is more frustrating than not being able to remember what you wanted to ask! (Voice of experience there)
- Also, when you do get the chance to ask a question, just ask the question; there are lots of people with lots of questions, so keep extraneous storytelling to a minimum. Introduce yourself, give your blog name, ask your question, let them answer.
- At a big conference like BlogHer, all of the sessions are recorded and live blogged, so when you do have a question, a “mic wrangler” will come to you so you can ask your question into the mic for recording purposes. Don't start speaking until the mic is in your hand!
- If you want to connect further with the speaker, approach them after the session and hand them your card. Don't take it personally if they can't stop and chat right there; speakers are as busy as you are, and may need to get elsewhere. You can also ask for their card and email later if you need to. I know that I love hearing from people who were in my sessions post-conference.
- Use the provided hashtag for those who are following along from home. The Blogher hashtag is #Blogher16, but some sessions may also provide their own hashtags. It's also nice if you tag and properly credit the person you're quoting, so check for their Twitter handle. When I'm done presenting, one of my favorite things is to look at my Twitter mentions to see what really resonated with people, based on what they Tweeted from my session.
- Yes, there are people following at home, but please don't Instagram every slide they share. They've put this presentation together for conference attendees, and while it's great to share tidbits that really hit home for you, sharing everything that they put up on the screen is a bit much, and takes away some of the benefit of attending and some of the speaker's currency from their content.
None of these things are challenging, most of them are general common sense, but it's so easy to be overwhelmed, especially as a newbie who hasn't attended a conference before. There it tons to learn and be shared, if you just open yourself up to it!
Do you have any tips to add? Leave them in the comments below!
Looking for general conference-going pointers? Check out my “BlogHer Newbie Questions: The Truth” post for thoughts from a few veterans, some thoughts on that social awkwardness we're all worried about in “Overheard in the Twitter stream for BlogHer” and then you can read my post-BlogHer 13 roundup post, which has some info as well. (And yes, I'm bringing the Hugger and Not a Hugger buttons again this year. Just ask if you want one!)