The Five Biggest Conference Mistakes You Can Make

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I’ve been a registered dietitian nutritionist for a decade now and during that time I’ve attended many conferences and networking events. Every event has taught me some valuable lessons about how to best present yourself. If you’re a frequent networker or conference attendee, or are thinking of ramping up your efforts, I suggest you read on for things to avoid doing at your next conference or networking event. 

Wear Sweatpants

Or anything less than business casual attire. Yes, I’ve had conversations with conference goers who were wearing sweatpants — and once even an entire sweat suit — and there was no way I was going to ever take these people seriously, no matter how great our conversation. Maybe I’m old school, but I believe we should all have respect for our profession and not wear anything to a professional event that we wouldn’t wear to a job interview.

Check Your Phone While in a Conversation

When I’m talking with someone and they repeatedly check their phone during our conversation, it sends a message that my time and our conversation isn’t valuable to them. The person you’re talking to could end up being the hiring manager at the next job you apply for, and you better believe they will remember the person who couldn’t give them five minutes of uninterrupted time.

Send Anyone Other Than Your “A” Team to Exhibit for Your Company

As an exhibitor, it is far better for you to not attend an event than to send staff who aren’t well versed in your product. With the growing mistrust of the food industry, the worst thing you can do is share inaccurate information with a group of dietitians who came to learn more about your product and who know the information you’re sharing is incorrect. Will they trust your brand if this happens? No.

Not Engage People Who Stop by Your Booth

Attendees pay a lot of money and sometimes even take time off work to attend a conference. When people stop by your booth, don’t avert your eyes and check your watch. Stand up, make eye contact and engage the person. Similar to above, you’d be better off not showing up than giving attendees the impression you have better things to do than potentially expand your customer base.

Arrive Late

If you show up late to a session and start asking questions to the person next to you about what the speaker has been saying, well — no explanation needed. This one is just annoying!

So often in today’s society it seems like the power of a first impression has been forgotten. While it’s possible to erase a bad first impression, it’s far harder than simply making a good impression in the first place. Whether you are an attendee, exhibitor or speaker, the best thing you can do at a conference is to bring the best version of yourself!

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Jessica Levings, MS, RDN
Jessica Levings, MS, RDN, is the owner of Balanced Pantry and has more than 10 years of experience developing nutrition communications materials and working on regulatory issues around food labeling. Read her blog and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.