Conference Attending Courtesies

by Syndi Seid

There is an art to attending professional conferences. Invariably as the season begins I’m asked about the etiquette of attending conferences. If you thought it was quite enough to simply pay the fees and show up, think again.

Whether you are just getting started or you are a seasoned conference participant, let’s face it, attending a conference requires expending your personal resources, money, time, physical and mental commitment. So, why not make the most of the experience!
BEFORE THE CONFERENCE

1. Mark your calendar to plan ahead. Do yourself a favor, take time to plan ahead and make the most of your investment. Read all information about the conference beforehand. About 30 days out, review any additional conference information sent via email or posted online at the sponsoring organization’s web site. Make note of the specific workshops you want to attend. Begin planning your wardrobe to match the weather conditions of the host locale, paying close attention to any special requests for attire to attend certain events, e.g., the Saturday evening formal awards banquet.

2. Be prepared with all items needed for the conference: Let’s face it, people attend conferences to network, learn new ideas, get their name and company known, and promote their product or service. One of etiquette’s biggest taboos is to show up at conferences without bringing enough hand-outs. Do whatever is necessary to assure an ample supply of business cards and information you want to distribute during the conference. In fact, bring double or triple the amount you would normally think to bring; or arrange to use a local copy center. Better to bring home extras than to disappoint your colleagues by not having enough.

Starting about a month in advance, compile a list of all items you will need to begin packing for an out of town conference. Pay attention to the details, including outlining the proper attire for various events. Perhaps there’s a formal night or a themed event, such as a Western night. A good way to make a poor impression is to arrive at a formal event night wearing daily street clothes. This kind of behavior tells your colleagues you didn’t read the literature or care enough to honor the event. Don’t be surprised if by not dressing appropriately, you will not allowed inside. More about wardrobe planning: most conference sites keep you apprised of weather conditions for the location to which you will be traveling, and whether there will be any outdoor events for which you should be packing a warm sweater or jacket. Pay attention to the type of facility you will be visiting, such as the appropriate attire for a big city hotel, versus a golf resort, versus a private club in a vacation locale. Each has it’s own culture when it comes to attire.

3. Be responsive to all requests for information: From the time you register to attend the conference, till the end evaluation form, be sensitive to the needs of the organizers. Show your sense of responsibility by sending complete and accurate paperwork at all times, and by the due date. There is nothing worse for an organizer than to have to chase down and baby-sit someone to get necessary items.

AT THE CONFERENCE

1. Arrive at the conference ahead of time. This is the perfect time to check in early, get your full package of conference materials and relax in your room to read through everything. NOTE: This is not a time to penny-pinch on spending for an extra room night. With airline schedules being unreliable for one reason or another, it is always best to arrive hours and even a day ahead. Use this extra time to rejuvenate your strength for the rigorous days ahead. Take a walk around the hotel facility and grounds to become familiar with where various rooms are located and the travel patterns you will need to take to get from one place to another during the conference. Learn how long it will take to walk from one location to another to avoid ever being late to an activity. Once the event gets underway and you’re running to keep up with tight meeting schedules, get-togethers with colleagues and more, you’ll be glad you took this extra time upon arrival.

2. Wear your name badge at all times. Because I attend lots of professional meetings, I always carry my own magnetic name badge holder and wear it on my upper right shoulder. This allows me to achieve the best networking support at all times. I want people to see my name badge and remember who I am. As a result, I will not wear a badge using a lanyard around my neck. Here’s why: it rarely faces forward for someone to easily see, it is positioned halfway down my chest which draws the eye to an area of my body I don’t prefer people staring at; and when I’m sitting at a table, it’s totally out of sight. To me, lanyard style badges are ideal for trade shows and exhibitions, where badges are more for identification purposes than for real networking.

3. Be on time throughout the conference. From the moment the conference begins, right through to the end be respectful of the overall timeline for the conference; always stay with the schedule. Do not allow yourself to be delayed in between sessions. If you want to speak with someone get their room number, cell phone number, or set an appointment to meet later at a certain time and place. Neither the organizers nor the presenters appreciate being ignored or unnecessarily interrupted.

4. Meet and greet everyone with a proper handshake, a smile, and good eye contact: With every day that passes, it continues to amaze me how so-called professional men and women still do not know how to give a firm and proper handshake, do not give proper eye contact, and barely smile when meeting someone. I’d like to think no one reading this newsletter has an issue with this item. Perhaps you have read my past newsletters on Handshaking Techniques, Eye Contact, and Networking skills.

5. Create a plan for organizing the contacts you make. Take time at the end of each day to make notes about each person you meet. Organize cards and notes in a way it will be easy for you to follow-up after the conference. If you are unsure about someone, take a moment the next day to say hello to the person again; clarify whatever you need.

6. Do not sign up for more than one session at the same time. Choose the one best session you want to attend and then find a conference buddy to get you extra hand-outs from the other sessions.

7. Remain silent during all announcements and speeches. Perhaps this is the hottest issue I hear about over and over again: participants being discourteous to the speaker. No matter how difficult it may be to hear the speaker, how boring the person may be, or if the announcement or speech is being spoken in a foreign language you don’t understand, you must remain silent as a courtesy to the speaker. If you must talk to someone, leave the room. If you must take a cell phone call, leave the room. Please do everyone a favor, the next time this situation happens at your table, quietly and politely ask the person to remain silent, so you can hear what’s being said. And, if you are the offender, stop it!

8. Stay alert throughout the conference. Conferences lasting more than a day can be exhausting. To prevent falling asleep, eat lightly throughout the conference. Drink more water than usual and keep all alcohol consumption to a minimum. Take short walks whenever possible. Wear loose and comfortable clothes and shoes. Most importantly, maintain good posture at all times. Don’t slouch in the chair. Take quiet, periodic deep breaths to help the flow of oxygen and blood throughout the body. Pace yourself to get proper rest and sleep. Sneaking a quick 15-minute nap here and there does wonders.

9. Do not make a fuss or be a complainer. No one enjoys hearing complaints or criticisms about how things are being handled during a conference. When a negative situation arises you feel needs to be reported, remain calm, explain the situation in a normal tone of voice, and ask for reasonable, mutually agreeable solutions. Thereafter, keep to yourself whatever other complaints you may have. Most professional meetings request that you complete an evaluation sheet. This is the best time to write down complaints and helpful suggestions for improvement. Or, at the close of the meeting email or call the organizers to submit your thoughts.

AFTER THE CONFERENCE

Follow-up with everyone you meet. You just never know who will turn out to be a valuable resource, treasured colleague, or lasting friend. So, why not do the right thing and follow the advice of the best etiquette books, which tell us it’s good manners to follow-up with everyone we meet, and to certainly follow-up with whatever you may have promised. We all know how difficult this task is. Some people use their return flight time to write thank- you notes. It is well known the #1 sign of a true professional is when s/he tackles this chore: so just do it!

TIP: When first announcing your plans to attend a conference, tell everyone you are leaving a day earlier than the actual departure date and tell everyone you will be returning one day later. Then use these two bookend times to focus on making the most of the experience. Use the day before to finalize last-minute details and prepare. Use the day immediately after to focus on starting your follow-up work, while contacts are still fresh in your mind.

Another idea is to actually stay an extra night at the hotel so you can relax and begin your follow-up work uninterrupted; not to mention resting up. This also could be a good time to arrange meetings with colleagues you met at the conference who, like you, have delayed departure time. Or, just use this extra time to be a tourist and enjoy the sights.

Happy Practicing!!!
About the Author
Syndi Seid is the world’s leading etiquette trainer, celebrity speaker, and founder of San Francisco-based Advanced Etiquette.

Branding on a Budget!

name tags-conference tagsIf you’ve been to any conferences or business meetings then you’ve probably seen or worn these stick-on name tags before.

Are these the best choice, you ask?

First of all, wearing one of these tags is better than wearing no name tag at all. They are inexpensive, and it can be fun to let your creative side shine through by writing or drawing on them yourself. On the other hand, they do wrinkle and tear easily. Secondly, they’re much harder to brand than more traditional name tags. It can be hard to read your hand-written name and company on a wrinkled name tag. However, these can also be run through a printer. This would eliminate the need for handwriting your name and company. You always want to make a positive and memorable impression. This is the first rule of any decent branding strategy for meeting potential clients and business partners.

So if the most inexpensive option is not what we are looking for, what is?

If you want your the effects of your branding to be more permanent and long lasting, your name tags ought to be too. This doesn’t mean you have to spend top dollar on a set of name tags with each employee’s name printed or engraved permanently onto each badge (But we do those too!). Plenty of lower-cost options exist which give your organization the ability to reuse branded, professional badges for multiple events or employees.

reusable mighty badges-dye sublimated logo-name tag-window badgeMighty Badges are a fantastic product to use in any setting – especially if you handle smaller events and rotate volunteers in and out, or need new logos for each event.
They are elegant, and highly reusable. They are also the top reusable seller among Non-Profits. They’re affordable, and clean looking. Print names and even your logo onto the transparent insert sheets for a crisp, well thought out look that is sure to make a memorable impression.

reusable mighty badges--name tag

For conferences or other large scale events, badge holders are one of the more recognizable and popular products because they’re sturdy, easy to use and rather inexpensive. Additionally, you can attach ribbons to your badge holders to further separate yourself and your staff from the rest of the conference attendees.

These are three products which allow you to further your branding strategy without breaking the bank.

(Click on the photos to get yours today!)

12 Points on Name Tag Etiquette

By, Syndi Seid

1.  Why Name Tags
When preparing name tags, think through the purpose for the name tags. Always show the names in spoken order that is your given name, followed by your surname/last name and affiliation. Think twice about the need to provide any information beyond these basics.

2. Writing a Name Tag
Use only big, bold block letters in all caps or with upper and lower case letters. Avoid script or cursive handwriting and do not add personalized touches that could be confusing. No matter how well lit a room may be, it is always more difficult to decipher cursive handwriting, particularly by those from other countries or ethnic origins.

3.  Using Honorifics
Except for specialized events honorifics and titles are not typically used on name tags. These include Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., PhD., M.D., General Manager or President. Because name tags are intended to quickly show a person’s simple identity, they should only indicate first and last surname, and affiliation.

4. “Hello, my name is…”
I confess I don’t like this particular style of name tag. Admittedly, they do serve a purpose for highly informal occasions. But, they do seem very elementary and out of place in a professional setting. It’s best to use clean, professional looking sheets, either with or without colored borders.

5. Squint Factor
Nothing is more disappointing than to attend a conference or professional meeting, only to arrive at check-in and discover the name tags are terribly under presented; names are printed too small, company affiliation so small you can’t make it out and every other detail shy of your birth date is loaded onto the badge.

6.  Printing Name Tags
When generating pre-printed tags on a computer, take care when choosing an appropriate font and font size. For tags I produce personally, I find 40-point Arial type is a good starting point for first and last names and affiliation. Sometimes it take a little extra time to employ a little trial and error to find the correct font size and balance. I assure you it will be well worth the effort for the optimum results.

7.  Use of an Affiliation and Logo
Even though it’s important to give attention to the sponsoring organization, always remember the most important information on the name tag is the person’s name, not the organization. By this I mean the bulk of the space should be devoted to presenting the person’s full name, thus the scale of the logo or sponsoring affiliation should be much smaller in comparison to the attendee’s name. It should never dominate the tag.

8. Printing the first name larger than the last name…
While there are no hard and fast rules governing whether to enlarge the person’s first name, I submit it’s best to print both the first and last name in the same size font. With so many men and women sharing the same first name, it can be confusing seeing lots of Susans or Stevens walking around. This underscores the value of regarding one’s full name as one’s personal branding vehicle.

9.  Creating your reusable name badge for use at various events…
While arriving with your very own custom designed name tag assures your name and affiliation will be presented to your absolute liking, yet may not be in your best interest to do so. Consider this: event planners usually create name tags specific to a particular occasion as a way of identifying, at a glance, those who legitimately belong at the event and those who don’t. By wearing your own name tag, you may inadvertently convey the impression of being a party crasher!

10. Company ID Badges
Many companies require the staff to wear name badges for instant identification purposes. In this case, it’s customary to wear such badges on the left shoulder.

11. Placing Name Tags Straight and in Plain View
Never allow your name tag to be worn crooked, sideways or even upside down. It sends a negative message to others, usually implying a lack of respect for the occasion or lack of care or interest in your personal appearance.

Never wear a badge upside down. Though it may sound silly to say, believe it or not I know someone who deliberately wears his name badge upside down. He claims it’s the best way to meet women. Why? Because, he says women will go out of their way to approach him just to help him correct what they perceive as his oversight. My friend claims men are far less likely to mention it or bother helping. Needless to say, I don’t recommend this practice to anyone. In my book this tactic sends the signal: here’s a person who cares little about the image he conveys. Who would want to convey the impression that something as simple as properly wearing a name badge was purposefully missed; what else might be missing? In other words, while it is possible that one person may take this for humor; another person may take it as incompetence. Why risk creating this kind of confusion?

12.  Last, but not least: where to wear a name tag or badge.
Networking: whether at professional functions or at social events, always wear it on your upper right shoulder. Here’s why. Place the tag or badge as high up on your right shoulder as possible to give other people the best and easiest view of both the tag and your face. As you extend your right hand for a handshake, your eye and arm are already being drawn to the right side of the person you are greeting. Because the upper most part of your chest is the flattest area on your shoulder, this helps your tag to lie flat and be more secure.

These points are is especially relevant to women, as most women feel awkward drawing attention to an area of our chests we would prefer not to do. By placing it in an easy to read and visible place keeps the focus where it should be.

Happy Practicing!

Syndi Seid is a world’s leading etiquette trainer, celebrity speaker and founder of San Francisco-based Advanced Etiquette.

Keys to a Successful Spring Event

By, Michael Green

Getting ready for a Spring event? Make sure you and your staff get your feet in all the right doors by utilizing our keys to a successful spring event.

Key #1: Communication

Did you do your research on your target audience?

Having 500 people attend your event is great, but it matters a lot less if your speakers talk about selling backpacking equipment to computer nerds. Present the right information to the right people, and you’ll yield much greater results. Did you get the best speakers possible for your event?

A lot of times you can get really great speakers just by showing you have a decent attendance rate, the better the speakers, the better the event.
Don’t hand out brochures at the event itself.

The only long term marketing materials you should expect people to hold on to after the event are your handouts. These items are things like lanyards, mugs, water bottles, anything permanent and reusable that people can get some use out of that displays your company logo and information so you stay in mind.

Key #2: Identification

Is a name badge available for every person who walks through the door?

This is crucial. People need to be easily identified–you, your staff, guests, speakers, everyone–it can help you build and maintain your brand, among other things.

Take it a step further for VIPs. Consider name badge ribbons for your speakers, board members and important guests to help them stand out and feel appreciated.This helps in the long run, as the more effective speakers will want to come back and help your cause and their own simultaneously. Give as many options as your budget allows. Magnetic fasteners are great; just be aware that some people have pacemakers. Have another option available for them (pin, clip, etc.).

Key #3: Staying Organized

Don’t try to wing it.

Do your guests know the event schedule? Have one prepared and available well before the event date.

Numbers matter. Get an accurate head count, and pass this info to your caterer, as well as your purchasing agents. Too much or too little of anything can get you into a whole heap of trouble.

Assign seating. At least organized by guest category. You’ll want all your speakers sitting up front, probably in chronological order and so forth.
Spell it out.

Are your staff and volunteers trained and prepared to do their assigned tasks? Having job descriptions for anyone involved really helps move things along without taking up your time for constant reminders and explanations.

Key #4: Remember who’s got you covered.

From (hopefully) helpful tips to all your promotional and identification product needs, Coller Industries Incorporated has you covered.

Name Tag Best Practices

By Scott Ginsberg

Because a person’s name is the single context of human memory most apt to be forgotten; because self-disclosure is the single most effective way to build rapport and connect with people you just met; and because initiating the conversation is half the battle – your name tag is your best friend.

However, improper creation and wearing of name tags can work against you (and your business) if you’re not careful.

Scott Ginsberg has been internationally recognized by CNN, CBS, The Associated Press, The Washington Post and Paul Harvey as “the world’s foremost field expert on name tags.” Below are Scott’s responses to several name tag related inquiries pulled from his Building Front Porches Ezine.

1 ) What are some tips for wearing name tags at trade shows?

Before you even pack your show, make sure your employees, salespeople and booth representatives each have THEIR OWN premade company name tags. You can get these done at any local engraving store for less than $7 a piece, probably cheaper en masse. The reason to do this is because a) trade show name tags don’t always maximize your “name tag real estate,” and b) trade show name tags rarely include your logo – which helps for brand recognition.

Now, perhaps it seems redundant to wear two name tags, right? Well, think about the Superbowl: How many commercials does Budweiser run each year? Exactly. Always more than one. So even with name tags, it’s all about the Three R’s of Networking: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition!

Next, when you get to the show, wear your own custom name tag in a visible location so that everyone who walks in and out of your booth sees is. Potential buyers need to make the instant connection between YOU and the BOOTH. Also, when you get busy, it can get hard for prospects to locate the right person. The last thing you want is uncertainty about who the actual booth employee is! So use your name tag to identify and differentiate yourself among the masses.

2 ) How do you handle poorly designed name tags that are already provided for you at events?

Tough issue. About 80% of the name tags I’ve ever seen at events are designed without consideration of font size, color, etc. I always suggest that people create and bring THEIR OWN custom made name tag to all events in the situation that the given name tag is ineffective. You can wear both if security and identification is an issue. But most chairs or hosts of meetings won’t be offended, as long as you initially take the name tag given to you as an extension of courtesy – even if you don’t wear it.

Of course, none of this would be a problem if the meeting planners would just make them right the first time!

3 ) On which side of your chest should you wear a name tag?

There isn’t a single book on networking, meeting planning or interpersonal communication that doesn’t say name tags should go on the right. “They” say you should wear your name tag on the right hand side so it is visible in the direct line with your handshake. For the most part, I agree. And so do most people. This is one of the few name tag protocols most people are familiar with.

On the other hand, the horizontal placement of your name tag should be dependent on the capacity in which you are wearing it. For example, if you work in a hotel, in retail, at a trade show or any other mobile environment where there are aisles, rows and hallways, consider the possibility of wearing your name tag on the left side of your chest so it is most visible to oncoming traffic. (If you live in a country where you walk on the right side of the path.)

Now, this is a debatable issue. But the bottom line about horizontal placement is this: it doesn’t matter which side of your chest the name tag lays, as long as it’s above your breastbone and readable from 10 feel away. Case in point:

4) Is it redundant to have your first name twice on your name tag?

Yes and no. “Doubling” the first name is very common for conventions, meetings or large groups. Usually, the first name is reprinted above the entire name in a larger font – possibly all caps – to be more visible. (In fact, most computer programs have this as a default setting on their templates.) Doubling is helpful for people who go by abbreviated, middle or different names. After all, all you really need to get their attention is their first name! On the other hand, if your name is Don, and people call you Don, it would be an ineffective use of your name tag space to write it twice. So, just write Don…but make it bigger. As big as you can!

5 ) Are some name tags better quality than others?

Absolutely. Especially when it comes casual settings and parties, handwrite name tags are usually an inelastic, last minute purchase. Most people just buy the first box they see at their local supply store. But I must warn you that there are plenty of name tags out there that are HORRIBLE. Some have faded colors, while others have paper quality consistent with that of tissue.

In fact, many companies advertise “weak adhesive to prevent clothing damage” on their packaging to protect your fabulous wardrobe. But keep in mind, this second-rate adhesive will wear off in minutes and cause your name tag to “curl” and become unreadable. So decide what’s more important: sticky stuff on your clothes or being unapproachable.

6 ) Are gold name tags a no-no?

Gold name tags are few and far between because a) it’s very difficult to read ANY text printed on them, b) they’re usually too expensive to purchase en masse, and c) street thugs might hold you up at gunpoint and rob you. People in education – mainly collegiate – wear gold name tags because it’s been their tradition for a long time. And it certainly looks very elegant. But other than that, gold is not a recommended color.

7 ) Are first and last names necessary for employee name tags?

Anonymity and personal safety are two issues that must be taken into account when issuing name tags to employees. Most handbooks or employee manuals briefly mention their name tag policies, however many organizations fail to address this issue. Some people may not feel comfortable wearing both their first and last names on the job. I’ve heard accounts of nosy customers who tried to contact, even stalk, employees outside of work because they could obtain their personal information.

One solution to this problem is to print first name only name tags. This protects the anonymity of the employee, maximizes the space and looks friendly. (Besides the knowledge of your Radio Shack salesman’s last name is not crucial to the service process!) Should a situation arise where a person’s safety may be in jeopardy, it might a good idea to have an extra name tag with alternate spelling, or even a different name.

8 ) How can I avoid name-tag-related clothing damage?

Holes, wrinkles, adhesive stains – these things will happen to you. I suggest that when name tags are provided, always read the back of the name tag before applying it. Most badge manufacturers – at least, the good ones – will tell you which types of materials are susceptible to damage. Now, this doesn’t give you the right not to wear your name tag, but it may help you decide how to wear it.

In the past 10 years most name tags have shifted to fastener types like clips, lanyards, magnets, etc. These are excellent solutions, although I’d watch out for those magnetic fasteners: they will destroy silk.

9 ) How can you modify name tags to accommodate your clothes?

Whether it’s adhesive damage, fashion trouble or lack of a good location, some people refuse to wear adhesive name tags solely because of their clothes. But with a little improvisation you can still maintain your approachability.

I was giving a speech last week when a lady at my table thought of an ingenious name tag modification technique. Because the straps on her dress limited the surface area on which she could stick her name tag – and because she didn’t want to stick the adhesive on her collar bone – she tore the name tag in half. It fit perfectly on her strap without damaging the clothes or her skin!

10 ) How do organizations approach name tags?

Some organizations have employees, members, guests and other people coming in and out all the time. In order to avoid alienating some of those people, the organization must first make a decision: either EVERYBODY wears name tags, or NOBODY wears name tags.

Unfortunately, there will always be people who refuse to wear name tags. The only solution is (if you decide to implement name tags for everybody) is to make it expressly written externally (signage) or internally (handbook) so people will adhere to the rule. Nobody should be “too cool” to wear a name tag.

Another concern is the name tag text’s potential to segregate members based on position. I think it can go both ways. For example, I am a member of the National Speakers Association. We recently had our National Convention during which each member was assigned a custom name tag based on years of experience, membership, if a guest, etc. To my surprise, people were actually MORE willing to encourage team building because of these designations. I couldn’t count how many of the veteran speakers who have been in the business longer than I have been alive came up to me and said, “So Scott, this is your first convention, huh? How do you like it so far?”

On the other hand, if “isolation by way of name tagging” is a possible threat, I would suggest having the exact same type of name tag worn by all people, regardless of volunteer/member/paid employee status.

11 ) Should you KISS your name tag?

Yes.

Not literally, of course. By KISS I mean “Keep It Simple Stupid.” Recently an audience member asked me, “Why don’t put your last name, company, position, etc. on your name tag? Don’t you want people to know that information?”

Well, yes and no.

We all want people to know who we are, what we do and how we can help them. But it’s more effective if you tell them as a response to an open ended question such as, “Tell me about the work you do.”

So when you use your name tag as a conversation starter (if you have the chance to create it yourself), design it in a simple way that sets you up with an opportunity to share the value you give.

12 ) Is there really a condition called Name Tag Deficiency Syndrome?

You better believe it. Over a half of a million people suffer every year from Emblema Nomenpenia, more commonly known as Name Tag Deficiency Syndrome (NTDS). This debilitating condition has run rampant through the American business community for many decades – experts say – although only recently has it been classified.

Symptoms: You may experience localized font shrinkage, inflammation of the company logo, noticeable eye irritation due to cluttered texts, absence of upper-chest name tag placement and mild conversational uncertainty and frustration.

Possible Side Effects: Beware of sudden, sever attacks of name-forgetting, possible networking anxiety, unapproachable behavior, missed opportunities to make new friends or business contacts, feelings of annoyance due to the inability to say hello to a new member or employee whose name you can’t read because their name tag is turned backwards.

About The Author
Scott Ginsberg, aka “The Nametag Guy,” is the author of three books and a professional speaker who helps people maximize approachability, become unforgettable and make a name for themselves.