Come and go during conference sessions: Don’t do that. Do this instead.

Come and go during conference sessions: Don't do that. Do this instead.

This article is part of our Don’t do that. Do this instead series.*

Many of the topics I cover in this series come about because I witness or experience them. This is one of those topics.

This weekend I attended a conference in town. It was a great event. I heard knowledgeable key note speakers, met terrific people and sat in on interesting breakout sessions. However, it was during the breakout sessions that I noticed an unfortunate trend: people who enter and leave, and re-enter, and re-leave (such an annoying act that I’ve had to invent a word for it…) the sessions.

Come and go during a conference session: DON’T DO THAT
No matter how quiet, or unobtrusive, or stealthy you think you’re being. You’re not. Ever.

Now, I appreciate that on occasion we can find yourselves in the wrong session, particularly when there are multiple sessions taking place at once, however, that’s not what was happening in this instance. I went to four sessions on Saturday and in every single one, people wandered in and out, over and over again, and not just at the start but throughout.

People entering and exiting a room is bad enough when you’re in a large space where doors are at the back but Saturday’s sessions where taking place in small boardrooms; there was no way of going unnoticed and yet these repeat offenders seemed oblivious to that fact.

What truly surprised me about this was the number of times people would come in and go out, and come in again, as though they were looking for the best session. This is terrible conference behaviour. It shows an incredible lack courtesy towards everyone in the room, but particularly the speaker.

DO THIS INSTEAD: Stay put. Once you’re in a session, stay there.
That’s pretty much it. Stay put.

“What if I’m in the wrong session?” Arrive early and make sure you’re in the right session. Double-check the signage. If you’re still in doubt ask the person at the front of the room, who will be either the speaker or conference staff.

“What if I need to leave to go to the washroom?” If this is truly unavoidable then leave and return as quietly and courteously as possible.

“What if I need to answer my telephone?” Unless it’s a 911 call from a family member then you don’t need to answer it. Return the call at the end of the session. If you chose to take the call, then don’t return to the session.

“What if I want to attend but know I need to leave early?” Not an ideal scenario but sometimes unavoidable. In this case, the courteous thing to do is let the speaker know in advance that you will be slipping out early, and make sure to find a seat close to the door so that you disrupt as few people as possible.

On no account should you keep popping in and out. No matter how invisible you think you are, trust me when I say you aren’t. If you would like to be remembered as the polished professional who attended, then stay for the entire session, and make sure to thank the speaker on the way out.

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Your Stories
We’ve all fallen foul of rude or thoughtless behaviour…sometimes it’s even we who have been guilty of it.

If you have a story you’d like to share, please feel free to send me a note and I’ll include it here.

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*What is this series about?
Have you ever had your relationship with a colleague, client or boss change suddenly – and not for the better? Yet you’ve not been able to put your finger on why.

Small actions. Big Impact.
I’ve always maintained that some of the smallest things we do often have the biggest impact on how our professionalism is viewed.  In this series, “Don’t do that. Do this instead.”, I help you avoid the tiny (and not so tiny) things that can trip you up and place barriers between you and your success.

Small bites for easy digestion.
Each entry is intended to cover one small piece of a larger topic. However, even though seemingly small, each and every action has a big impact.

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