Conference Session Etiquette and Strategy
Conferences offer multiple sessions, so you have many options for interesting topics! Several tracks filled with good presenters sometimes makes choosing what to attend quite difficult. Here are some session etiquette tips and strategies.
- It’s ok to skip a session. If nothing really appeals to you, or you’re worn out from running around, it’s perfectly all right to take a break.
- It’s ok to leave a session if it isn’t what you thought or isn’t useful after all. Just slip out without making a big fuss.
- Don’t be afraid to sit up front! Too many people crowd into the back of the room and don’t take up the front-row seats. Presenters don’t bite! Some sessions fill up and are left with standing room only. If there’s room to stand, then do so if it’s comfortable (or sit on the floor if you need to).
- Ask questions of the presenter! Especially when they pause and invite questions. Ask thoughtful, insightful, specific questions and really listen to their response. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
- Do not use the Q&A time to tell a twenty-minute story or argue with the presenter. Give others a chance to ask questions, too.
- Talk to the presenter after the session, introduce yourself, and invite them to connect. Don’t monopolize their time if others are waiting to talk or if the room is being set up for the next presenter; respect the start and end times of the session.
- Reach out to the presenter afterward via email or social media if you want to have a longer conversation, or find them at a social event and talk briefly.
- Can’t get to a session because there are two or more that appeal to you in the same time slot? Find a conference buddy, strategize what sessions you will attend, then compare notes. Please don’t stop by a session you won’t be staying in, grab a handout, and then leave.
- Tweeting during a session is usually allowed, unless the presenter asks you not to. Be sure to use appropriate hashtags, tag the presenter correctly, and quote them accurately.
- Leave honest, constructive feedback about the sessions you attend. Many conferences have evaluation forms. Please make the effort to fill these out, as they are quite important for future conference planning.
- Take notes. It’s tempting to think you will remember everything, but during a full conference, you’ll absorb so much information you can’t possibly remember it all.
Take two index cards, a blank document, or the first page in a notebook and create two lists: “Great idea for NOW!” and “Good idea for LATER.” On these lists, scribble quick items about what you learn that you want to implement right away or a bit later. Just one line or thought—enough to remind you of what you want to do and that you have more detailed notes on it elsewhere. Consider this your “hot list” of action items. If you keep a readily accessible short list, you won’t have to go digging through piles of material afterward, trying to remember that great thing you wanted to do. These short lists also make a great starting place for strategizing as you travel home from the conference!
Review those cards and your notes and figure out how you will start implementing your new ideas. New file-organization systems, technology tools, online communities, books to read, time-management techniques. . . Start putting these things in place while your energy is up and your excitement is high (or after you’ve recovered but still clearly recall what you learned). Put your enthusiasm to work!
Director of Training
Laura Poole is a scholarly nonfiction editor and the founder of Archer Editorial Services, Inc.; the Editorial Bootcamp training events; and co-founder of Pilcrow Group, Inc. She is the director of training for Copyediting.com.