IT pros attend conferences in order to enhance their knowledge of existing technologies, learn about upcoming developments and to network with their peers. Unfortunately, some of the ways they behave at those events make actually achieving those goals more difficult.
I’ve been attending IT conferences for close on two decades now, and certain patterns of behaviour repeat themselves endlessly. I’ve enjoyed a particularly concentrated batch in recent weeks, after attending Data Centre World, Gartner Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit and TechEd North America. While all those events took place stateside, this kind of strange behaviour is just as evident at conferences in Australia.
Here are five things everyone should stop doing. If we can give up on these actions, everyone will get along a lot better.
Sitting at the back of the room
OK, I know why some of you do this: you want to reserve the option to leave if the presentation is dull. I’d suggest spending more time picking relevant sessions in advance. This approach makes no sense during the keynote, when there’s no alternative session to visit (and when the room will normally be packed).
The other possible explanation is that you’re shy and don’t want to have to answer questions from the presenter. I’m more sympathetic to that, but it’s still not very courteous to the person actually giving the presentation. Take a deep breath and move forward a couple of rows.
Sitting at the edge of the row
An extension of point #1. If it’s a popular session, every seat is going to be needed — and yet I don’t think I’ve been into a room once in the past three weeks and not seen people perching on the edge of otherwise empty rows. This makes no sense. Ultimately, you’re just going to inconvenience yourself by having to get up every time someone walks past — and does it really matter if it takes you 10 seconds longer to leave at the end? If, again, you’re planning for a fast exit, spend more time choosing sessions ahead of time.
Answering their phone during sessions
Quite honestly, it’s bad enough that the phone is ringing — a room full of techies has no excuse for not knowing how to put their device on silent. If there’s a ridiculously urgent call, leave the room. Don’t start chattering away. I’m amazed by how often this happens.
Ranting rather than asking questions
The question time at the end is designed to allow attendees to quiz the presenter on what was said — not to indulge in an extended rant about what you like/loathe about that or any other product. That’s acceptable if the presenter has asked very broadly “What do you guys all think?”, but not for the general Q&A. (Journalists do this at press conferences too: ramble on about their own views rather than seeking the views of the subject.)
Not using mics to ask questions
You may well have a very loud voice (I know I do), but that still won’t come through clearly if the session is being recorded. So if mics are there, use them. It also saves wasting time while the presenter has to repeat your question.
What else gets on your nerves at conferences? Share your annoyances in the comments.
Last week, Lifehacker IT Pro was on the ground at TechEd North America 2014.
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