Don’t shove your business card under my nose when I’ve just met you. This is what was going through my head this past weekend at a major professional event I was attending – and where I was speaking – as someone came up to me, introduced themselves (after I had completed my main stage presentation) and handed me a dozen of their business cards. A dozen!
I am constantly reminded that a majority of entrepreneurs have no ‘event etiquette’ skills. I had never met this person before and here she was handing me a dozen business cards telling me that she has a service that my clients would benefit from. She doesn’t know me and she has no idea who my clients are. More importantly – I don’t know her so why in the world would I automatically ‘expose’ my clients to her and her services?
I see this happening often so let me give you my top 5 event etiquette tips – whether you are a speaker and/or an attendee. There are many more than this and I make it a point to teach my clients as much as I can on this topic because it impacts their professional behavior and reputation. So take heed and see where you can make some changes too.
TIP #1: AS A SPEAKER, BE RESPECTFUL OF YOUR TIME
It was interesting to me to see the first speaker take the main stage at this particular event and not heed the signals being given by the event planner (from the back of the room). As a speaker myself, I am always watching what is going on in and around the room. I know there was a HUGE clock on the monitor right in front of the stage too because, as a speaker, I check out all these details before it is my turn to take the stage. This particular speaker went on and on until it was necessary for the host to take stage and pretty much cut him off. It was not received well by the speaker (which was evident to me, again, as a speaker myself) – but it was pretty much all the host could do in order to keep the program somewhat on time (this was the FIRST speaker of the day). So, be respectful of time – always better to even end your presentation a few minutes before your time is up. Everyone will be grateful. And you are much more likely to be invited back and/or get a referral.
TIP #2: BUSINESS CARD ETIQUETTE
Business cards are a marketing tool, no doubt about it. They must be used in a professional manner. Only collect business cards from people where you believe there will be a win-win proposition in the relationship. Never leave an event with a fistful of business cards without clear and specific intentions about where/how you will use the contact information. Most entrepreneurs fail miserably when it comes to follow-up so why even take the card in the first place if/when you have no plan in place to make good use of them. Also, refrain from introducing yourself to someone new and handing them a handful of your own business cards to serve your own purpose. This did happen to me a week ago after I spoke on main stage. This person implied that her services would be of benefit to my clients – what? Really? Yes, I see that you have a valued service – but I don’t even know you. You think I am actually going to expose my clients to you based on a 10 second encounter? Not going to happen, people. My clients and my list are much too valuable for that to ever happen. So, don’t be doing this, ok? Where I feel and believe that your services (and you!) merit access to my clients, I’ll let you know and then I will be the one asking for permission to introduce you to them.
TIP #3: PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS
Most of these professional events have hired speakers and have brought in paid sponsors. These individuals are the selected few to have representation of themselves and their services at an event. That means YOU are not entitled to be going around and leaving your promotional materials on site. That is a huge breach of professional conduct. Sponsors (like me) have paid BIG bucks to have a visible presence at these events. Know that. Respect that. And if you want some of that, then pay up. So get informed – learn about events – do your homework. Once you identify that this is a place of value for you and your business AND for the audience, then connect with the organizers and find out how you can be involved. And then open your wallet and get in the game.
TIP #4: PUNCTUALITY
Schedules for events are always clearly posted somewhere – on billboards, in the program, at the doors. Be professional – show up on time – in fact, arrive early. It is very disruptive when people are coming in late especially to the speaker on stage. Pay attention to your behavior and remember, the way you do anything is the way you do everything.
TIP #5: TAKE THE CONVERSATION OUTSIDE
It was particularly interesting to me, at this last event, that some of the major players were engaged in conversation the whole time various speakers were on stage. Really? If you aren’t interested in what’s going on, then take it outside. Others have paid to be there and deserve the respect of being able to hear what’s being said ON stage, not from you in your seats throughout the meeting room. Again, grow up – be respectful – pay attention – and if/when you believe your conversation is more important, invite the other person outside to hear what YOU have to say. Or just stop talking, period. When you are a major player, a person of influence, that person beside you may not feel comfortable to just tell you to ‘zip it’. (although that’s a whole topic unto itself – that person needs to ‘grow a pair’, in the words of my mentor, Larry Winget!). Seriously. It’s not all about you.
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT! My 2-bits on the topic of event etiquette. Again, I firmly believe that most entrepreneurs just don’t know what they don’t know – especially about the whole sponsorship thing. But I do know one thing for sure – it’s all about common sense and manners. Don’t be THAT person. You risk your professional reputation because there are always people watching. What image do you want to project?
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!