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Marketing Conferences: Common Mistakes to Avoid

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It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.

This weekend, I'm flying to Vegas to speak at Dennis Beckers Earn1kADay event and in August I fly to Atlanta to speak at David Perdew's NAMS. I'm always looking for good events to go to, because EVERY TIME I attend a conference, I make more money. Period.

Let me repeat that.

Every time I attend a business or marketing conference,
I.Make.More.Money. 🙂

But, there are mistakes to be made along the way (some of which I've made myself).

That's why, this week I asked our panel of experts…

“Do you attend “in person” events and conferences?

If so, what are some faux pas that you see people making that you'd like to warn others about so they don't repeat them?”

I think you'll find the responses interesting. I did.

Jeanette S. Cates, PhD of Plan Your Online Business says:

In person events: YES! I do attend in-person events and conferences and I LOVE them! In fact, I've written multiple articles on how to get the most out of live events. And I've encouraged people for years to attend them. Nothing takes the place of meeting and talking with people face-to-face.

Here are the three biggest mistakes I see people making:

– Focusing only on trying to impress the “big names” who are there. There are a LOT of movers and shakers who don't necessarily want to be on stage. Cultivate those relationships!

– Trying to sell something at the conference. First it's not your conference. You didn't pay to get all of those people there, so you don't have the right to sell them anything. And others who are attending are not there to buy from you. They want to meet you and get to know you.

– Failing to follow up with people you met at the conference. An easy way to do it is to get a picture with each person you'd like to contact, as well as their business card. Turn that picture of the two of you into a postcard and mail it with a quick note. You WILL be remembered fondly for years to come!


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connieConnie Ragen Green of Affiliate Marketing Case Studies says:

I've now attended, presented at, or hosted more than sixty live events since 2008! I know I've changed quite a bit during this time, as have the events, but there are always some people who do not seem to ‘get it' when it comes to connecting with people in person.

One fellow has a reputation for asking people to give him an ‘on the spot' video testimonial soon after meeting. He once followed me into the elevator and then got off on my floor, still waving his camera in my face. I finally had to tell him I needed to use the bathroom to get him to go away. If someone is not ready for their ‘closeup' with you, give them some space and don't ask them a second time.

Another faux pas is to collect business cards and add people to your list without their permission. It then becomes awkward to ask them to take you off the list because they've created a group within their email account and there is no way to unsubscribe. Allow people to get to know you and they will seek you out to join your list if it makes sense for them.


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kellyKelly McCausey of Solo Smarts Podcast says:

I don't have a lot of event experience unless we count church. Actually, I credit church events for the ease I felt the first time I went to the NAMS Workshop. I knew most people around me were feeling out of their comfort zone so I didn't read anything into their lack of overt friendliness. Even though I was there for the first time, I practiced simple hospitality. I said hello to strangers, I asked questions about them and worked to be open and approachable. Because I made the effort, I received the reward of leaving with lots of new friendships.

It's not fair to call it a faux pas but it is a mistake to wait for others to reach out to you. You could end up waiting a long time!

Some tips for being more engaged:

Stay present. Don't shrink into yourself, looking down at your phone or your computer all of the time. Look up and around, make eye contact and smile at people.

Stay in public. Don't hide in your hotel room. You will regret it if you do. That's not how memories are made. The lobby and the hallways are where the magic happens.

Stay uncomfortable. Introducing yourself to a stranger is uncomfortable – do it anyways. Joining a small group of people is uncomfortable – do it anyways. Thanking a speaker for their message is uncomfortable – do it anyways!

Stay up late. Some of the best discussions with the greatest ‘take home value' for me have started late at night. People relax and let go of the day's stresses. This is when you may get to have some amazing one on one time with someone who might otherwise be surrounded by people. There'll be plenty of time to sleep when you go home – so make the most of the time you have.


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LynnetteLynette Chandler of Tech Based Marketing says:

I often look forward to lunch time during these events because you get to catch up with people you know and also get to know new people. There's something good about breaking bread together. So, during a recent event, I was a little taken aback (to say the least) when one person at the table criticized the hosts' choice of food and drink. Because I happen to choose the same drink that day (Coke), she looked at it and added “No offense to you”. You know, this topic aside, I detest that phrase for reasons I won't get into here.

Look, I get it. We should all strive to eat better, pay more attention to our health. If this person took time to get to know me, she would know, so was I. The only reason I chose what I did is because during a weekend event, I like to kick back and enjoy foods I don't normally eat. Consider it a diet holiday. It's one thing to caution a friend about their food but quite another when you're at an event trying to meet new people and network. Apparently, this was not in her radar either because she quit talking to everyone else and chose to stay in her hotel room for the rest of the event.

In short:

1. It's not cool to criticize people's food choices. You don't know where they've been and where they are. Even if it kills you to think what they might be putting in their body, put a lid on it.
2. If you're going to hole up in your hotel room, you might as well stay home (and save your money). This coming from an introvert who is often drained by being around people. It means a lot.
3. Momma always said, never criticize your host at the table.
4. It's not cool to talk about others negatively because you don't know who's friends with whom.


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Karon-black-225-framedKaron Thackston of Step-by-Step Copywriting Course says:

Absolutely! Not only is it a lot of fun, I get to keep up to date with the latest strategies within my area of expertise and also for the growth of my own business.

Whether I'm teaching or learning (or both), it's a great environment for creating or expanding relationships in a way that you simply can't do online.


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rachelRachel Rofe of How To Get Every Book You Write Onto The First Page Of Kindle says:

I do attend in person events. 🙂

I think one of the biggest “faux pas” people make is when they ask if they can “pick my brain”.

I totally understand wanting to learn more, but coming to someone and asking for (or feeling entitled to) what that person has taken years to learn… without offering anything in return… is less than spectacular.

Sure, I'm all about sharing knowledge. But sometimes being asked rapid fire questions can totally drain one's energy. I liken the “can I pick your brain” to an energy vampire/ or a leech.

To be taken, taken, taken from… does not a relationship make. And in my opinion, conferences are for making relationships.

I've made SO MANY amazing friendships from conferences, where I just came in looking to make friends and learn whatever was being taught at the seminar.

In addition, many people ended up sharing great information with me. However, that information was in a give-and-take manner, not just a take, take, take.

Same thing with JV's – I've met some EXCELLENT JV partners there, but I made relationships first. I didn't walk up to people and ask for them to promote me, without any kind of established relationship or them knowing what I'm even about.

(I guess that'd be another big faux pas – I have had more people than I can remember come up to me and ask me to promote for them, without us even having as much as a conversation.)

I LOVE going to conferences where people are “cool” – they're just there to relate to everyone on a human to human level. Coming in with that attitude ends up getting them a LOT MORE than coming in and looking to see what can be sucked from people. 🙂


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debbiedrumDebbie Drum of Become an iPublisher says:

I try to attend 2-3 live events per year. Live events are amazing networking opportunities, and it’s fun to get away and talk for HOURS about internet marketing and growing a business online.

There is one faux pas that I see people making all the time at live events. I know it right when I see it because I’ve actually made the mistake myself and sometimes it’s really hard not to make it – but there are ways out of it if you realize it’s happening to you – let me explain the scenario…

You might be talking to someone and you may or may not know 100% who that person is, but you’ve connected and you are involved in a conversation. Then in the background you see someone who you’ve been waiting and dying to talk to walking alone and available to for you to say hello. What do you do? You are already talking to someone and they are mid sentence but you see an opportunity to talk with your favorite marketer and this is your chance to introduce yourself!!

Before you decide what to do – there are certain things to consider:

– First, the person you are already engaged in conversation with might be someone with more influence than you think. Don’t dismiss that person because there might be huge opportunity with the person you are speaking with and you just don’t know it yet. You don’t want to dismiss that person for someone else because it is very rude and could leave a bad taste in his/her mouth. Be very conscious of this.

– Second, the person you are currently talking to might be a “nobody today” but a “huge somebody” tomorrow. This person can make it big and he or she will definitely remember you if you hit it off with a great conversation. I know this for a fact because I’ve been in a situation at my first live conference where I met people who were only make hundreds of dollars online per month and now they are making thousands upon thousands!! You want to remain friends with those people FOREVER!!

– Third, there is truth to the fact that you could be completely wasting your time with your current conversation and you need to run to your favorite marketer while you have your chance. You may never have this chance again! You need to make this determination and then politely excuse yourself.

The rudest thing is to be engaged in a conversation with someone and not be listening to them entirely because you are too concerned with what is going on elsewhere. There is so much that is going on at conferences and you don’t want to miss anything – but you need to cherish the people you meet because you just never know what that relationship can turn into and how you can help each other grow and succeed. Everyone wants to meet their favorite marketers but connecting with people at, below or a bit above your level is imperative to your success.


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happysuccessdennis-191x300Dennis Becker of the Earn1KaDay Insider Club says:

Yes, I do attend, but not enough, which probably sounds not so great coming from someone who runs events also.

Actually, every time I've attended an event, whether running, speaking, or just sitting in the audience, I can look back on it in a few months and shake my head (in a good way) at how much it benefited me.

Some things to avoid…

1. Don't be shy. Yes, there will be people there who know others and will be renewing acquaintances, but don't be afraid to go up to those you want to know better and introduce yourself.

2. Be sure to come with your “elevator pitch” ready, your 15-or 30-second response to “so what do you do?”. Trust me, you'll be asked many times if you're following my suggestion in point 1, or even if you're not.

3. Don't just go back to the hotel room after the sessions end. Repeat, don't just go back to the hotel room after the sessions end. I know, you want to phone home, you want to check emails, you want to go on Facebook. You've made an investment in this event, don't throw that money down the toilet.

4. I've gone to big events (500+ attendees), medium events (around 200 or so) and smaller events (less than 100). The smaller and medium ones are better if run well. If it isn't the first time it's been done, see if you can find others that went before and see what they think.

5. Don't latch onto one person and stay with him or her for the whole time. Move around. Go to lunch with different people than you go to dinner with or sit next to the bar with. Or at least sit next to someone different next time.

6. Yes, you'll be exhausted at the end if you do everything right. There will be time to catch up on your sleep later.

7. Don't market to your new acquaintances unless they ask you to. This isn't about making money AT the event, it's about building relationships for the long term.

8. If you can't hold your liquor without being obnoxious, slow down your consumption. Sure, people might remember you later, but not in a good way. I have stories I could tell, but won't. Besides, if you have all your senses going for you, you never know what secrets some of the experienced people will be spilling. You don't want to miss them. Of course I'm talking about the after hours sessions.

9. Don't worry if you can't make every session. If there's something that doesn't apply to you, roll call will not be taken. You can use that time to catch up on emails or better yet, hang out in the hall outside the conference room and network with others.

10. Arrive early to the event, leave the day after. You don't want to miss opportunities.

11. Don't worry so much about the agenda, worry about who will be there. This isn't about what you'll learn so much as it's about whose radar you can get on for the future. The agenda is the bonus.


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LainLain Ehmann of Crafting Your Business, Step-by-Step says:

They don't talk to people outside their “circle.” And if they're newcomers, they don't realize that most other people are newcomers, too! Be the first to say hello and reach out to others. Everyone appreciates a friendly face or a warm “Hello.”

Also, they attend classes at the wrong level, either over- or under-estimating their skills. Talk with someone who's been to the conference before, or email the conference organizer to get a good idea of what the levels are and where they think you'd fit.

Finally, they don't take action! Pages full of notes mean nothing if you don't act on what you learn.


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SusanneSusanne Myers of  Daily Affiliate Tasks says:

I’m sure there are all sorts of faux pas we’ve seen at live events, but the one that might cost you the most is to stay at a place other then the hotel where the event is taking place. If you’re living close by, you may be tempted to just commute from home. If money is tight and the hotel isn’t exactly cheap, you may be tempted to find a cheaper room near by. Do yourself a favor and don’t.

Much of the value you’re going to get from a Live Event is having conversations and forming friendships outside the regular sessions. Much of this takes place after hours around the hotel bar, the pool etc. These are the times when I’ve had conversations that resulted in JVs, helped me solve a major stumbling block I was coming across and helped me form relationships that continue to help me grow my business years after the event took place.

Each time I attend a conference, I run across a few people who end up not staying at the hotel. In many cases, they are people I would have liked to connect with, but wasn’t able to because by 11pm, they were already headed back to their hotel or home.

Attending live events isn’t cheap, but always worthwhile. If you’re going to attend, go ahead and spend a few extra dollars to stay at the hotel the event takes place in. This will allow you to take advantage of all sorts of extra networking opportunities.

And here’s a little extra tip. My biggest mistake in the beginning was not spending enough time socializing and networking after hours. I’m not a very social person (you could call me shy), and was just easier to hide out in my room. Don’t make that mistake. Go out there, introduce yourself to some new folks, have dinner with someone you don’t know and make the most of each event.


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David Perdew of NAMS says:

Do I attend live events?

Yes…and No!

I used to attend a lot of live events until I got disgusted by the pitchfest quality.

Then, I stopped.

In 2004, I attended an event in Atlanta with about 1000 other people and I watched as 6 people “taught” for 15 minutes, then pitched a $2 to $3,000 product for 45 minutes.

One woman spent $7500 dollars that day on programs she would never use.

I felt like I was going to lose my lunch.

After attending half a dozen more events, I quit going altogether. That was a huge mistake.

The action was not at the pitchfest.

The real action was in the restaurant or the hallway or coffee shop. People were meeting, doing deals, and getting to know future partners.

I was not there.

Fast forward to 2008 and I decided to start my training workshop. Instructors would teach and we would focus on the students and implementation.

In the first couple of workshops, we pulled 12 hour days. I left no time for networking. And people were exhausted, but enthusiastic. But we didn't focus enough on networking.

Now, the NAMS event is a serious blend of training and networking. We try to make sure both are handled equally because they are equally important.

Coming to a live event and NOT networking is a huge mistake.

Walk in the door with your hand extended and a business card at the ready. And be sure your conversation is about the person you're talking with and what they do.

Don't talk about you and your stuff until asked.

And go to as many events (like NAMS) as possible. Even take in a few pitchfests because you'll still find people to network with.

And remember, as one of my favorite mentors, Keith Ferrazi, says on the title of his book “Never Eat Alone“.


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NicoleNicole Dean of .. here! .. says:

It’s always interesting to me to read the responses. Oftentimes, the question that I had in my head is not what obviously came out. :)

A lot of really great things happen at events, but there is also plenty of room for faux pas.

Here are a few examples that I thought of… and as I typed these, it made me appreciate NAMS even more as the wonderful, warm, learning environment that it is!

1. Klutziness.

One of my friends (who is actually a regular on Expert Briefs) actually fell OFF the stage while in the middle of  a speech.

Lesson: While that was totally unintentional in her case and not really a faux pas, I’d like to use it as an example of “watch where you walk if you’re on stage”.  When stuff like that happens, get up and keep going.

2. Pride.

I’ve seen panels where one panelist will actually grab the microphone from another. Or they’ll argue in front of all of the attendees.

Lesson: Pump each other up every opportunity you have. Don’t bring each other down.

3.  Avoidance.

Some of the presenters at Internet Marketing conferences are internet marketers for a reason — they have social anxieties. So, there have been instances of speakers who hide during the entire weekend and only come out when it’s time to speak.

Lesson: If you’re asked to be a speaker, people are excited to meet you!

4. Timing.

Several times, I’ve been asked for interviews — while I was actually in a stall, taking a pee, between sessions.

Lesson: Wait until I’m done peeing please. :)

5. Total Stupidity.

Earlier this year, I went to an event where I was totally out of my comfort zone.  Being totally out of my comfort zone, I did a few strange things that I wouldn’t normally have done — and, worse, said something just wrong to one of the presenters. I don’t know how or why it came out of my mouth, but my mouth obviously bypassed my brain and my heart. I wish I could take it back.

Lesson: Don’t let yourself get over-tired, overwhelmed, and feeling puny and say something stupid like I did. (And, if you do, apologize like I did.)

6. Vulgarity.

I’ve been to a few events where the language was definitely above PG-13.

Lesson: Now, I’m no prude, but GEESH. It’s a business function. (That’s why I’ll only bring my mom and son to NAMS.)

7. Thoughtlessness.

If you take a bunch of pictures at an event, at least look through them before you load them up to the internet and start tagging them on Facebook. No one wants a picture of them posted where they’re scratching, picking, chewing, or heading into or out of the bathroom.

Lesson: Do unto others as you’d like them to do to you. If you see a picture where someone is bending over or you can see up their nose, either crop that out or delete the picture.

8. Assumptions.

I was at an event where the speakers did not have or chose not to wear nametags. I don’t know if it was because they assumed everyone would know who they were – or if it was a total oversight, but it made it very difficult to get to know people.

Lesson:  You might look different from your avatar. Please wear a nametag so I don’t feel uncomfortable getting to know you. I’ll wear mine. :)

9. Not taking pictures (or assuming others will).

I've come home from events where it seemed like the camera was in my face all weekend to find that not one picture of me was posted anywhere. I had no record of all of the fun from the event.

Lesson: Take pictures. Lots of them. You can't go back and get pictures later – it's too late.

10. Staying in a different hotel (or at home).

Always, if at all possible, stay at the hotel. That's where the magic happens. Trust me on this one.

Lesson: Be easily accessible in the evenings – and you'll be so glad that you did.

And, the biggest mistake of all …

11. NOT Attending Live Events.

They've totally made the difference for me between running a business and have a community and friends and JV partners and a living breathing business. Please take a chance and come.

All right. I think that’s enough venting for one afternoon.

If you’d like to meet me and hang out in a warm, supportive, friendly learning environment in August – I hope you’ll consider coming to NAMS. Info is below.

Have a GREAT day!



Why I like this event…
NAMS is family. I look forward to it every 6 months and wouldn’t miss it for the world.

The instructors are amazing, warm people. The students are, too. I couldn’t ask for a more enjoyable way to spend a weekend.

How to join me:

  1. Click here for Details
  2. Book your hotel room.
  3. I’ll see you there!


I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.

  • David Perdew

    Nicole – great to see you at Earn 1K A Day seminar in Las Vegas this weekend. I’m just now reading this “brief” – you hang with some smart folks.

    I just wanted to emphasize how important it is to “INVEST” in the right live events. It’s very important to learn as much as you can at these things, but at least as important to spend time with other attendees and instructors.

    For me, I have to have 3 or 4 goals that I focus on during the event.

    1) Take home something I can use from each instructor.

    2) Get to know (or at least meet) every instructor. I was able to eat at least one meal with each instructor at E1KAD.

    3) Meet EVERY single attendee. At NAMS 7, on Friday morning, I challenged myself to learn all 300 names (and faces) of each attendee and to have at least shaken hands with each one. I did that by Sunday night and everyone was impressed. But mostly, the attendees helped me because they knew that was my goal. If I hadn’t met them, they came up to me and introduced themselves.

    One of my other goals – always – is to look for new partners, people that have great hearts and great products. They must have both, not one or the other. And if an instructor only shows up for his presentation, but doesn’t make himself available for the rest of the event or support the other speakers, then he doesn’t have the heart I’m looking for.

    See you at NAMS 🙂


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