What Not to Do at a Sales Conference

Niti Shah
Niti Shah



We're officially 3 days out from the biggest sales conference in the world. I'm assuming that quite a few of you readers are part of the 120,000 attendees expected to convene in San Francisco on November 18 to kick off Dreamforce 2013.

As a 24/7 attendee and staffer at HubSpot's own INBOUND marketing conference this past August and a regular conference-goer, I've seen some no-no behavior from attendees that left a bad impression. That's why I've put together this list of funny-but-really-please-don't-do-these things to help you take advantage of the event without making a fool of yourself.

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1) Don't repeatedly show up late to sessions.

Once may be fine, but don't be that person who rudely walks in late to most sessions. You're interrupting the speaker, distracting the audience, and making it abundantly clear that you simply don't care. At least a few people will start to remember you in a negative light -- and this might cost you a great networking opportunity. 

2) Don't dress like it's the most casual of Casual Fridays.

Conferences mean really, really long days, and you want to be comfortable. This is totally understandable. So, trade your heels or uncomfortable dress shoes in for presentable, foot-friendly gear and forgo that really scratchy blazer for a comfortable work casual jacket.

However, don't dress like you're going to the grocery store or taking a walk around the park on the weekend -- avoid light jeans, rumpled anything, flannel, sweatshirts, and tousled I-am-so-casual hair. San Francisco is known for its trendy, casual style, but you're at a networking event with businesspeople, not at a hipster cafe.

3) Don't dress like you're going to the club ... even if you're going to the club.

Show off your style, but leave your party outfits at home. You don't have to wear suits and cardigans to evening events, but this is not the time and place to pull out that low-cut dress you wore out on girls' night or that over-the-top disco get-up.

You're here to mix and mingle and meet other people in your industry, and let me tell you: This is not a judgement-free zone. Like any social situation, first impressions count.

4) Don't be that disheveled mess in the corner, no matter how late the parties went last night.

There are multiple, fantastic, exhausting parties each night of the conference. Go to town with your coworkers and other attendees, but remember that this is a professional event. That means you need to put yourself together the next morning.

Brush your hair, make sure your clothes and mind are sharp, and put your best foot forward. Don't be that shady, rumpled character dozing in a corner all morning.

5) Don't pitch your company's products or services to someone you've just met, even if it's the best fit ever.

It's going to come off as solicitous, at best. Most likely, you'll come off as desperate. Desperate is not a good look for anyone.

If you meet someone you think would truly benefit from your product or services, ask for their business card, get to know them, and follow up with them after the conference. It's amazing how much more successful you'll be when you present yourself as a likable human instead of a robotic sales machine.

6) Don't spend the entire conversation talking about yourself.

Narcissism won't win you too many new friends. If there was an impromptu trust-fall exercise at Dreamforce, chances are no one will catch you.

Remember that networking is all about getting to know the other person. Make sure you are attentive. Ask questions about the other person. Learn about what they do, what their interests are, why they are attending the conference.

By not making it about yourself, you can use the conversation to get someone (possibly a prospect, or a great connection) to open up and genuinely like you.

7) And seriously, don't get overly friendly at the parties.

Just don't do it. It's a conference for networking, learning new things, and improving your business and others'. Keep it classy, and you're guaranteed to have a great time.

Want some tried-and-true networking tips to get you prepared for the conference? Check out our guide, How to Network at Conferences ... Without Being Awkward, below!

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