I’ve been wanting to write this since the PyCon debacle. Here are a few points to keep in mind to prevent what happened there from happening to you. Not all of them relate directly to that incident, but it’ll save you a lot of trouble if you bear them in mind:
- You’re NOT on vacation. Don’t lose your mind just because you’re in San Diego or Las Vegas. You’re at the conference to represent whoever’s paying for you to be there.
- Turn your game OFF. You’re there to exchange ideas and make business contacts, not pick up people.
- Leave the jokes at the door. This is a technical conference, not a comedy show or a pub. You may not like the “business” tone, but you’re getting paid to be here so suck it up. If you think cracking a grey area/double entendre joke is worth being called into your boss’ office on Monday morning with someone from HR in the other chair next to his desk, go right ahead.
- Don’t put people on blast. Whatever the problem you might be experiencing with someone is, it’s not necessarily to single them out in public or on social media about it. Doing so sets up a confrontation. Confrontations guarantee only 1 thing: that at least 1 side loses. That side could be yours. Both sides could lose, as happened at PyCon. Also, unless there’s a business case for not doing so, clearly separate your personal views from those of your employer.
- Socialize or excuse yourself. While conferences are ostensibly about exchanging ideas, their real value lies in facilitating meetings between and introductions of people who otherwise might not cross paths. That’s where you come in. Not only should you be actively interested in meeting people, you should also be actively interested in being met by them. I find many attendees miss this latter point. If you’re in the conference area and don’t want to talk to anyone, just go back to your hotel room: you’re wasting the time of others who think you might be receptive.
- Don’t be creepy. This kinda goes along with Point #2, but respect boundaries and avoid thirst. There are plenty of better situations to hit on people than at a conference.
Get it? Got it? Good.