Surviving the annual crop of Dive Shows and attendant Conferences takes stamina: Keeping your workload to the minimum while managing to enhance your professional reputation requires finesse.
Regular appearances at the international round of diving industry events have, for many people, become an increasingly important part of the job brief. They represent an opportunity to establish important business relationships and provide valuable links in expanding their network of contacts. A task made significantly more difficult for those delegates who believe that the business of diving is best conducted in the stuffy confines of a conference room rather than in the air-conditioned comfort of a hotel bar or coffee shop
Here, for the benefit of the uninitiated, are a few pointers to cutting-edge networking. Careful adherence to these principles will make it possible to attend – and benefit from – as many Dive Shows and conferences as the boss throws your way.
1. Carry with you, at all times, a large sheaf of documents. This will indicate to other delegates that you are:
a. Literate. (An important attribute in the diving industry.)
b. That you are either coming from a meeting/seminar session, or:
c. Going to a meeting/seminar session.
2. Make a point of attending the following sessions:
a. The Opening Session. Use this session to categorise delegates into two broad divisions: Competitors and Customers. Ignore the customers and concentrate on identifying the competition. These people are your enemies. Impress upon them the need to ‘hard sell’ prospective customers during the interval breaks and the importance of attending every session except:
b. The ‘Boring’ Session. Carefully select the speaker you feel is least likely to attract a large audience. Ingratiate yourself with the Organisers by sitting in a prominent position and feigning interest in the topic. (Chances are, you’ll be one of the few delegates present in the auditorium.)
c. The Closing Session. Concentrate on the customers. At this stage in the conference they will be shell-shocked by the attentions of your competitors. Let yours be the last and most persuasive voice that they hear.
3. Unless you are actually out diving – or otherwise enjoying yourself. – ensure that you are always visible during the coffee/tea breaks, and:
a. Never talk meaningfully, or for lengthy periods, to any delegate whom you suspect of having an understanding of the session topic.
b. Should such conversations prove unavoidable, pretend to search through your documents for a relevant paper and ‘accidentally’ spill coffee on their shoes. (Note: This ploy only works effectively once per conference.)
4. Carefully rehearse at least three differing opinions on the Conference topic. Use them sparingly and only as a last resort when in the company of a large group of delegates.
If invited to elaborate on your views, take a large bite of the peanut butter covered canapé that you have previously secreted about your person.
5. Make a point of being seen at least once a day in the lobbies of the major, 5-star, delegate hotels. Raise your profile by periodically arranging to have yourself paged. (This is best accomplished by telephoning which ever hotel you happen to be in from one of their own public ‘phones. Explain to the operator that you understand (insert own name), is with a group of people in the bar/restaurant/coffee lounge and that it is imperative that they call head office immediately for an up-dated schedule of their Government/Ministerial appointments.)
6. When taking refreshments ensure that you sit in a well-lighted spot in full view of passing delegates. Maintain a concerned expression and constantly check your watch. This will indicate that the person(s) with whom you had obviously arranged a meeting is/are running late and may cause you to miss the next session.
7. Retain every piece of literature relating to the conference. Hopefully this will be sufficient to fill your suitcase, leaving little room for presents. (The buying of gifts while attending a diving event is discouraged. To do so indicates that you had some leisure time and said gift may be interpreted as a salve to your conscience for some minor indiscretion.)
8. Inevitably you will meet delegates who are “tired and emotional”, usually in the cocktail bar of hotels in the late evening. Seek out those delegates whom you deem to be the most “emotional” and remind them of their offer to buy you dinner. On your return the company accountant will commend you for your thrift, thus paving the way for your attendance at the next conference.
9. In the event that your spouse/co-habitant insists on accompanying you:
a. Downgrade your hotel reservation. Take all meals in your hotel room.
b. Attend every session and refuse to acknowledge any member of the opposite sex who may greet you.
c. Spend each evening reviewing the speaker notes and insist that the mini-bar be removed from your room as not being conducive or relevant to a diving related event.
10. On your return write a tediously lengthy report emphasising the ‘Boring’ session, (see 2. b above) and, when asked to comment on the Dive Show, plant your tongue firmly in your cheek and tell the truth. “It was bloody hard work.”
The above article – one that I was commissioned to write for ‘M.I.C.E. Asia (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Exhibitions) Magazine – was first published in 1990.