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Success tip: Attend events effectively

Every event is an opportunity to advance your career by promoting yourself and by expanding your network


Posted 18 July 2021

Nobody plans to stagnate in their career. However, many do, often because they never learn the basics of career development.

Almost all people attend “events”, which I use to cover lectures, seminars, and meetings, whether physical or electronic.

Many forget that there are two reasons for attending events, not just one.

  1. The obvious reason is that you may learn something, or with work meetings attendance may simply be compulsory.
  2. Many do not realise that every event is an opportunity to advance your career by promoting yourself and by expanding your network.

Achieving objective (B) above requires specific behaviours. Many of these do not come naturally.

Obviously, if you are unaware of objective (B), you will not even think about the required behaviours.

Some behaviours that will help you to succeed

The following pieces of advice are based upon long experience. I did not do all of them when I was young; I learned along the way.

Arrive early

Always arrive between 30 and 15 minutes before the event starting time. If the event is preceded by an arrival period for tea and coffee, arrive 15 minutes before that arrival period starts.

Arriving early enables the following:

Sit on the very front row, as close to the speakers as possible

It always dismays me how auditoria always fill up from the back.

The first time at school when we could choose where to sit was when I entered the sixth form. From that time onwards, whenever I have a choice, I always sit at the front .

I started sitting at the front in the sixth form because my eyesight had deteriorated while I didn’t realise that I needed glasses. Accordingly, it was the only place where I could read the board properly!

However, even after I started wearing glasses and could see from anywhere, I continued to sit at the front because I had learned:

Where to sit for a meeting around a boardroom table

These are the seating positions where you have the best opportunity to catch the chairman’s eye when you want to speak. Sitting in these positions also demonstrates your self-confidence and assertiveness.

Introduce yourself to the person on your left and the person on your right

After sitting down and before the presentation starts, introduce yourself to both the person on your left and the person on your right. Have a short conversation with each of them.

Later on, when the event is about to finish, tell each of them how much you enjoyed meeting them and swap business cards.

Ask the first question

When the formal presentations finish, there is almost always a segment for audience questions. Usually there is a minute or so of silence while people think of questions to ask.

You must compose a question in your head while the speaker is still presenting. As soon as the event chairman asks for questions, your right arm should shoot up straight so that it you cannot be overlooked.

Asking questions later on in the question and answer session is much less effective for several reasons:

Stand up to ask your question

This applies even though you will be sitting on the front row (unless a “reserved” sign has kept you away).

The reasons are:

Preface your question with your name and organisation

Your goal is to ensure that people know who you are. However, you should not be any more loquacious than the following:

“Mohammed Amin, Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester.”

Your question should be concise, and it must be a question, not a statement, since this is a question and answer session.

Apart from ensuring that you do not alienate the organisers by being long-winded, by trying to make statements instead of asking questions etc., your goal is to demonstrate to everybody in the room that you can ask good questions concisely.

Leave last

You may get a chance to chat briefly with the organisers and the speaker.

If you are already giving up valuable time to attend the event, don’t spoil that by trying to get out 10 minutes faster.

Special guidance for online events

There are features of online events which make them different.

For clarity, I have focused the following comments around Zoom, although the same points apply to other technology systems.

Master the technology

You need to be good at muting and and muting your microphone, and do it by reflex.

It gives a very poor impression if you start talking while your microphone is on mute!

Use your video camera

Many people attending online events turn off their video camera. That is a serious mistake. You will have far more impact on the other participants (and on the presenters) if they can see you.

Being seen is most important when you speak to ask a question or to make a point. However it also applies even if you are not saying anything.

To advance your career, you need to expand your network and become better known. You are harming your ability to do that if you are just a name on a black box!

Include your head and shoulders photo in your Zoom profile

Sometimes for large events organisers disable participant videos. In that case you will only be represented by your name, unless your Zoom profile also includes your photograph.

Make sure it does, for the same reason that you need a good quality photograph on your social media profiles. For more, see my page "Use a good quality photograph".

Don’t type directly into the Zoom chat box

The Zoom chat box is very helpful for increasing your impact during the meeting.

However it is awful technology to type into for several reasons:

Instead, always keep Microsoft Word open on your computer with a blank document. When you want to make a Zoom chat contribution, type the text within Word, where you can:

Once you are happy with what you have typed, copy the text you have typed and paste it into the Zoom chat box.

Using Word to type the contribution only adds about three seconds to the entire process. It ensures that you will write much better chat contributions, thereby burnishing your reputation.


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