I probably attend approximately 30 investment industry conferences each year. That’s right, I eat roughly 60 rubbery chicken or salmon lunches, have an estimated 120 glasses of overly oak-y chardonnay, and listen to more than 200 panel discussions and fireside chats annually. Sure, I get to do these things in some pretty fabulous locations, from Malibu to South Beach to Manhattan, but I mostly see them all through the double-paned glass of hotel rooms and the pallor-enhancing lights of conference ballrooms.
I would like to think, however, that all this conference going has made me somewhat of a seminar savant. An expert, if you will, in the inner workings of panels, exhibit halls and networking lunches and the human behavior that goes along with them. In fact, as I was winging my way back from a recent event, I was ruminating on all the half-truths, misrepresentations and outright lies that get told at investment conferences. And I’m not talking about folks overpromising on investment returns.
So in an effort to help my fellow conference goers navigate the often-confusing maze of conference attendance and etiquette, I thought it might be helpful for me to share the wisdom of 300 plus conferences with you with my all new Top 10 List of Conference Lies and Deceptions:
Number 10– “Oh, come on! It will be an early dinner, I promise!” – No conference dinner that has more than two people in attendance is ever an “early dinner.” In fact, any conference dinner with more than 10 people is guaranteed to take *at least* three hours. Plan accordingly and eat a snack and call your kids to say goodnight beforehand.
Number 9– “We will be leaving 15 minutes for audience questions.” – Yeah, this likely won’t happen. While this is possible, get one or two talkers on a panel OR a session that is running late where the organizers need to make up time, and it is NOT going to happen. I’d say the odds of a full 15 minutes for audience questions is a 50-50 proposition at best.
Number 8– “We don’t need a pre-panel call.” You do. Everyone does. It doesn’t have to be a long call but knowing things like who will be in the audience, who else is on the panel and what questions people want to answer can save a panel from monotony or irrelevance.
Number 7– “We need more than one pre-panel call.” You don’t. In fact, if you talk too much before the panel the whole thing can seem either canned or panelists anticipate and answer questions before they are asked, and you end up with nothing to talk about when the moderator doesn’t want to spring questions on the panelists.
Number 6– “I’m just going to run to my room for a minute.” You won’t see this person again that day, or at least not before the next meal or cocktail.
Number 5– “Oh, I don’t need the full XX minutes for my remarks.” They do. And they may take twice that much time.
Number 4– “Oh darn! I’ve run out of cards!” Maybe they really have. Maybe they are like me and thought they had cards in their bag left over from the prior conference but didn’t. But many times, this means they don’t want you to have their contact details or they have limited cards and you don’t actually merit one.
Number 3– “I’ll meet you by the registration table/coffee station/in the hotel lobby.” Again, there is a reasonable chance that this may happen, but probably an equal chance it won’t. Often, I find this is a well-intentioned lie, and the person was genuinely waylaid en route to your meeting. But still, take it as more of a suggestion than a promise.
Number 2– “I didn’t order the vegetarian option.” They did. But when the flaccid grilled portabella mushroom or other vegan fare actually arrived, suddenly the chicken, fish or steak looked a whole lot better.
Number 1– “Oh hiiiiii! It’s so great to see you!” It probably is, but I’d lay odds this person doesn’t remember your name or can’t remember if they’ve met you before or not.
Now, I want to be very clear that I’m not calling out any person in particular and that, in fact, I believe I have, at one time or another over the last 15 years, been guilty of every single lie, misstatement and half-truth on this list. We all have been. But forewarned is forearmed. So be on the lookout for these conference calumniations so you can plan your time accordingly. One less minute spent looking for someone means one more sip of screw-top chardonnay, y’all.