Proposed Conference Code of Conduct (Technical or Otherwise)

In Philosophy by J Michel Metz1 Comment

Feeding off my earlier post on inappropriate behavior at conferences, and seeing that it has resonated with a lot of people, I threw together a proposed code of conduct for attendees of conferences. This doesn’t need to be technical conferences – it could be any type.

Take it for what it’s worth, these are just the top 11 (this one goes to 11) tips and tricks to avoid becoming a generally disliked person who will be avoided by the very people you need to do business with. 

No-Pests-symbol-144x1421. Understand that the primary reason for the conference is work-related, not social.

2) When people are engaged in a conversation and you don’t know all of them, check for signals if it is a private conversation. If unsure, ask.

3) Do not hover, stalk, shadow, or otherwise loom around people more more than 10 seconds, unless you have a pressing business-related question and you are simply waiting your turn.

4) Remember that just because you’ve had intense and personal private messages on Twitter, Facebook, G+, Path, etc., does not mean that relationship automatically translates to Face-to-Face. Some people are much better at 140 characters.

5) If someone asks you to give them some time (e.g., “gimme a second,” “I just need a couple of minutes”), give them the space. The opportunity may be lost, yes, but that’s a known risk at a conference. There’s a corollary to this as well. “Let’s meet up again for more time later, before the end of the conference,” rarely works out, but is not necessarily a dismissal. Get used to this reality.

6) Understand that you are responsible for paying your own way. When people volunteer to pay, this is called “unexpected” and “serendipitous.” It is not your entitlement for blessing people with your presence, and it is the height of arrogance that anyone other than yourself is responsible for your food, lodging, transportation or passes.

7) Even if you are friends with someone you ‘know in the industry’ through social media, that does not extend to their wife, spouse, significant other, or partner. Do not talk to them as if they were your best friend. Do not assume they have welcomed you into their ‘inner circle.’ Do not make rude/lewd/sexual jokes. Oh, and unless there is 100% complete unambiguity in the situation, no touching!

8) If someone is bothering you, do not be passive-aggressive and tweet, post, photograph, or blog about them without their knowing. It is okay – preferable, even – to make a comment directly to those people (as long as you’re in a safe place – I’m talking conference halls, not rowdy drunken bars).

9) Face it: You’re smart enough to know that you’re not smart enough to know everything. The guy/gal standing next to you always knows something you don’t. Shut up and listen.

10) All of the above goes tenfold as soon as the alcohol starts flowing.

And, since this one goes to 11…

11) If you want everyone to know how smart you are, show them that you’re smart enough not to be a jerk.


  1. After reading a recent article on why accepting jokes only enable and even promote bad behavior/culture, I think it’d be helpful someplace to mention that it is everyone’s responsibility to educate people in the moment when they see things happening against the spirit of community.

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