It’s that time of year again so I recently dug out some old guides for company staff on party conference behaviour produced by various former employers and competitors. Most of them are long, wordy, worthy and useful but generally also rather dull. They are full of advice from the militant to the motherly, via the odd smattering of patronising guff. Reading them reminds me of my early years, imagining terrifying Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest calmly reciting each point as I stand there sweating with anxiety that I may have already broken regulation 18.104.22.168.3 pertaining to which coloured pants I should wear for the respective conference.
My favourite advice they gave, and probably least adhered to, was don’t get too drunk. There then followed a lot of stuff about not letting the company down and being able to remember people the following day. I mean, how else are you expected to get through these things? Another similar piece of advice was not to get too over-friendly with any conference colleagues which probably defeats the object of conference for some people.
Another ‘handy’ piece of advice was to make sure you tell people about how great the company you are working for is. This is when images spring into my mind of Nurse Ratched literally looking down upon you, noting every word you say ready for a stern telling off at the end of the week for not being word perfect.
So what are my tips?
Aside from all the usual stuff like making sure you plan your days to make contact with those you would like to see and having enough business cards etc., there are a bunch of things you should also consider.
First, eat a good breakfast (especially if it’s a freebie in a rip-off hotel). Even if you are feeling a touch green around the gills, get it down you. This will help to fortify you for the following 18 hours and allow you to avoid much of the notoriously congealing fringe event food.
Second, go outside. Hanging around the exhibition hall or conference hotel for a long time is very unhealthy. Make sure you get out of the bubble even for an hour, particularly if the weather is nice (obviously by no means a given).
Third, if your pass allows it, spend a bit of time in the actual conference hall listening to a speech or two. It can give you a much more enlightening view of what the members really think than hanging around the conference all day. If it gets boring, then it’s quite a nice way to catch up on emails and get a bit of shut-eye in the dark.
Fourthly, carpe diem. Even if you are dog-tired, keep going. You never know who you might meet, what contacts you might make and what information you may learn.
Finally, be generous (if possible). Be the one to buy the drinks. You will be far better remembered for that than regurgitating yet another Brexit tale or some failed new business pitch sob story.
So, hardly devastating insights but just a few survival techniques. If you have some more, then do tweet us your #partyconferencetips so that next year when I write the same piece I will be able to shamelessly plagiarise.
Editor's note: Atlas Partners co-founder Charles Napier has been attending political party conferences for 18 years and unusually still enjoys them.