Minimizing vendor pitches during conference sessions

How can we minimize vendor pitches during conference sessions?minimize vendor pitches audience question 3662375163_db69fbfbb3

Traci Browne of Trade Show Institute has been reading my book Conferences That Work and recently wrote:

One of my biggest questions is around vendor pitching at peer-to-peer sessions and not letting them dominate. You know who these people are, they are everywhere and it’s hard to avoid them.

If you’ve read my book you’ll know that unwanted vendor pitches are not a problem at Conferences That Work. Why? Because attendees know that they determine what happens at peer sessions. Not conference organizers, and certainly not vendors.

Vendor representatives who wish to attend peer sessions are given a set of clear expectations by the conference staff, including having representatives sit quietly and observe, and only providing contributions if they ask for and receive an OK from the people present. They are also warned that it’s possible the session attendees may not want them to be present, though this is rarely a problem in my experience.

At sessions where sensitive personal experiences may be discussed or where frank discussion of commercial products and services may occur, the session facilitator asks at the start for attendees’ permission to allow vendor representatives to sit in. If someone objects, vendors are not allowed to attend.

When I ran traditional conferences with vendor exhibits, unwanted vendor pitches were a sometimes distasteful and seemingly unavoidable component of the conference experience. Since moving to the peer conference format I have not had one problem allowing vendor representatives to attend conference sessions.

That’s how I minimize vendor pitches during conference sessions.

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