For virtually every industry, there's an annual convention or two that really count. How you behave at these events will impact whether or not you're asked to represent your company in the future. Your actions can also establish whether or not you have a future with your current employer at all.
Follow these do's and don'ts to make sure you don't kill your career at the next convention.
* Do take care of yourself and trust your colleagues to take care of themselves. If you need to go back to your room and relax each night after meeting your professional obligations, do so. You are not under orders to fraternize with your fellow employees, nor are they.
* Don't drink to excess -- if at all -- with clients, vendors, or colleagues. You are representing your company at all times. Even if you're at a big corporate-sponsored blow-out, it's best to limit your alcohol consumption and have fun without getting out of hand.
* Do take notes during meetings with potential and current clients as well as your take on what your competitors are doing at the event and seminars that you've attended. Type them up when you return so that you have a document at the ready that will help you discuss your experiences at the event and what you got out of them professionally.
* Don't bring a spouse or friend along to the convention without clearing it with your supervisor first. Find out what your obligations are each morning and at night after the convention ends; you may not have much (if any) time to spend with a traveling companion anyway.
* Do make the most of your time at an event. Fill your daily schedule with meetings as best as you can. If there are gaps, walk the convention floor (which is probably formidable) and take in everything you see. Ask colleagues if you can help out with any of their appointments. Attend a lecture or volunteer to lend an extra hand manning your company's booth if there is one.
* Don't dress inappropriately. Anywhere. When you're at a convention, you're acting as an emissary for your employer around the clock. It doesn't matter if a client sees you having an early breakfast or a night cap in the hotel's lounge. You should always wear clothing that won't embarrass you, your client, or your employer. Leave the sweatpants and the slinky attire at home.
* Do return with a clear list of actions you'll need to take to follow up with clients and leads for new business and share this with your supervisor.
* Don't fake expenses or take advantage of your expense account. Companies are auditing employee expense reports more closely than ever and being deceitful on them can lead to your dismissal. Also, if you're entertaining clients, don't go overboard with lavish meals and cocktails unless you're instructed to by your superiors.
* Do keep in touch with your colleagues during the day. Keep your mobile phone or BlackBerry on at all times, and keep your appointments. Check in with people often. You're traveling on your employer's dime, so you're accountable for your time.