As a newcomer to the international conference scene, I have been compiling a glossary of useful explanations for others who find themselves in this position. Here are some extracts.
Meeting = a half-hour get-together in a crowded space which must be immediately followed by another half-hour get-together in another crowded space with another group of people, and for the last five minutes of which you must fidget and check your smartphone and make clear that you need to move on to something more interesting. A bit like speed dating, in fact.
Reaching out = emailing someone to set up a meeting. (Note: all meetings must begin with everybody thanking everybody else for reaching out to one another.)
Business card = a small piece of card to remind people who they have reached out to. Needs to be kept handy and not buried in the bottom of a bag with your toiletries and spare pens. All meetings should involve an awkward exchange of business cards. Take care not to hand out the business cards you collected from the previous meetings by mistake. Or the ones that you’ve been writing reminders on.
Breakfast meeting = like a normal meeting, but with pancakes, maple syrup, bacon, eggs several ways, hash browns, granola, yoghurt, huge chunks of fruit and inexhaustible supplies of coffee and orange juice. And a large bill.
Taxes = things that get added to your bill to cover all sorts of other random things you had no idea you were letting yourself in for, plus the knock-on effects of the random things. Not to be confused with the optional but nevertheless taxable gratuitous gratuity that will also be added to your bill next to the eggs several ways and the maple syrup.
Networking (advanced version) = walking into a room and instantly recognising, loudly and flamboyantly, people you have reached out to/connected with/networked with/got drunk with on previous such occasions, and monopolising them for the next twenty minutes so that they cannot reach out to/connect with/network with/get drunk with anyone else. Occasionally involves an exchange of business cards, but only if one of you has a hand free.
Networking (beginner’s version) = walking into a room and not recognising anyone, going once round the space trying to look purposeful and then walking back out again and retiring to your hotel room to cry.
Buffet = a collection of delicious-looking food that you cannot eat because you are supposed to be walking round the room networking and handing out business cards, and you cannot network with greasy fingers and bits of chicken stuck between your teeth. Designed to highlight the fact that you have no one to talk to, because there is nothing worse than only having a paper plate and a greasy samosa for company, knowing that everyone is watching you spill the contents of the samosa and vowing to themselves not to network anywhere near you.
Dessert reception = a networking event at which the buffet is not greasy samosas and chicken kebabs but delicate little cakey and puddingy things. Which you also cannot eat, because you cannot network with whipped cream and chocolate round your mouth.