If you're in the audience, what makes for bad manners? | acidlabs Studios
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If you’re in the audience, what makes for bad manners?

If you’re in the audience, what makes for bad manners?

Interesting post at the Ragan blog about what amounts to bad manners when you’re in the audience. Here’s my take.

If you’re in the audience at a seminar I’m giving or at a conference I’m presenting at, I’d prefer it if you were paying attention. I guess I figure you’re wasting someone’s money if you’re not. That said, these days, many people are getting very good at continuous partial attention, and what might look to some as not paying attention at all, could be quite the opposite. I know I can pay attention to a speaker, tweet, read related material on the web and do email at the same time.

Stephen Collins

Being a node in the conversation is just as important as listening to the conversation. If not more so. The value is in the participation – exactly what Clay Shirky describes in his Web 2.0 Expo talk.

I do my fair share of presenting, and pretty much expect people will be live blogging, or tweeting, or whatevering what I say. Equally, I often live blog or tweet others’ presentations. So, I absolutely don’t agree with the Ragan folks on live blogging. Please live blog what I’m talking about, good or bad. I want you to take part and I want to know what you think.

With Blackberry use – people could be live blogging. I’d want to check. Situation and context is important here. It’s likely to be bad manners in a class or seminar. It’s probably okay at a conference as long as you’re not bothering your neighbors in the audience. If it’s critical, excuse yourself and step out. At least then, nobody’s going to bitch about you.

As for mobile phones… If you’re so important that you can’t shut your phone off for the half-hour I’m talking, you’re probably not interested in what I’m saying anyway. For the rest of you, I absolutely agree with the Ragan people on the issue of answering and making calls. If you’re in a conference or class, shut your bloody phone off or I’ll publicly point you out in the audience when it rings and you answer it. If you talk on the phone during my talk, watch out! There are breaks in seminars and conferences at regular intervals. Get your messages and make your calls in the breaks.

That said, by all means interrupt me with your cogent and insightful questions and challenges. I’m a big boy and relish any of my assumptions being challenged.

Your thoughts?

Stephen Collins
No Comments
  • NathanaelB
    Posted at 20:14h, 08 May Reply

    Having facilitated a workshop today, one of the worst things is when people ask questions (which is ok) … but they’re questions about things you’ve already talked about – but they weren’t listening because they were sending an email at the time or doing something else. Incredibly rude.

  • JesterXL
    Posted at 02:03h, 09 May Reply

    Keep in mind the average speaker can speak 120 words per minute. People in the audience are capable of absorbing 700 words per minute. Therefore, that is a lot of extra mind-bandwidth to blog, Twit, IM, and catch up on email.

  • NathanaelB
    Posted at 07:22h, 09 May Reply

    I think I speak at 350 wpm … 🙂

  • shane
    Posted at 13:54h, 09 May Reply

    By and large I agree. However, I am prepared to concede that there might be legitimate reasons that a person hasn’t turned their mobile phone off during a presentation. The obvious example is “My wife is 9 months pregnant and due any day now” but there could be business reasons as well.

    As an audience member there are right and wrong ways to leave your phone on…

    Wrong way – leave the ringer turned on full volume and answer your call in the middle of the third row while the presenter is talking.

    Right way – sit in an aisle seat near the back. Have your phone turned to vibrate. When that all important call comes, slink out the of the room and answer your phone in the corridor. I don’t think you need to excuse yourself if you haven’t drawn any attention to yourself in the first place. It might be good form to let the presenter know beforehand that you are indeed expecting this all important phone call and apologise that you might have to duck out of the room to answer it and sorry and hey, good luck I’m looking forward to this presentation.

    Does that make sense?

  • Stephen Collins
    Posted at 14:19h, 09 May Reply

    @shane – as ever, there are exceptions to the rule. I absolutely agree with the pregnancy one, and the idea that you mention it to the presenter and sneak out if you need to.

    I’m less convinced that if your business has sent you o a seminar or conference, they need to be calling you out of the event to hassle you on the phone. What that says to me is that their is inadequate planning going on for your absence and that falls to you and your management to deal with. This situation happens all the time, but shouldn’t.

  • shane
    Posted at 14:39h, 09 May Reply

    @Steve – you’re probably right. Having never been at the pointy end myself, I can’t speak from experience and therefore was conceding that there might, somewhere, be a reasonable business excuse. I still think it comes down to how you as an individual manage the situation when your phone rings, rather than the event of a ringing phone.

    What is always highly amusing is when the presenter has their phone in their bag off in the corner of the room and they forgot to turn the phone off. The ring tones some people have… *shakes head*

  • John Lampard
    Posted at 15:48h, 10 May Reply

    I was at a presentation once where someone was taking photos of proceedings. No one objected to that, but when the presenter dimmed the room lights so we could better see the slide projection, the guy taking photos turned the camera flash on… he seemed completely oblivious to the distraction it was causing and had to be told by the presenter to turn the flash off! :/

  • Eric
    Posted at 13:35h, 21 May Reply

    I would amend your basic point like this:

    “I’d prefer if you were paying attention, if not then just get the heck out”

    Just because an audience member finds it boring doesn’t mean others do too, so don’t be a distraction

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