Monday, March 8, 2010

Consider Yourself Spanked

Last week the conference I've been working on for two years finally took place. This group has no membership dues, no officers, no board of directors, and no paid staff. Just me, the duly-elected volunteer executive director and some 250 subscribers to our e-mail distribution list.

My work for this group is a labor of love. I've known many of the members for 25 years or longer. I enjoy organizing conferences (don't ask me why but I do) and have yet to receive a bad review for any I had a hand in organizing. That and the fact nobody else wants to do it are how I got the job.

The 2010 conference received high praise from the 80+ participants--a near high for conference attendance. All 40 presentations were excellent--highlighting cutting edge work on the ground, in the classroom, and in the science of this particular field. All in all it was a great conference.

That said, I want to comment on the rude behavior of a few participants. My comments arise from a sense of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but good manners never go out of style. Here's an off-the-top-of-my-head-list of the rude behaviors I observed.

* Talking during presentations. I don't mean interactions with presenters. I'm talking about side conversations. This applies in meetings, too. Shut up and listen when someone else is talking, OK?

* Using any kind of electronic device during presentations. Yeah I know you're taking notes on your laptop. I don't care. It's distracting and annoying. Write it down and type it up later. Use of any electronic device during a presentation is just plain rude.

* Scheduling meetings during conference sessions. WTF? Yeah I know you're all here and it's a great opportunity for you to get together. You'll still be here after sessions conclude for the day, too. Meet then.

* Attending only the session that includes your presentation. If we all did that, every presenter would talk to an empty room. I know you think you know it all but you don't. You're there to learn so go to the damn sessions.

* Skipping out on sessions. OK. I admit I'm guilty of this one, too. But as a conference organizer, it's embarrassing to see how few warm bodies are in chairs for afternoon and last-day sessions. I know you think nobody will notice. Newsflash--I noticed, as did those unfortunate enough to have to present during those times.

A lot of people went to a lot of trouble to put together a program, a presentation, and a menu for your enjoyment and professional development. You owe it to them to be there, in the chair, giving them your undivided attention. Isn't that what you expect when you're the presenter?

As the organizer, I paid between $35 and $60 per day for food you never had any intention of eating. How wasteful. Had I known you wouldn't be eating with us, I would have ordered less and saved the money. Our skimpy cash reserves could use it.

OK. I'm done. If you're guilty of any of these behaviors, consider yourself spanked. I feel better, but will likely continue to be...

The Crotchety Old Man.

1 comment:

CathyB said...

And crotchety you surely deserve to be after that! I'm sure (besides the referenced rude attendees), that it was a lovely conference indeed. I used to belong to a national single-parent organization, and served most all the positions on the board at one time or another (at the local chapter level). We had quarterly regional conferences, and would take turns hosting the weekend event. One year, when it was the Athens chapter's turn to host, I was in charge. Control freak that I am, I did "let" others "help" with the major decisions, such as venue, and... well venue was probably about it... Oh there were some things that were not mine to plan, as the regional officers presided over some things. I had such great ideas, and wanted things to be just so-so... so much that I didn't want to delegate any of the planning and footwork and all the sweet little details that made it special. I didn't want to delegate, because I wanted it done like I wanted it done. And I'm big enough to know that in a volunteer organization, if someone volunteers, you can't (or shouldn't) force or expect them to do everything exactly the way you'd do it yourself. I'm totally anal, and knew that it would cause my head to spontaneously combust if somebody didn't do something the way i wanted it done. So.. aside from letting the kitchen folk do whatever they wanted to do, I spearheaded the entire conference. I did it like I dang well wanted it done. And it was fabulous! But I didn't sleep for days and days beforehand and on the final night I nearly had a breakdown. So I have learned my lesson. I love to do it, but with everything else I have going on in my life, I just have to say no. Not too long ago, my hairdresser, who is in charge of the women's ministry at my church, asked me if I would be in charge of some committee or other, for a retreat she was planning. After I told her that I'm a terrible control freak, want to plan it, and do it all my way and don't like to delegate.. she said.. "Oh, okay, well that's good to know!" And she hasn't asked me to do anything else since then. hahaha!! I guess that's one way of getting out of doing something!

So aside from having to spank some of your attendees, I'm glad your conference went well.

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