At the end of my last post I said I’d start putting together a Meeting Attendee’s Bill of Rights. Having just finished speaking at several conferences, a handful of thoughts are fresh in my head. Here are my first 5 Rights. I invite you to submit your ideas to me as we compile this long overdue list.
You, the meeting attendee, have the right to:
1. Blurt out “let’s move on” if one person in the audience engages the speaker in a back and forth discussion following their question. The question asker is allowed only one rebuttal comment after the speaker answers their question, after which the speaker may add their final reply. Yes, the speaker gets the last word, because that’s who the audience came to hear. That’s just the way it goes.
QUESTION ASKER: “I disagree with your point because I don’t get it. And besides, I don’t care if I learn anything here, I just like to hear myself talk in front of everyone.”
SPEAKER: “I’m sorry you don’t get what I’m saying. Let me try again to explain it, but this time I’ll use smaller words.”
QUESTION ASKER: “Thanks for using smaller words, but I still don’t get it. Plus, I’m enjoying this little time we’re having together at the expense of the rest of the audience.”
SPEAKER: “Hey, if you had it all figured out you’d be giving this class. But you’re not, are you? See this thing I’m standing on? That’s called the stage.”
GOOD SAMARITAN: “Let’s move on.”
2. Hear an Overview of the session at the beginning, so you’ll know what will be covered when, and won’t ask a question that the speaker will get to eventually.
3. If the speaker is being ridiculously self-promotional about their company, stand up and say, “I’m concerned you won’t have enough sales brochures for the whole audience. I hope we won’t have to share.” Hey, if we don’t stand up to this, pretty soon all exit doors of meeting rooms will lead through the gift shop.
4. Walk out if you are not enjoying the session. However, if you think the session is good, but have to leave for other reasons (to catch a flight, run to an appointment, donate a kidney, etc.) put your phone to your ear as you’re getting up, and put a finger in your other ear, as if to muffle the noise, the better to hear your fictitious call. Speakers assume everyone who walks out of their class is doing so because they don’t like the session, so your fake phone call tells the speaker he/she is doing great, but you’ve got an urgent call.
5. Some kind of free gift if you registered for the conference before the Early Bird cutoff date, only to find that date suddenly extended two weeks.
There you go, the first 5 of the Meeting Attendee’s Bill of Rights. Pass around, share, and send me your best additions.