Sunday, February 12, 2017

Being on time is respectful

Recently I delivered a speech at a conference where the speaker before me ran long.  This was not main-stage, but a breakout session.  There were several back to back talks in each room.  All were scheduled for 45 minutes, with 15 minutes between for people to move between rooms.

About ten minutes before my scheduled time I arrived in the room to find the previous speaker still going strong (5 minutes after his stop time).  I caught his eye and pointed to my watch with a  big smile, and he clearly saw me, but was not phased.  He even got the audience to talk to their neighbors and raise their hands to share their biggest learning moments from his talk.  

My approach toward the front of room began about 3 minutes until my start time.  Some of the audience was leaving to get to other rooms, while new people were streaming in to see my presentation.  This didn't bother the speaker, who just kept going.

Finally a person said "It is time for the next session", and the speaker laughed as if that was just a silly inconvenience.  I could not take it anymore, and I shouted out "NO, he is right.  I am the next speaker and have to set up my computer!".  He took another minute or two to wrap up, and then did nothing to show amy concern of time.  I had to get someone to ask him to unplug his computer (I was thinking of kicking it off the stage). 

As I went to the table to get the microphone he said "good luck".  I just shook my head at him.  He was either clueless or was the most self-absorbed person I have ever encountered.  Or both.   

I set up quickly and started my presentation about 5 minutes late.  

This incident has reminded me about the importance of looking beyond self in all situations.  This is not just true of keeping to your allotted time as a speaker, but as a friend said to me when I vented; "this goes for kids sports, dance classes, and basically everything in life".  My friend is right.  I remember when my oldest child was in middle school drama class and the teacher routinely kept the kids 20-30 minutes later than the scheduled ending of the after school rehearsal.  This messed up dinner, homework schedules, and evening activities for the whole family.

It is clear from the current political discussion online (and in person) that we have lost sight of being respectful to others in our society.  Personal beliefs rule the day.  But does it have to be this way in everything? Would it be cool to see respect make a come back? Can it ever happen?

Being true to the allocated time (as a speaker or anywhere) is a small thing, but it matters.  It shows you understand you are not the center of the universe, as you are acknowledging that there are others who have things to do, too.

I doubt the other speaker would ever read my blog, but if he does I wonder if he would even care that his actions impacted other people (me, the audience, the event planners, etc...).  I doubt it.  I am sure he is more focused on how spectacular he is and how lucky we are that he is on the planet.

Finally, He was a good speaker, people praised his session and the online comments were strong.  But about 10 people came up to me later and pointed out that he really didn't seem to think his running long was an issue.  We had a good laugh about it, but it never should have happened. 

Have A Great Day

thom singer

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