When did conference attendees become so rude?

no cellphone iconI’m here at the Blog Business Summit in Seattle and it’s a very interesting event with a terrific group of both top bloggers and people and companies coming up the learning curve. Smart, professional and all busy making a sound that I can only liken to the pitter-pat of rain gently falling on a rooftop as everyone earnestly types notes into their laptops.
But here’s what I don’t understand: every 5-10 minutes the speaker is interrupted with a cell phone ringing, a computer chiming, a BlackBerry being adjusted, or even someone playing a video — with sound! — on their laptop.
What the heck?

I’m pretty aware of cellphone features and don’t know of a single phone that lacks a mute or vibrate or off button. Yet while the majority of attendees in this room seem to have realized how to use this most basic of phone functions, there are too many that don’t. Frankly, one person is too many in a group of any size.
Solution: if you can’t mute your phone, turn it off.
It’s not just cellphones, though, it’s computers too.
I realize that some computers make it tough for you to turn off the startup chime, etc, but really, you should learn how to do this on your system. On many computers (notably Apple Mac laptops) you can just mute the audio on the computer and when you restart, it’ll be mute.
Look, I’ll even offer up a link if you’re stuck in Windows XP and finding it just a bit puzzling to figure out: Disable Your Windows Startup Sound.
One more gripe while I’m complaining about audiences: if you get a phone call, answer it, whisper “just a sec”, then quickly walk out of the room before you talk with them.
Yesterday I was amazed that a chap three rows behind me had a two or three minute phone conversation in the conference room during a session. What the heck?
Anyway, I feel better now. 🙂

17 comments on “When did conference attendees become so rude?

  1. cell phone ringtones can be extremely rude, whether you are at a conference or somewhere else. i don’t understand why people have rings that are loud and jarring, which disrupts everyone. i did forget to turn off my phone before things started this morning, and i got a call, but at least it’s really soft.
    why make things worse by having a really loud obnoxious ring?
    subtle is really nice.

  2. I gotta agree here – but seriously, it’s just our culture. People are getting more comfortable just “doing their thing” and doing what they feel they need to do. Or maybe I am just becoming more aware of it. The session on stage can’t POSSIBLY be more important than the phone call they are expecting, right?? What if they don’t feel the vibration? Now they missed that important call – so everyone must understand why the ringtone, which is annoying because it’s the theme song to Charles in Charge, has to be both loud and unique.
    You are right on point.

  3. Hear hear! It was the first thing I did with my laptop was to mute it. Why? Between IM and such … my e-mail sound is a sonar ping … which can be heard over a great distance.
    Sorry about my Blackberry ping … it’s on vibrate now I promise.

  4. It’s endemic. At my last corporate job the quality of meetings degraded the minute they installed building-wide wireless.
    People brought their laptops and were doing email and IM etc. all through meetings.
    Now, maybe we should have also been focused on reducing the amount of over-long unnecessary meetings… but the ones we had got less efficient and people remembered less of what happened because they were busy paying attention to every external trigger.

  5. Yeah I was thinking the same rant, then my wife called! Oh no I just offended 100 people. Of course I have also read that having a baby in the conference is somehow rude. I assume that baby is getting pissed at the noise that is keeping him awake!

  6. I think that there’s a world of difference between something that you CAN mute but opt not to do so and someone who, alas, doesn’t HAVE a mute button on top of their tiny little head. We’re in a professional conference so a squalling baby is clearly inappropriate, but a quiet baby that’s made the tiniest amount of noise so that mom can actually continue her career? Not a problem in my book, and it’s rather disappointing that we’re talking about this topic.
    But a cellphone? With a vibrate feature? Not the same thing in my eyes…

  7. It’s interesting that sitting in the front row I’ve only seen (well, heard) about half the interruptions that everyone else seems to have noticed.
    But it is true that this culture is basically invading everything. I’ve still got a little bit of college left, and professors have basically given up on trying to control cell phones in class. I hear at least one in class per day.

  8. Until you’ve attended a conference in China you have no idea what getting interrupted by a cell phone is really like. Not that people who don’t switch their phone to vibrate here in the U.S. aren’t rude, but until you’ve been bombarded by the Chinese version of that same thing, you don’t really get a sense for how good we have it. 😉

  9. I was at a seminar once and there was a penalty if your mobile phone rang.
    The money went to a charity, but the speaker stopped if the phone rang and everyone looked at the perpetrator before he was handed the bucket for the $10 bill (it went to $20 if it happened a second time) but the seminar was 7 days and I believe two mobile phones went off during this time. Pretty good huh?

  10. Obviously, if there are medical reasons, it’s a different story, but why can’t you still have you phone on vibrate and just have it sitting on the table so you will instantly see when it rings?

  11. We all managed to live without cell phones in the past, so why on earth is it that important to have a cell phone turned on while attending a conference? It seems as if people think the world will end if they don’t answer their cell phone. Here is a tip – if the call is important, the caller will leave a message and you can return the call when on break.

  12. I saw this at every session I went to. I don’t really get it. Every cell phone has vibrate now. So why exactly do people insist on letting them ring? and worse…talking in the middle of a session? If you need to talk…Leave.
    my $.02

  13. In my speeches now, I start by asking everyone to turn their phones to silent, and leave the room if they need to take a call.
    I tend to put it “I realise we’ve all got businesses to run, and sometimes you need to take the call…but”.
    Normally, everyone in the room puts the phone to silent at that point 🙂

  14. I totally share your frustration! Obviously because I make my living selling insurance, I go to a lot of networking events. Obviously, these are great places to get insurance leads, but I really like listening to the speakers as well. With all of my experience attending such functions, I too am amazed at the lack of consideration some people have by leaving their phones on and sometimes taking entire calls, whilst the rest of us are trying hard just to hear. It’s the height of rudeness in my view!

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