Be a Better… Audience Member

  • March 22, 2012
  • INK Team

This post comes from Allison Glass.

This blog post is dedicated to my dear friend Chinae Alexander, who’s blog Be Better is definitely one to follow if you are looking for simple ways to improve in your social, professional, and personal lives. Fair warning: She definitely delivers a “healthy dose of sass” so please follow accordingly.

My inspiration came after attending SXSW panels last week and being completely blown away by the lack of manners some people possess. Yes, I get it. SXSW is a “cool conference” and not stuffy like most tradeshows – but alas, presenters still feel the same pressure and nervousness before speaking to hundreds of 20-30-something attendees trying to recover from parties the night before. With that said, here are a few (I think simple) rules to follow when being an audience member:

–       Take it outside: If you break out into a coughing attack and think you might lose a lung– excuse yourself. While I am sure all 250 remaining audience members care for your well being, it can be a tad distracting when everyone is thinking CPR may/ may not need to be administered.

–       Type with purpose (just not in a panel).  I know I might be spoiled with the light key sounds of a MacBook Pro, but if I can hear you punching keys vigorously from 5 rows back, take it down a notch. Please be cognizant of your surroundings and that others are trying to listen. (Plus, are you really taking notes…or updating your Facebook status?)

–       Saving seats: Unless it is absolutely vital that you sit next to your BFF in panel sessions, don’t save seats. This is not the third grade. Speakers like to see a full house and that others are engaged. By leaving random empty seats throughout, you are hurting the general flow of the audience.

–       Comments vs. questions: Personally, my favorite part of any panel is towards the end when audience members can ask on-the-fly questions of speakers (from a PR perspective, I love to see how “on message” some can be without prep). PLEASE do not stand in line at the microphone and then proceed to share a 5-minute comment or lecture. Save that for a follow-up email. Remember you are here to engage, not for a one-sided conversation.

There you have it – my top tips on how to be a better audience member. Here’s hoping next year’s SXSW is a little more well mannered.


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