Not your home turf? That is no excuse to stop being hospitable.
I spoke at a conference today. I had the good fortune of giving the opening session, and I had been invited to remain for the presentations of the other speakers. Theirs was a field totally new to me, and I was eager to learn what I could, so I happily accepted my host’s gracious invitation and stayed, grabbing a seat at the back of the room.
From my new vantage point I saw something that disappointed me greatly, for it was a complete shift from how I had regarded my wonderfully warm audience a few minutes before, as we spoke of the magic of aloha.
Those dreaded, manners-killing, aloha-destroying Blackberries were coming out of hiding.
Unless I have a very large audience and need to stay up on a riser, I’m not one to stay behind a podium. I opt for a wireless mic, and I present by getting pretty up close and personal with my audience, roaming the room and telling my stories of the Hawaiian values and their business applications in a pretty animated way. So normally no one dares check their Blackberries — especially after they see that I WILL approach the first person who tries, usually grabbing it out of their hands and tossing it into the nearest planter, or reading the email displayed on it to the entire audience — with a few words changed in a way that I feel is much more entertaining.
Luckily, neither scenario had become opportunity during my presentation, and now I felt it wasn’t my place; all I could do was sit in the back of that room perfectly mortified for the speakers who did not have the hospitality of their audience. You cannot imagine how hard that was for me to do.
If you attend a conference, and pull out your Blackberry (or Treo, or iPhone, or whatever — I use ‘Blackberry’ to incriminate them all) while that conference is in session ”“ whoever the speaker is ”“ your behavior is unbelievably rude and unworthy of human dignity. I don’t care if that speaker is the most boring presenter on the planet; if you are sitting there in the audience, you should be giving them the hospitality of your attention. If that is not something you can do, step outside: LEAVE.
If you do pull out your Blackberry while sitting in a meeting or conference, your action tells me a couple of things about you:
a) you have no manners, empathy, or professionalism
b) you certainly do not understand what hospitality is, and how to give it
c) you do not respect the dignity of other people (both the speaker, and those sitting around you ”“ your action tells them you feel they have made a bad decision about the giving of their attentions)
d) you have an over-inflated sense of self-importance
e) you must think like a know-it-all, for you are not a lifelong learner, curious about what other people can teach you, and open to the new possibilities
f) you do not make good decisions about where you should be, and what you should be doing at any given time (otherwise you’d leave the room and be more discreet)
g) therefore, your overall work performance is probably riddled with other poor decisions
h) you are still a child who does not have the self-discipline of putting your toys away, not an adult who should have been given the responsibility of using a Blackberry in the first place.
However, as I have said before, the problem is your behavior, and not the essence of who you are. There is still hope for you.
Normally I do not post my presentation stories immediately. They may show up here on Talking Story, but saved for another day; later, when time makes identification much less likely. Today I was so disappointed and disillusioned by what I initially thought was a totally respectful and professional audience, and to those of you who stained the otherwise favorable image I had, I do hope you read this. I want you to know that I saw you on your Blackberry, and yes, I am talking about you.
Your peers deserve better than your behavior today.
By the way, the speakers were great, fielding great interest and kept longer for questions, and I doubt anyone there would say otherwise. Blackberries have just created some very nasty habits in otherwise decent human beings, and they are endangering Ho‘okipa.
Use your Blackberry when you are alone. It should not get your attention when you are in the company of another human being, whether in a conference, a meeting, or any other person-to-person conversation.