This is more of a "did I do the right thing" question. I'm interested in others' opinions.

I was recently at a large conference with many presenters. I was shocked to have someone behind me in the audience not only have his cell phone ring--but then [i][b]take the call[/b][/i]. It wasn't anything that seemed to be time critical, either.

I tried giving him the fish-eye, but that didn't seem to work.
I thought about getting up and walking back to where he was and asking him to take it outside, but it wasn't my session (I was a guest), and I didn't want to create even more disruption.
Frankly, I was amazed that no one near him did this.

My gut instinct is that it would have been ok had I asked him to leave; but my years in the classroom have left me with [i]issues[/i] about disruptions when others are speaking. :P

What would you have done? Discuss :)

kklogic's picture

Hmm.. what I would have done and what I would have wanted to do are two different things :)

I would have sat and silently seethed at the moron. Then, I would have been slightly angry with the the presenter, who should have said something. Then, I would have beaten myself up for not being more assertive in the situation - and I would have missed the rest of what the presenter had to say because my mind would be thinking about this instead. :shock:

In my perfect world though, I would have said, "excuse me, do you mind taking your call outside?" I don't think there would have been anything socially wrong with that if it were done politely. Two social wrongs do not make a right.

HMac's picture

Lots of wisdom in kat's post.

Look bug girl - it wasn't YOUR session. Don't beat yourself up for not standing up for the person who's session it was.

Use this as a reminder to yourself when it IS your session: disruptive behavior is disrupting the participants' enjoyment and takeaway from the session, and is therefore creating a waste of time/resources.

So when you're the facilitator, don't correct the behavior because YOU find it disruptive - do so on behalf of your participants.


bug_girl's picture

If it had been [b]my[/b] session, that guy would have been out of there in less than 10 seconds. I am known for my ruthlessness, and once even unplugged a mike to keep us on schedule for a scientific conference. :D

I'm still enough of a poorly-socialized nerd that I'm not sure what rules apply in business settings. It's more of a "next time, what should I do" sort of thing.

jhack's picture

Bug Girl,

Very politely, softly, clearly, and empahatically, ask him to conduct his call outside the hall, as you are trying to listen to the speaker.


And if that doesn't work, interrupt the speaker, and ask them to wait until the gentlemen has finished his call, as you cannot hear the presentation!

TomW's picture
Training Badge

[quote="jhack"]And if that doesn't work, interrupt the speaker, and ask them to wait until the gentlemen has finished his call, as you cannot hear the presentation![/quote]

If that doesn't work, I'd call Terry Tate, office linebacker ;-)

tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

Somewhat related: I recently attended a conference where the keynote went 45 minutes past the scheduled stop time.

Folks, it disrupted presenters and the conference for the balance of the day. Presenters walked out of the keynote to ensure they were in place for their sessions. Audience members trickled into the next presentations rather than being in place at the designated start times.

When you are a session chair, responsible for timely sessions and politely managing the audience, be the session chair.

HMac's picture

Tom - I HATE when that happens! And sometimes it's hard to know who to blame. I mean, it's most often the speaker's fault for not being disciplined about having the right amount of content for the allotted amount of time - or being unrealistic about start time, Q&A, whatever.

But in a few cases I know the speaker has actually been disserved by the organizers - they're bad about starting on time, change times or locations, or they're just too vague about what the want the speaker to do.

But ulitmately, I believe it's up to the speaker. End on time, or get explicit agreement from the organizers and audience to change it.


kklogic's picture

I'm in my third and final (hallelujah!) year of being a chair for an event. The first year, we had an opening keynote speaker go over on time. The problem was - he was into it, we were into it and the audience was into it. I've often wondered if stopping it would have been the right thing - or are there times to go with the flow.

For the record, we DO make a concerted effort to re-adjust and communicate the new schedule.

tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

[quote="kklogic"]For the record, we DO make a concerted effort to re-adjust and communicate the new schedule.[/quote]

Small conferences or workshops (say 20-30 people) scheduling can be more flexible. When you have over 1000 people and 20+ simultaneous presenters it is a different matter.

Unless your keynote is extraordinarily prominent (read "famous" or nearly impossible to get) stay on time.