Inter­est­ing post at the Ragan blog about what amounts to bad man­ners when you’re in the audi­ence. Here’s my take.

If you’re in the audi­ence at a sem­i­nar I’m giv­ing or at a con­fer­ence I’m pre­sent­ing at, I’d pre­fer it if you were pay­ing atten­tion. I guess I fig­ure you’re wast­ing someone’s money if you’re not. That said, these days, many peo­ple are get­ting very good at con­tin­u­ous par­tial atten­tion, and what might look to some as not pay­ing atten­tion at all, could be quite the oppo­site. I know I can pay atten­tion to a speaker, tweet, read related mate­r­ial on the web and do email at the same time.

Stephen Collins

Being a node in the con­ver­sa­tion is just as impor­tant as lis­ten­ing to the con­ver­sa­tion. If not more so. The value is in the par­tic­i­pa­tion — exactly what Clay Shirky describes in his Web 2.0 Expo talk.

I do my fair share of pre­sent­ing, and pretty much expect peo­ple will be live blog­ging, or tweet­ing, or what­ev­er­ing what I say. Equally, I often live blog or tweet oth­ers’ pre­sen­ta­tions. So, I absolutely don’t agree with the Ragan folks on live blog­ging. Please live blog what I’m talk­ing about, good or bad. I want you to take part and I want to know what you think.

With Black­berry use — peo­ple could be live blog­ging. I’d want to check. Sit­u­a­tion and con­text is impor­tant here. It’s likely to be bad man­ners in a class or sem­i­nar. It’s prob­a­bly okay at a con­fer­ence as long as you’re not both­er­ing your neigh­bors in the audi­ence. If it’s crit­i­cal, excuse your­self and step out. At least then, nobody’s going to bitch about you.

As for mobile phones… If you’re so impor­tant that you can’t shut your phone off for the half-​​hour I’m talk­ing, you’re prob­a­bly not inter­ested in what I’m say­ing any­way. For the rest of you, I absolutely agree with the Ragan peo­ple on the issue of answer­ing and mak­ing calls. If you’re in a con­fer­ence or class, shut your bloody phone off or I’ll pub­licly point you out in the audi­ence when it rings and you answer it. If you talk on the phone dur­ing my talk, watch out! There are breaks in sem­i­nars and con­fer­ences at reg­u­lar inter­vals. Get your mes­sages and make your calls in the breaks.

That said, by all means inter­rupt me with your cogent and insight­ful ques­tions and chal­lenges. I’m a big boy and rel­ish any of my assump­tions being challenged.

Your thoughts?