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?