A couple of weeks ago, my business partner, Jay Younger, FASAE, delivered a presentation for a webinar offered by the California Society of Association Executives (http://www.calsae.org/). Jay is a talented presenter, a wizard at PowerPoint slide creation and his topic, “Membership at the Crossroads,” contained some compelling data about the future of membership organizations. At least as a professional in this field, I found it compelling. And so did some of the people who participated in the webinar. It’s hard to say how others felt. The webinar platform included functionality for the participants to talk to one another and they sure did. Some were saying that Jay was spot on in his comments. Some were talking back and forth about other things. One person posted an article to share, all while Jay was delivering his presentation.
As a frequent speaker and a fierce advocate for all my McKinley team members, I found this very unsettling. The technology enabled what I would call rudeness. If you are typing messages to other participants, how is that different from carrying on a conversation while the speaker is trying to present? Would you hand someone an article to read with a presenter standing at the front of the room? Am I the only one who finds this rude? And further, I see this as technology-enabled rudeness. Yes, at the end of the session, the communications feature was helpful for having questions submitted to Jay so he could share answers with everyone, but that was not the bulk of the chatter. Here’s my question, “When will technology enable good manners?” I welcome answers and input. With iPads and smartphones in almost all meeting rooms now, I know multi-tasking is not necessarily new or limited to webinars, but what should presenters do? What defines good manners these days? Or, as one of my team members said, is my idea of good manners quaint???!!! Let me hear from you and tell me what you think.