The Meeting Attendee Bill of Rights

I've been in Austin for four days now, attending astronomy workshops, talks and poster sessions at the 219th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society. For the most part, it's been very interesting, informative and fun. But there is something that has been growing inside me since I attended my first meeting many years ago, and I just can't take it any more. That's right, I'm fed up, and I'm not going to take this any more!

"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore".
The simple truth is, some people should have their public speaking licenses revoked. They show up at every meeting and make us suffer through their ill-conceived and terribly executed presentations. They show no regard for our feelings or sanity, and unapologetically waste our time over and over again. You know who they are. They are the same people all the time.

Monotone Mark- This guy is so dull he can take the shine off your shoes. His deadpan, lifeless expression and monotone delivery is enough to turn your mind to jelly. He may be a brilliant scientist, but listening to him is boring and painful. He acts as if he doesn't even care about what he is talking about. I just want to scream after about three minutes, "Look, dude. If you don't care about what you're talking about, why should I?"

Unprepared Ursula- Everyone knows how much time they have been given. At an AAS meeting, most papers are only given ten minutes, which includes time for questions after. You need to consolidate your slides, trim your content and get to the heart of the matter, including your conclusion, in 5 or 6 minutes. You don't have time to do thirteen slides explaining what gave you the idea to run your experiment. Ursula is always so surprised when the session chair gives her the one minute left signal and she realizes she still has 142 slides to go. So NOW she begins to edit her presentation right in front of us, skipping the less important slides and racing through the rest, trying in vane to convey her point as the sand runs out of her hourglass. BING! Guess what? Your time is up and you are an idiot.

Eric the Excited- Eric starts off in high gear. He is so excited to be here. He's had ten cups of coffee. It's amazing how fast he can talk. He is going to show us 142 slides in three minutes. I once saw him go so fast he suddenly disappeared right in front of us. All that remained was a mosquito-like buzzing, like in the Star Trek episode where they got sped up into another dimension.

Ummer the Bummer- Ummer cannot complete a sentence or thought without saying the word "umm" somewhere. He begins his umm talk, by showing us umm his first umm slide, which is a graphical depiction umm of umm whatever umm he was umm umm umm ummmmummummmmm. Just shoot me.

Vladimir Vladimoshkadorbadovski- Vladimir is a renowned scientist from the old country, whose papers are informative and well written, but his accent is so thick it's not really English. He knows his stuff, he doesn't stammer, he's well respected in the field, I just didn't understand a word he said. Someone needs to be honest and tell Vladimir his English is not good. He might as well have given the talk in his native tongue and supplied subtitles in the slides.

This is all particularly egregious in light of the fact that we have invested a substantial amount of time and money to travel to these meetings, stay in hotels nearby and pay meeting registration costs. I think it's time we created a Meeting Attendee Bill of Rights. We the many, have been abused by the same few for so long that it has become our duty to rise up and declare ourselves free from the abuse of those who disrespect our valuable time and feelings.

The Meeting Attendee Bill of Rights

We, the audience of presentations at meetings, conferences and other gatherings have the right to expect our presenters to act in a professional and engaging manner, up to and including the following:

1- Speakers should be at least mildly interesting to listen too. Voice modulation and inflections are not optional. Mumbling and/or monotone delivery is not allowed.

2- Speakers should be well-prepared. Practicing your presentation in advance so that it can be given in the time allotted is not just a good idea, it is required. Practice will enhance your confidence and improve your delivery.

3- Speakers should deliver their content at a pace that can be comprehended. If you are so nervous you think you need to speak at 100 miles per hour, see number 2.

4- Speakers will not interrupt their sentences while thinking about the next words to come out of their mouth. Again, see number 2.

5- Speakers will have mastered the art of speaking in the language of the meeting or else provide a translator, subtitles or a stand in to replace them.

Failure to meet any of these requirements will result in a partial or full refund of the conference or meeting registration cost. You can't give me back the ten minutes of my life you just wasted, but you can give me my money back, and you will.

"We're mad as hell and we're not gonna take this any more!"

1 comment:

Doc_Kinne said...

"Eric the Excited" Ah! I see you remembered my Nantucket presentation! :-)