Over the years, I've attended my share of conferences.
Early in my career, I attended them as a spectator. In my role as newspaper reporter it was my job to observe and report, nothing more. I had no direct responsibilities either as a participant or a presenter. Those were the good old days.
Lately, the majority of the conferences I've been attending are related to the hospitality industry, like the one I attended in Washington, DC, last week. Many of the same people who attended the same conference last year were there again to share the same conversations over what hopefully was not leftovers of the same food.
Side note to any banquet professionals who might be reading this: If you're going to serve a variety of sliders as appetizers, please also provide ketchup, mustard and any other saucy condiments you can think of that will help party goers avoid feeling like they are eating packed sawdust on dry toast. In fact, whatever food you serve, always ask yourself if it needs a sauce, even if the food in question is a liquid. Thanks.
One of the great things about technology is the ability to avoid the travel and inconvenience of conferences by holding things called webinars, which are a high-tech way of allowing pajama-clad people to attend meetings from the unwashed comfort of their home offices while they ignore a poorly structured PowerPoint presentation.
While the speaker drones on about the topic du jour, you the attendee can go about folding laundry, surfing the internet, or generally doing anything other than paying attention to the speaker without fear of any recriminations. Forget about sneaking a peak under the table at my smartphone, I can cruise Facebook while playing with the dog and scratching myself in all kinds of places.
Or so I thought.
The other day I had the pleasure of playing the part of droning speaker. Before I could lead my monotonous ship along its communal networked course, I had to learn how to steer the virtual ship. The training opened my eyes to an unpleasant reality. Did you know the webinar leader can "see" a whole lot more than you might have ever imagined?
He can "see" when you switch out of the webinar window to look at Facebook. If your dog barks while you're playing tug of war, he can "see" that the noise is coming from you, even if there are hundreds of online attendees. He probably can even "see" that you didn't bother to change out of your Elmo footie pajamas and you're eating a cold Pop Tart for lunch.
So, the next time you think you're safely removed from the scrutiny of the corporate world, think again.
© 2011 Mark Feggeler