January 24, 2007

Starting and arriving on time



I attended another interesting session at the Fancy Food Show, an intimate presentation by Jason Hinds of Borough Market Foods/Neal's Yard Dairy, showcasing the two companies' cheeses.

The invitation stated that that class was from 8:30-10:00, and that there would be an informal tasting. An RSVP was also required, as space was limited.

You would think, then, that people would arrive at (or before) 8:30, ready to begin. But in fact, even though the presenter waited until well past 8:30 because many of the registrants had not arrived, people still showed up as late as 9:00.

I guess this half of the post is geared more toward the audience. I understand that there are sometimes circumstances beyond our control that make us run late. But let's be honest - there are plenty of people who don't care about punctuality at all, and habitually run five or ten minutes late. Those are the people I'm addressing now.

For a speaker, it's distracting for audience members to arrive late. In this case, it was even more distracting, as there was actually a plate of cheeses on each seat in the front half of the room. The newcomers would arrive and sneak into the back of the room, and then have to be directed to a seat closer to the front where there was a plate.

The speaker had to repeat things he had already said in order to bring the newcomers up to speed regarding the cheese tasting.

A speaker works hard to create a connection and rapport with an audience. When people arrive late, when the door opens and closes ten times after the presentation has begun, and feet and papers shuffle while settling in, it interrupts the continuity and flow of the session.

And it's not just distracting to a speaker for audience members to arrive late. As an audience member myself, I find it annoying when I've been getting into the flow of a presentation and then have to stop and wait for the new people to receive their instructions.

If you are attending a presentation, seminar, class, meeting, conference. . . please show the speaker and your fellow audience members some courtesy and respect, and make an effort to arrive on time.

Now a note to speakers:

Jason and the organizers of the seminar handled the distractions well. It was a small, informal and relaxed group. However, because they chose not to start on time, there was a rush at the end to finish up.

As a speaker, you have a choice either to start on time, and let latecomers figure things out along the way, or you can start a few minutes late and allow latecomers to be rewarded for their lateness! It ultimately depends on your venue, the occasion, and who's running the show.

But I'd like to suggest starting on time as a reward to the people who managed to be in their seats and ready for your talk.

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1 comments. Please add yours! :

Mary Jo said...

I'm a big fan of starting on time, and not rewarding late comers. (Oh sure, I know that sometimes people can't help it, but STILL!!!!)

That which gets rewarded gets repeated, so if you know something will start late because you are, there's no reason to show up on time.

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