Last week as I was attending a conference session and I did something that I am not proud of. I looked a very smart, intelligent presenter in the eye and went on a bit of an “internal” rant that went like this . . .

“You can keep talking if you like, but I really am way too important to listen to you. I am really busy as I am getting emails every few minutes – all of which are not urgent and could wait – but I am going to respond anyway right now, while you are talking to me. In fact I am going to try and suck as much energy out of this conversation as I can by opening my laptop and hiding behind it. I will look up occasionally to pretend I care about what you are saying, but I really do not. In fact, I am now reading about Black Friday sales and reading my sons school newsletter – can you please speak quietly… as it is getting hard to concentrate. I know you prepared at length to talk to me, but really these emails are important. You just keep talking and I will just kinda listen if that’s okay, if I hear anything interesting I might just look up and acknowledge you. I may just get engrossed in other work and not hear your best messages – but never mind, you just keep talking. I’m sure there is someone else in the room that is listening.” 

Now, again this was an internal rant and I actually did not say any of this out loud, but I said it all and way more with my actions. The more I think about it, the ruder my actions appear. I apologize unreservedly to the great session presenters to whom I snubbed and showed the back of my laptop.

I challenge anyone that reads this to not make my mistake. The saying ‘you only get out what you put in’ holds true. If you disengage during a presentation – you will gain nothing – that is for sure. Next time you attend a presentation please consider what your body language says to the respected person who had taken time to prepare and present to you on that topic at hand. Put your phone away, close your laptop. You would not pull out a novel and read it during the session – and I do not see how reading and typing is any more acceptable.

All the best,

Martin Olsen