[wplug-plan] Problem with rude audience members at recent talks

redtoade redtoade at gmail.com
Mon May 2 13:00:01 EDT 2005

We could always use some decent guidelines!  WOO HOO!

Blatently stolen from "The American University, Washington Semester
 Substitituted "students" with "attendees", etc. etc.  Please feel
free to edit/mock it to your heart's content.


Proper etiquette for any presentation includes but is not limited to
the following rules. If a attendee should have any doubts after
reading the following rules, she or he should seek further
clarification from us as soon as possible.
WPLUG Programs rely on the goodwill of guest speakers who volunteer
time out of their busy schedules to meet with the attendees. The
attendees must therefore be attentive and show utmost respect at all
times. Accordingly, attendees must avoid conversing with (or passing
notes to) other attendees, as well as any outward demonstrations of
disagreement, displeasure, or boredom (such as stretching or yawning).

The meetings with guest speakers are not debate club sessions in which
the attendees try to change a speaker's mind. Actually, one of the
main purposes of these sessions is to expose the attendees to as many
perspectives as possible. So, every attendee should keep an open mind,
listen carefully to what the speakers have to say, and try to
understand their perspectives before asking questions. Attendees must
keep in mind that there may be some very controversial speakers.
Nevertheless, under no circumstances are the attendees to lecture or
openly contradict a speaker when they disagree with her or him, even
if the attendee should find the speaker's remarks offensive. Again,
the sessions with guest speakers must not become arguments. The group
will have plenty of time AFTER THE PRESENTATION to share impressions
made by guest speakers.

Attendees should not hesitate to ask questions of the speakers, but
they must do so courteously. The questions should be phrased as
inquiries for further information or for clarification of information
already provided, not as challenges.

Unless the speaker invites active participation during her or his
original presentation, all attendees should wait until the speaker has
had a chance to finish making her or his presentation, then raise
their hands and wait for the speaker's acknowledgement. Interrupting
the speaker during her or his initial remarks may sidetrack her or him
and prevent the group from having the benefit of a clear and
comprehensive presentation of the speaker's perspective.

Once an attendee has had a chance to ask a question, she or he should
not interrupt the speaker's response, but wait until the speaker
finishes and then ask a follow-up question.

All attendees should be considerate towards other WPLUGGERS by
observing a limit of one or two follow-up questions if they see that
other attendees also have questions. More than two questions may lead
to a one-on-one debate preempting the time of the speaker and other

The attendees must consider all the remarks made by guest speakers as
"off the record," and avoid "ambushing" him or her. Please use a more
impersonal diplomatic style of questioning and avoid verbally
attacking the speaker.  Your passion of the topic at hand is not our
speaker's fault.  They simply are guests invited to speak to us as a
COURTESY to us, and will not come back if abused.  Most speakers will
understand that the attendees are going to be exposed to several
perspectives, but we do not want any speaker to get the erroneous
impression that she or he was set up.  We would sometimes like the
attendees to hear diametrically-opposed perspectives on topics. 
During which, we wish to maintain a positive exchange that requires
attendees to exhibit an extreme amount of professionalism.

When raising questions, attendees should try to develop questions that
involve themes discussed in the presentation.  PLEASE REMAIN ON TOPIC!
 Our speakers have agreed to take time out of their busy schedules to
discuss a very specific topic.  Most of our attendees have travelled
to hear a presentation ON THAT TOPIC.  If you have questions on which
you believe the speaker has a certain expertise, please save them
until AFTER the discussion period has ended, and approach the speaker
one-on-one.  Attendees should also be very tactful. You represent the
group, and as such please be extra considerate when dealing with the
speaker.  All it takes is one unintended act of rudeness to ruin any
chances of the speaker ever coming back.

Discussions AFTER THE PRESENTATION may not require the active
participation of all attendees, but others not involved should still
show the same etiquite as if the presentation was in session.  If
involved, please remember that these discussions should not
necessarily be considered as debate club sessions. While attendees may
seek to persuade others, no one should monopolize the discussion, seek
to impose her or his opinions, or seek "to score debating points"
against the others. In fact, these group discussions will not always
seek to produce a consensus policy, but rather the frank and open
consideration of all the different alternatives with their pros and
cons, and thus allow each attendee to form her or his own independent

In summation, all attendees are expected to conduct themselves
professionally and to be respectful of the guest speakers, professors,
and peers. The observance of these standards by all attendees will
ensure a constructive experience for all involved.

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