Like most professional organizations, the closing session at last night’s Toastmasters’ District 37 Fall Conference was filled with “I’d like to thank…” and “just a small token of my appreciation…” moments. Complete with multiple standing ovations. It paled in comparison to NSA’s Atlanta conference I attended this year, but I think the feelings are similar.I’ve thought a lot about how best to handle such things. The people who are being recognized are deserving. They’ve put in hundreds of hours, handled a myriad of details, done the thankless things, and have done so in obscurity (and without pay in most instances). And while everyone at such a conference has been touched in some way by the people behind the revolving door of acknowledgements, I know from listening to comments that most do not wish to sit through an hour presentation of “awards”, and umpteen standing ovations. Last night’s affair ran over by almost an hour.Another class of this event is the professional achievement awards. At Toastmaster’s it’s the DTM. At NSA, it was the CSP. People achieving these awards have done a lot, deserve everything they’re getting, and are being honored in front of their peers of like disposition, albeit most of the audience does not have (and likely won’t ever get) the award. I don’t think the audience is jealous, and most (me, at least) are genuinely awed by these people’s dedication and work. But I don’t need 2 minutes for each one and a life history, complete with personal jokes. Last night 200 people watched for 15 minutes while these people were honored. At NSA, it was 1500 people for 90 minutes.And on the flip side, I don’t want to short the recognition due these folks. I’m just commenting from the POV of the audience. The first rule of any communication is to remember your audience. While your peers may be appreciative of all the hard work that has been done to help make their experience worthwhile, the vast majority don’t really care a whole lot to have each mentioned by name and paraded to the podium. It’s a harsh fact that may come across as unfeeling, but if you’ll poll the audience (or listen to them), I think you’ll find it to be true.If I ever am in charge of a conference, I’ll try something like, “everybody who did something stand up and be recognized”. That’s my plan to make sure I’m never roped into leading such an event again :-)I’m not sure that’s a better solution, but regardless of the circumstance,
Remember your audience, and don’t assume on their time.