We've all been there—sneaking covert glances at our watches and reading ahead on the agenda in the wild hope that the next meeting session will be better than the one we're suffering through now. Sometimes, though I hate to admit it, it's just so awful that I've had to grab my stuff and bolt from the room. And I'm far from alone in sidling up the aisle toward the door; I've seen plenty of others sneaking out, too, trying to ease the door shut so it doesn't announce their defection with a slam. What are the straws that break a meeting attendee's back? I can't speak for everyone, but here are the top 10 things that'll make me bolt:
1. Talking-head lectures and speakers who read PowerPoint slides to the audience. What's with that? Grab the handout and run.
2. Sitting in the dark, session after session, peering at too-small graphics on a big screen. Gives me a headache. Ditto eight to 10 hours in nothing but fluorescent light. Ditto droners, whiners, and other boring speakers. Content may be king, but presentation counts.
3. Speakers who run sessions that are so jargon-heavy and acronym-laden that no one on the other side of the dais has a clue what they're talking about.
4. No time to absorb information before being packed off to the next, totally unrelated session. If you want info to stick, it has to have a little time to linger, or be reinforced by the next session in some way.
5. Sessions in which everything and everyone is deadly serious all the time. A little humor and playfulness goes a long way toward keeping me in my seat.
6. Sessions that sound great on paper but don't deliver what they promise. I've been to a few that didn't even remotely resemble their description in the program. Especially bolt-worthy are sessions billed as “expert” that are really “beginner,” or vice versa.
7. Sessions I can't bolt from because I can't even find them after spending what seems like hours roaming the halls in those oh-so-comfortable dress shoes. Especially a problem in big convention centers with inadequate signage, or where there's more than one meeting going on at a time.
8. Great keynote speeches that don't appear to have anything to do with what we're there to learn. A follow-up Q&A or panel could pound home the relevance. Better yet is a keynoter who can weave in the relevance him/herself.
9. Rude staff, rude presenters, rude attendees.
10. Cliquey social events, where everyone forms impenetrable groups and no effort is made to get people to interact with anyone outside of their usual circle. Also, music that's so loud you can't hear what people are saying, even when they're shouting in your ear.
Bonus Beef: Sessions where they say to hold your questions until the end, but then run out of time for the Q&A—or when the speaker bolts instead of sticking around to answer questions. As Charlie Brown would say, “Argh!”