Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Eat drink man woman

I spend some of my time at work doing presentations for lawyers. The law firm arranges for me to come in to their office to do the presentation which lasts an hour and earns attendees the princely sum of one point towards an annual requirement for continuous legal education. The presentations usually take place over the lunch hour so sandwiches are served, almost always in trays from Pret a Manger. I've done probably about 50 of them in the last few years. It's a great way to get in front of clients (usually between 10 and 20 litigators attend, sometimes more) and I really enjoy doing them: I have fun, make people laugh, tell what I hope are interesting anecdotes, know my subject well - or at least better than my audience (except when I was in front of 50 Melbourne barristers, but that's another story), which is what really matters - and we get business out of it because they remember where to come if they need our services.

I never usually talk about work on my blog but I had to break my own rule for this: yesterday's attendees behaved so shockingly rudely that I stumbled in my presentation. When I started my introduction, the only thing the more junior attendees (who were all young Chinese women, as a statement of fact, and there was a gang of about 10 of them seated round the table, ie more than half the people in the room) were focused on was the food on the table: rustling their paper bags, unwrapping them, discarding the contents, picking up another paper bag, swapping with each other, getting the right spoon, asking someone else to pass a Coke can, and eating with heads down and utter concentration on the task at hand.

After about five minutes of this, the most senior person there stood up and said loudly and pointedly that as a matter of courtsey they should immediately stop rustling and fussing about with the food and listen to their guest speaker (me). I said I'd give them two minutes to sort themselves out, did so, and then continued, to hardly rapt, but at least slightly chastened, silence.

Fifty presentations, at least, and that was the first time anything so unnerving had ever happened to me.


Mummy said...

It's an Asia thing I am convinced. I was once speaking at a conference in Japan, which people had paid about EURO 400 to attend, where half the Japanese audience took the opportunity to sleep through my session. I thought perhaps it was just the tedium of my topic, until I realised they did this to every single speaker.

magicman said...

According to a survey, favorite national pastime of Japanese is sleeping

Mancsoulsister said...

What an odd coincidence - I have just sat through a presentation where a group of junior staff were also more concerned with the food than with the speaker. It took 3 tellings off to finally shut them up.

Very rude and not very nice for the poor speaker (or the people who are actually interested in the presentation!)

LottieP said...

Perhaps I was wrongly extrapolating, then, that this was to do with the Asian obsession with food? (I have a lot of sympathy for it, don't get me wrong.)

Is it, instead, just the Rudeness of Youth?