Thursday, 28 May 2015

Lunches at Conferences

Photo courtesy of tpsdave via Pixabay - CC 0 Public Domain license

Today I'm talking about conferences.  And in particular, my favourite bit of conferences, lunches.

Now, when you're organising a conference, there is a pecking order that you can't help but put the speakers in.  You'll have one of your best speakers right at the start as a keynote speaker, to set the tone and invigorate the crowd for the day.  You may well have your second best speaker at the end, although this is always a risk as people may start vanishing at the end as they realise the benefits of leaving 20-30 minutes early (i.e. reduced traffic and an earlier return to home)

Generally people in the "graveyard slot" (the one right after lunch) aren't the most exciting in the world, they're the people that you need to include on the agenda but it isn't the end of the world if someone takes a nap during their talk.  Sometimes people mix it up by putting an exciting speaker after lunch to keep people awake, but this only messes with peoples digestive practices as their brain attempts to keep awake a body headed into sloth after consuming three triangular sandwiches, a chicken drumstick, and an onion bhaji.

But I think one slot overlooked by event organisers is the one before lunch.

This slot is clearly for your controversial speakers, the ones that you're pleased to have but that might just say something that you're a bit nervous about people hearing.

The reason why this is the ideal slot is that about halfway into their talk, a door in the conference room will open and all the attendees will catch the little rattle of the kitchen trolley bringing in the lunch.

And from that point the speaker has lost any hope of holding their audience.  Instead, everything person is glancing at the lunch and at the clock, only gazing at the speaker perfunctorily, and they'll be thinking the following things:

  • Lunch is here.
  • When is this guy going to stop?  Surely they can see lunch is here too.
  • Look how small that trolley is.  I don't think there's enough food there for all of us. Better make sure I'm at the front of the queue.
  • How much plastic wrap do they need to put round those sandwiches? It'll take forever to open better. Better make sure I'm second to the front of the queue so I don't have to open them.
  • I can see little pork pies cut in half! Screw the diet, I'm having one.
  • Ooh, look at the gluten-free diet wrapped up by itself.  What is gluten anyway?  I think Collegehumor had a video about it.
  • Lunch lunch lunch lunch lunch. I want lunch, please stop talking, because I want to eat lunch.

And the longer the speaker keeps going, the more the crowd starts to hate them for delaying their lunch.

If you enjoyed this, here's a post about a particular conference I went to a while back which featured some unexpected guests...

I'm going to be setting up some guest posts to run over the next few weeks as I'm getting married and hopefully going on honeymoon - I'll do my best to intersperse the guest posts with my own, but I've been very pleased with all the support the blogging community has made in sending me posts!  If you'd like to get involved, let me know.


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  2. mment:

    Thomas Pickard28 May 2015 at 12:48

    I used to work as a banquet captain for a resort, and I have seen the looks from the food trolley perspective.

    1. Ah, that must have been an experience! Any anecdotes?

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