Ego-Maniacs, Griefers and Attention Seekers at Conferences

‘media should help communicate a message, not interfere with it for the sake of the media’

I’ve waited a while to write this because I thought time might temper my opinion but it hasn’t and so here it is. How do you cope when you are a presenter at a professional conference and some ego-maniac in the audience persistently interrupts, offers his own opinion and criticises the speaker’s comments?

Without naming names, here is what happened.

I was on a conference panel session – just one member of a panel of five, and it was a session about Second Life and education. We offered the audience the opportunity to participate by having a chat session broadcast on a screen which everybody could see. Many of the audience members had their own laptops, and were logged on to the chat session. The ones who didn’t could follow it on the screen as they listened to the panel speakers. There was plenty of time factored in to the session (over 30 minutes) for questions at the end.

The broadcast chat session theoretically could have had a lot of potential for multi-threaded discussions surrounding the themes and issues discussed by the pane. However one ego-maniac hijacked the chat session, and pretty much griefed us the entire way through. Here are just a couple of his comments – though you have to read the entire thing to get a better sense of how inappropriate he was:

  • Next proposition: This panel would be better if the chat weren’t on the screen.
  • oh, gee — second life has a web element? I’m just so reassured.
  • Hey, cool, I finally agree with (name of panellist) on something!

He dominated 54 lines of text out of the transcript of 165 lines (i.e. his voice took up around 1/3 of the online discussion) and although the beginning of the transcript his lines were spaced out (one line out of every 10 or so) and other people were contributing, by the end his lines were appearing 2, 3 and 4 at a time, as nobody else in the audience seemed to want to engage with anything by that stage.

I’m all for exploring new ways of engaging the audience in conference sessions but I felt that in this case the use of the chat session detracted from the professional tone of the panel.  Ironically, it was the ego-maniac in question who offered the line of text I used at the beginning of this post:

‘media should help communicate a message, not interfere with it for the sake of the media’

Well don’t blame the media for how you chose to use/abuse it, Sir!

5 thoughts on “Ego-Maniacs, Griefers and Attention Seekers at Conferences

  1. If his comments were highly inappropriate I would have been tempted to log him off. It would be no different from having a heckler in a rl audience at a conference, and asking him to leave the room or stay on topic. But such people are not easy to deal with.

  2. I sometimes have this in workshops where one person totally dominates the discussion, often with irrelevant comments. I’ve found it most effective to say to them, as positively as I can manage, “Thanks for your contributions, I wonder whether I could ask you to hold back just a bit so as to give a chance to people aren’t quite as confident or extroverted as you.” Generally these people are too self-absorbed to detect any irony…

  3. Generally these people are too self-absorbed to detect any irony…”

    That isn’t irony it is sarcasm. Personally, I find it typically harmful in an instruction setting. I think it is also unprofessional. Because most people who use it are not expressive enough to make it effective.

    What is the difference between an eager and active learner and an attention seeker?

    Isn’t chat for banter? many sites have it set up that way.

    I am pretty ignorant to how things were setup for this conference. I am also ignorant to both sides of the conversation.

    I would like to just present another point of view.

  4. Yes…. its interesting actually because the reason the live chat was conducted and screened was because there’s been a general consensus that the type of audience participation it encourages allows for great learning to occur. The panel had agreed we would try this more novel way of presenting. Mostly it worked fabulously well I must say. Powerpoint presentations had been banned, and panel members had been restricted to 5 minutes each to allow for over 30 minutes of question time. We were playing an image slideshow in the background on one screen and had the live chat on another screen. Really we were trying to practice what we preached – participation and engagement = very good conditions for optimal learning.

    But possibly some audience members figured chat = banter. I have engaged in a whole lot of chat while the presentation is going on but usually in private ims to friends – though sometimes in Elluminate also. In Elluminate (a public space) it’s a good way to vocalise a question or a comment and have your voice heard and its also a good way to supplement what the speaker is saying by a) making sure you understand the points by asking somebody else and b) offering links to the web to add or clarify info. In private ims its also a way to vent if the speaker is dull *smiles*

    But this was a public screen and so I would have expected the vent or banter to be non existent.
    Jurgen thats a great line – it made me laugh, though I am not sure I could ever use it for real 🙂

  5. Second Life is new to education… and is not close to mainstream. That is just how I see it. Skepticism and criticism should be looked at as positive things in these stages of SL education. Maybe the person was a ESL speaker or had a learning disability and could not express themselves well in text.
    Body language sometimes confuses but mostly informs the intentions of conversation. In many online conversations that is completely lost. Because of the loss of body language, I feel that people in general should be more relaxed with others.
    On the other hand …. I would give the shirt off my back to a stranger…. which is pretty nuts.

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