Etiquette For Hospitality Professionals When Attending Industry Events

I attended three industry events in the past two weeks; a heavy reception, lunch and a sit-down dinner. At all three events, there was a featured speaker or a series of presenters. In each case, we knew prior to attending that there would be speakers and the topic they would be covering (for some of us, this was the main reason for attending).

At all three of these events, the attendees were actively networking with each other. We were busy catching up on the latest news and enjoying each other’s company, as we always do in our industry. However, when the speaker went on stage…the talking did not stop.

As experienced professionals in the hospitality industry, we know the importance of the speaker and how in some cases it can make or break the event. We spend hours around conference tables debating who would be a good session leader, what topics we want covered, and how to engage the audience. If we know the importance of the speaker to the success of an event, why were we not respectful of these presenters?

I am not going to address the topic that we should know better (oops, I guess I already did). I am going to share with you the three questions that ran through my mind at each of these events. If this were my event:

1. Would I politely interrupt the presentation and ask the audience to please be quiet?

2. Would I make my way around the room politely asking the attendees for their attention?

3. Would I ignore it and hope the attendees stopped talking?

The hosts of the events I attended chose option three and it did not work out well for them. I am curious to know; what would you do?

12 thoughts on “Etiquette For Hospitality Professionals When Attending Industry Events

  • March 3, 2014 at 2:04 pm
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    Usually, it is not every table that is not being considerate of the speaker and the other attendees. I would circulate through the room and request the attention of the individuals causing the problem. Sometimes it depends on how familiar you are with the audience. Not every event is the same. Hope this helps….OJ

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  • March 4, 2014 at 9:47 pm
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    I would definitely go to the event host and tell him how much I want to hear this speaker and ask the host to address the audience (nicely) and announce how “it is great that people are networking so much however, our speaker has a limited amount of time with us and I know we are all interested in what he/she has to say, let’s give him our undivided attention”

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  • March 5, 2014 at 2:41 am
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    It has happened at an industry event that I’ve attended before. We politely interrupted the presentation and asked the audience to please be quiet. It works like magic.

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  • March 5, 2014 at 6:57 pm
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    I would opt for #1 and ask the audience to please hold conversation until after the speaker. How troubling it must have been for the speakers – unless they have the gift of humor and somehow use that to settle/quiet the audience.

    It’s sad to see that professionalism is not what it used to be. I think this is the case in general – as a society polite behavior and simply courtesies are often missing.

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  • March 7, 2014 at 2:38 am
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    I would stop the presentation and ask for the audience’s attention. Afterall, there are those in the room who paid money to attend and are not getting the full benefit because of the others…

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  • March 11, 2014 at 1:53 pm
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    I would have to interrupt the presentation and ask for the audience attention. Two things I don’t tolerate lightly during a presentation are lateness and talking. Frankly it is just inconsiderate of those around you. I will hush my table if I am not facilitating the event. The person who is facilitating has every right to ask the audience to quiet down.

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  • March 18, 2014 at 1:13 pm
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    Hi Doug! Thanks for your article.
    I wonder how these speakers felt? What impression did the group leave with the speakers as they depart for their next engagement? As professionals, we must treat others the way we hope to be treated and respect is key. I will observe and take notice at the next event I attend and thanks for reminding me to be respectful of one another. My dad always told me that the results we get are measured by what we have invested ourselves. I want to learn all that I can.

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  • March 19, 2014 at 3:20 am
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    It is the person who introduces the speaker to ask the audience to welcome the speaker and give them their full attention. If the audience, then, begins to ignore and/or continue to visit or talk amongst themselves after the speaker begins, it is the speaker’s responsibility to ask those individuals to either be respectful to what he has to say or leave the room to continue their conversations elsewhere. We teach others how to treat us.

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  • March 21, 2014 at 7:02 pm
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    Before the presentation started, I would make some pointed but polite comments about giving “your undivided” attention to the speaker, asking everyone to turn-off cell phones, and not talk during the presentation. Pretty much the same speech you hear in the movie theaters today. It is a sad commentary that this needs to be done, but common sense and good manners seem to have gone the way of pay telephones.

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  • March 27, 2014 at 2:13 pm
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    All too frequently audiences are becoming less polite. However, the real problem might have been speaker selection. Professional speakers generally can deal with the issue while industry experts are not trained to deal with this. Another challenge might be online speaker RFPs which eliminate the human element in selecting speakers.

    Ed Rigsbee, Certified Association Executive, Certified Speaking Professional, author: The ROI of Membership

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  • March 27, 2014 at 3:12 pm
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    I am an old school meeting planner who was in business long before smart phones and I-Pads. I don’t know how speakers do it today and I teach college students so I should know! If you must talk or check your e-mail don’t sit in the front of the room. It is all about respect!

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  • April 1, 2014 at 12:16 pm
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    Great topic and one near and dear to my heart. I too find it incredibly rude when this happens; when I’ve paid money to hear a speaker and can’t hear them. I would chose option 1 if it was my event. When it’s not my event, I will sometimes clink my glass with a knife or ‘ssssh’ them if it’s near me. With the word “meeting professional” in our description, it’s amazing to me how often we are not.

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