Upside your head

Caught up recently with Terminal Degree‘s blog, and her recent post about being criticized as an organizer by people who aren’t paying attention struck a chord with me.  As I have mentioned, I am on an organizing committee for a writers’ conference and this is the time of year when we field the most questions and requests from participants.

You’ve probably heard that the richest 10% of the world’s population own 85% of the world’s wealth (I know there are different ways of expressing this concept; here’s one); I estimate that 10% of our participants claim 85% of my attention during this time of year. 

Honestly, I am glad when I can help people sort out things they need to know.  Food is always an issue, and we get questions about the availability of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items in the conference-provided meals.  (The standard answer is that there is always at least one vegetarian option at meals, and our chef and her assistant can answer questions about ingredients.  We also try to let the food people know if we have vegans or people with allergies, because they’re very responsive to that.)

But I would never think of emailing a conference organizer to ask whether there is a natural-foods store in town, for example.  At least not without a quick Google first. 

Terminal Degree’s complaint was about someone who had clearly missed avalanches of publicity and wrote to say “Why wasn’t there more advance notice?”  Yes, as if we organizers are trying to keep the public from finding out about our events.  Similarly, I have–not many, but a not insignificant number–of people writing to ask questions that are very clearly answered on our website.  I usually reply with a brief version of the answer and then provide a link to the appropriate page, saying “More information is here.”  You’ve gotta train people somehow.

As a teacher, I realize that you have to say important things multiple times (and write them on the board and put them on the web page), and even then, there will be students who don’t appear to absorb them.  One of the things I find amusing about teaching high school is when someone asks, “When is the paper due?” and one of his or her classmates bursts out, “She just said the eighteenth!  Pay attention!”  Hee.


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