It’s all about respect

Being an accountant is not all about burying your head in spreadsheets, tax returns, financial statements and the like. As we move through the profession we become managers, teachers, advisers, mentors, trainers, coaches – all sorts of roles that require us to listen, to understand, to talk, to present – to engage with our clients, staff, peers and students.

Many of us are called on to speak at pitches, presentations, functions, training sessions, and in the main, we have an attentive and respectful audience. However, it’s not always the case.

At a recent charity lunch in Sydney, a crowd of around 370 were in attendance for the usual array of food, beverages, speakers, auctions and general fundraising activities. The high-profile MC became so frustrated with the complete lack of attention and constant noise from the audience that he ‘lost it’. He abused the patrons, he swore, he made a fool of himself. He was subsequently suspended by the media organisation who employed him and then resigned.

The MC has paid a heavy price for his actions. But what about the actions of the audience? It was made up, in the main, of mature professionals from the financial and legal sectors, people who engage with others at a high level on a regular basis. Video taken of the MC’s outburst shows members of the audience standing, walking, talking, laughing and generally having a fine and noisy time, which is fine if it’s the ‘right’ time.

But this wasn’t the right time, they were paying no attention to the MC who was attempting to move on with proceedings. The important parts of the proceedings, like hearing about the great work the charity does, raising money to be able to continue and build on that work, hearing stories of the people who help and have been helped – things that deserve the audience’s attention.

While this is an extreme example, it has become increasingly common for people at functions to effectively ignore presenters and carry on with their own conversations. The occasional comment, even a short, quiet discussion, can be OK, but anything more is just plain rude. If you’re in the audience, you’re obliged to respect those presenting.

If you’re not interested in what they are saying, leave the room. If you need to make or take a phone call, leave the room. If you want to catch up with a colleague, do it in a break. But while you are there, show the respect that common courtesy and professional standards demand. Show the respect you would expect to be afforded if you were the presenter.

Life moves on and some standards change with time – a quick tour of the dress standards in the Members’ section at Randwick races will clearly show that! But common courtesy is something that should never become uncommon – it’s all about respect.

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