Reactions to Conference Skeeze Blog Post – Updated 9/7

Posted on September 1, 2017

It’s been a week(ish) since we posted this blog about checking your behavior before local government conferencing starts back up. We’ve already received 18 comments (16 about skeeze, one that is *maybe?* a joke, and one that I’ll respond to below.
We’re sharing these comments anonymously so we can all continue to learn from them. It’s a reminder that what’s “normal” or “friendly” to you, could be conveyed differently by someone you don’t know well. Or, as one commenter points out, could be the result of regional differences and expectations.
We’ll continue to update this post as more comments are shared from the original submission form (replicated below, too).

September 7, 2017

  • I watched a local gov person seemingly hit on a consultant/vendor during an after party. It was a bit jarring but I didn’t think it was my business. It appeared to be reciprocal, though they’re both married.
  • I think it’s important to have *some* responsibility when you take board or commission members with you to a conference. At my most recent conference, a colleague from another city introduced me to one of their board members.
    The board member accompanied a small group of us throughout the rest of the day, the dinner, reception, and drinks afterwards. As a result, I spent several hours trying to hang out with the other group members, as the board member made horrendous inappropriate comments about me in front of the group, trying to reach under the table at dinner, touch or hug me, and all the while I tried to kindly explain it was unwanted and I would like him to stop.
    The group egged it on, and the colleague who brought the board member thought it was hilarious and encouraged as well, and left me alone with this board member for several periods of time that were quite uncomfortable. So, seriously, when you take a board member with you, Intervene if they get out of line.
    These are your colleagues and friends. Treat them with respect and model the behavior or even have a discussion with them in advance about the “conference culture”.
    But never, ever condone locker room talk. Never dump that person on a colleague from another organization to babysit. Yes, they should be responsible for their behavior.
    But you’re the one that will be coming back to the conference year after year. And conferences shouldn’t be preying grounds for women. Act right.

September 2, 2017

  • Not a skeeze story but a tip on how to ensure you maintain a level of professionalism (i.e. how not to turn into a total slob at boozy social hours) at conferences.Take note of what your most senior coworker (or supervisor, or elected official, or someone you look up to,) is doing especially when alcohol is involved. It is easy to lose track of how many glasses of wine you throw back at a networking event, even more so when you might rely on liquid courage to quell some social anxiety.
    After thoroughly enjoying myself one night (and *not* the next morning) l now watch what that person (it’s different every conference) does and try to follow their lead. If that means they swap the wine for a club soda every other drink, I do that too. If they take off a bit early, I make sure to not stick around super late.
    That being said, know your audience. If you’re around all of your super fun classmates from grad school and you take the party to the afterparty, get as rad as you want. Just be sure you’re not the talk of the conference at the bagel line the next morning.
    #ProTip taking shots at a conference is never appropriate. Sip on your vodka/tequila/whiskey instead. You want to be remembered for your enthusiasm for local government, not for how smoothly you can throw the Fireball back.
  • I disagree that hugs are fine. I’m a 35 yr old female and not a hugger beyond my husband and close family (which usually only happens when someone dies). I never initiate hugs and always feel awkward when someone hugs me, no matter how long the squeeze lasts… Some of us like our personal space! Also, I find it awkward when in a group or, say, with my male boss and the males get a handshake yet females get a hug. What is that?!
  • Much older Manager from another jurisdiction that I had a great conversations with about career development in the past offers to give me some advice. We leave the conference site to grab coffee to talk about a difficult conversation I am about to have with my own Manager. (What a nice offer I think, given I don’t have any colleagues in my organization I could speak with about this particular conversation. This will really help!) Mid conversation, Manager states he feels “very close to me” and ask me to come up to his room. I immediately stand up and leave, and avoid all future contact. What? No. Not okay. Not okay at all. Really ruined the entire conference. Skeeze off the charts.
  • Remember, just because you have been Facebook stalking or LinkedIn stalking the person doesn’t mean they know you have been doing that, so bringing up something you saw on their Facebook page can be SUPER skeezy.
  • I was at our state CM conference and had taken our PW Director along – he is an older guy. At breakfast one morning, a retired male CM sat at our table and ignored me but asked the PW guy how long he’d been in the biz. He said, I’m not, she is my boss (pointing me me). The retired CM looked at me, then my chest, and then back to the PW guy and said WOW, good for you. True story.

September 1, 2017

  • Someone once said my website name sounded like a porn hub name. I was shocked and said audibly to my associate next to me, “Did you hear that?” And repeated the comment. He dropped it pretty darn fast.
  • I’ve been to two conferences in the past week and a half. Please do not play videos on your phone with the volume up during the session and then seem surprised and angry that everyone is staring at you.
  • “You’re a blonde – you won’t pay for a drink all night” I was an INTERN and this new manager about two minutes older than me said this before the fundraiser bar crawl started. I ended up bowing out because I didn’t want to be hit on all night.
  • One year I tagged along to a post-session dinner with my former boss and a vendor we had both worked with. By the time we were partway into the main course, I realized I was a third-wheel. I made my goodbyes and grabbed a cab back to the hotel, and saw my (married) former boss doing the walk of shame early the next morning. I was appalled… and then realized just how much skeeziness was going on around me. Since then I don’t accept invitations to one-on-one dinners or drinks at conferences. Too much opportunity for skeeze.
  • Great column and I am glad you are starting this discussion. I don’t have a skeezy story of my own that illustrates this subject. However, I have seen a bit too much alcohol consumed at evening happy hours (one reason not to attend vendor-hosted events with free alcohol). Also, having worked in local government in four states during my career, I have seen a regional variations of what is considered acceptable for greetings, terms of endearment (dear, girl, boy, etc.) or partying. So, perhaps a supplement could include advice that while somethings maybe acceptable in your neck of the woods, it isn’t always proper or professional elsewhere. Thanks for all you and ELGL are doing!
  • A man was “squeezing” (or is it skeezing?) by me during a session (there was plenty of room) and he moved my legs out of his way by touching the inside of my knee and pushing them over. Gross!
  • Rule 1 is to always always have a conference buddy for social events (read: wingman or wingwoman). And Rule 2 is to have a code word… for those situations when you get cornered by someone (not necessarily skeezy) and need to be saved from the conversation. My friend and I use #pineapple

Here’s one submission I want to make sure to respond to:

  • Hey now I’ve been working out and dieting since May, and I’ll be kinda disappointed if you’ve scared people out of noticing. 🙁 I’m proud of taking the hard steps to get healthy. I strongly believe in the intentions of this post but I also don’t know how on point it is. Also that you felt a need to pen it might reflect poorly on ELGL17 to someone who wasn’t there (though I personally didn’t experience anything offensive and I hope nobody else did).

Hurrah for healthy lifestyles! And congrats to you for taking those hard steps to get healthy. This post is a long time coming after a years of hearing stories from people about downright shady experiences at conferences.
It’s not based on anything from #ELGL17, and I’m hopeful that by being upfront and forthright about this topic, that ELGL is displaying itself as an organization that takes harassment and skeeze seriously. I hope our attendees would share with us situations that occurred at our events that did not promulgate our values of authentic connections and networking.

I think this next person is trying to be funny; sharing it here in the interest of transparency.

(TBH, not sure why this is the time and place to be funny, especially when many people are sharing real stories about intimidating conference experiences…)
  • The conference was at a beach location so there was plenty of time for hitting the beach. After sessions were over for the day, there was a guy there who was at the beach and approached and sat down next to a young woman and leaned in for a quick hug. He’s kind of a weird, creepy guy, but she was friendly with him. He was making conversation and moved a little closer. He put his hand on her back and offered to apply sunblock, but she politely declined. Eventually, as evening came, he even asked if she wanted to go back to his room. The whole time she was acting rather aloof and disinterested. Although, she did end up going back to his room with him, because it was his wife and they were there together. And, also, the guy was me.

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