This post is by Kirsten Wyatt, ELGL’s Executive Director.
It’s almost local government conference season and so I wanted to take a minute to provide a quick reminder about something that most everyone has experienced, but no one really talks about.
I’m talking about skeezy conference behavior.
Before you stop reading because “that doesn’t apply to me,” consider this:
- Lingering hugs.
- Side squeezes.
- Compliments about appearance.
- In-the-ear conversations in a loud room.
- Funny jokes.
- Assumptions about your personal life.
Now, I’m the first to agree that having fun and getting to know each other at conferences is enjoyable and professionally important.
But I’m willing to bet that most people working in local government who have attended a local government professional conference, have experienced their fair share of skeezy behavior.
(Feel free to share your stories below and I’ll post them anonymously if you want to further illustrate the realities of modern conferencing.)
So here’s a quick primer on how to de-skeeze before the fall conference season:
- Hugging is fine. But hug people like you’d hug your pastor. Hugs shouldn’t last more than a second. And don’t kiss anyone unless you’re related or you’re from Quebec.
- If you’re touching someone’s waist, (and why would you be?) most certainly don’t squeeze it.
- You haven’t seen your friend since the last conference! She looks great! Instead of saying, “check out that dress!” try, “did you make it through budget season?”
- It’s crowded and loud between sessions, and you can’t hear what your friend is saying. If you can feel your breath on your own face as you’re talking in his ear, you’re too close.
- If you wouldn’t tell the joke to your mother, you shouldn’t be telling it at a professional conference.
- It’s never okay to assume someone’s pregnant, straight, or single. Your former assumptions about clothing choices, haircuts, or jewelry don’t apply anymore.
And if you call someone out for something that made you uncomfortable, be ready for them to say they didn’t mean anything by their actions. This doesn’t make you crazy or wrong.
Let me end by stating that these are scenarios that are relatively mainstream. There are many more horrendous (and hopefully less frequent) stories out there and I’m sure you’ve heard of at least one.
Let’s remain cognizant this conference season of these realities, check our behavior, and ensure that the conference season is enjoyable and skeeze-free.