Special Events Blog
Special Events editor Lisa Hurley

Thanks, Kanye, but I'll keep my seat

Kanye WestKanye West is a stand-up guy. Literally.

He got a social media thrashing—call it a Tweeting beating—by insisting that all attendees at a recent concert in Melbourne stand up to show their enthusiasm for his event.

It seemed he just couldn't stop. He hectored some attendees who continued to sit, which compelled one guest to hold up her prosthetic leg to prove she had an ample excuse to stay seated.

Kanye is not alone these days in demanding that audience members participate—or else.

I'm old-school enough to believe that I can sit quietly at presentations so that the speaker who is smarter than I am can make me smarter, too. And as it happens, there are many, many speakers who are smarter than I am, so I have many opportunities to sit quietly.

Instead, I've been ordered by presenters to stand up, perform jumping jacks, and turn to the total stranger beside me and share some private facts about myself I've never shared with anyone else before. Hmmm … no.

Presenters these days seem gripped by the fear that unless everyone in front of them is in motion, then nothing is happening. But this is a mistake. They are confusing action with interaction.

True audience interaction means the audience members shape the presentation. Their input should rule.

Indeed, ordering audience members to stand and speak is just the flip side of ordering them to sit down and shut up.

As the wonderful writer James Thurber noted, you might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.

Photo: Kanye West performs onstage during the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards at NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE on September 12, 2010 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.)

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