“Abuse” has come to be quite the fashionable buzzword in our relativistic, post-modern culture.
Two men who gun down their parents are acquitted of the crime by a juryby reason of their having been “abused” as children.
A woman who spanks her child in public is arrested and charged with “abusing” the youngster.
In fact, the list of prefixes attached to the word “abuse”–child, spousal, drug, alcohol, animal, emotional, physical, among others–is growing daily, and these terms are quickly becoming part of our lexicon.
Theres another kind of abuse, though, that rarely gets talked about, although it is likely experienced by anyone who attends a conference or seminar. Im talking about sponsor abuse.
Every year, people in our industry pay millions of dollars to attend such events, which are designed to expand our knowledge and, hopefully, help us do our jobs a little better. Sponsors do their part by providing much-needed funding for meals, refreshments or other amenities, which reduces the overall cost to attendees.
The sponsors, in turn, receive credit for their contributions in a number of ways, including recognition in the conference literature, mentions from the podium, distribution of sponsor literature, etc. Most of us, especially in the technology area, have come to accept this as normal, and in most cases, desirable.
But what happens when sponsors go too far in expecting recompense for their contribution?
Case in point: Last year I attended a technology conference that included many worthwhile sessions–at least they seemed worthwhile from their titles and descriptions.
One particular session, given by a prominent software company in the industry, started out with a promising premise, only to turn into a shameless commercial for the vendor.
As the content of the “course” became obvious, pens dropped, notebooks slammed shut, and some independent souls simply got up and left. Still, most of the audience was left behind, evidently not wanting to offend the speaker or, perhaps, the conference organizers.
When the pitch from the podium had mercifully reached its end, I sought out the conference chairperson and complained about the sessions lack of value and obvious hucksterism.