I am still thinking about this conference I attended earlier in the week. As I often do when I attend a conference, I come home with some new knowledge and some inspiration. I also, however, typically come home with lots of other thoughts and ideas. This time one of the things I have been pondering is applause. There were many speakers and many awards. I did hear some inspiring stories. But it seemed to me there was too much clapping.
I have, for a while now, felt a little odd about applauding every little thing where a crowd happens to gather. Someone is introduced who will in turn introduce a speaker–that person gets applause. They are not the speaker, so why should they get applause, especially before they even speak? I guess I an appreciate that applause may be just a way to say thank you, but it seems we offer it too readily. Applause to me means thank you for doing a good job at entertaining or informing or inspiring. Otherwise, why clap?
This crowd not only liked to applaud every person who had any kind of public role, but it was standing ovation dizzy. There were more standing ovations at that conference than I have seen anywhere else. Maybe they are just sensitive enough to truly be moved that often. I guess I couldn’t speak to that, but I think a standing ovation should be reserved for a speech or a performance that one will remember for a long time. If someone has a moving story but they do a poor job telling it, they shouldn’t get a standing ovation. If someone has a story of personal tragedy, they shouldn’t get a standing ovation just because of their circumstances. I want to recognize those who offer something to me, but I only want to stand up and clap when the experience is to powerful to keep me in my seat.
Am I cynical? Or emotionally numb? I don’t think so. I just feel that we offer out praise too readily. It is not easy to be the one to stay seated when everyone else stands and applauds, but there were simply not that many speakers who moved me to stand. At one point a colleague even said to me, “This is where we get our exercise, all this standing and sitting.” That told me that she was in the game, like many others I am sure, because it was the thing everyone else was doing. I stayed put.
I don’t mean to be a spoiler but what if every play got a standing ovation? It would not take long before it meant nothing and only the really really bad plays did not get a standing ovation. A standing ovation should be for something is special, not just for any old perfomance, but that is what I saw–too much standing and clapping. I have felt happy to be one to stand and clap, but if a speaker doesn’t merit it, I will stay seated. It is easy to follow the crowd. It is difficult to be the one who disagrees. Sorry, speakers, but you need to give me something good to get me on my feet.