February 26, 2007

Would You Rather?

Would you rather…

  • Miss a flight returning home on a business trip, necessitating an overnight delay or
  • Be 10 minutes late giving a 90 minute presentation in front of over 40 people.
Posted by James at February 26, 2007 12:56 PM
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Easy. Do the math:

10 minutes x 40 people = 400 minutes / 60 < 7 hours
overnight = 24 hours

10 minutes late for the 90 minute presentation wins. LOL. I can make a wonderfully witty remark and it will be all forgotten, but I WOULD NOT be happy stuck away from home another night.

And you'd better make it home after Atlanta!!

Posted by: Maggie at February 26, 2007 1:09 PM

Yikes! What happened to my math? That's not what the comment looked like when I submitted it!

10 x 40 = 400 minutes/60 < 7 hours
overnight = 24 hours (maybe 12)

That's what it should have looked like!

Posted by: Maggie at February 26, 2007 1:11 PM

Doy! Less than sign!

400/60 *is less than* 7 hours

Darn HTML!!

Let's hope my "witty remark" comes off better than this.

Posted by: Maggie at February 26, 2007 1:12 PM

Depends where I am going to be stuck. I generally don't travel anyhere I don't want to be, even on business. So usually I'll take the missed flight.

If I was stuck in McPherson KS like I used to be all the time I might go the other way but even then another night on the companie's dime would be OK with me.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at February 26, 2007 1:34 PM

My coworker got stuck coming back from a business trip this weekend thanks to the snow. (She got stuck on her connecting flight, so it wasn't as if she had traveled to an awful place to begin with.)

I was similarly stuck overnight at Dulles due to bad weather and a missed connecting flight (not for business). It was many, many hours of misery. (Actually, they did put us up at a hotel so it could have been worse, but it still sucked A LOT.)

I'd MUCH rather be 10 minutes late to do a presentation. I wouldn't try to excuse myself with a witty remark. Instead, I would tell the crowd that I HAD prepared ten minutes' worth of witty opening remarks, which I could now skip. :-)

Posted by: Julie at February 26, 2007 1:54 PM

LOL, Julie!

(Oops, sorry, I forgot you weren't being witty!)

Posted by: Maggie at February 26, 2007 2:05 PM

Miss a flight. It seems like that could be turned into more fun than being 10 minutes late.

However both scenarios seem quite likely for Atlanta. Oh, and we still don't have a (real) presentation.

Posted by: Derek at February 26, 2007 2:13 PM

Fixed your comments, Maggie. HTML entities to the rescue.

Next lesson... the anchor tag!

Posted by: James at February 26, 2007 2:25 PM

Miss the flight. I prefer to inconvenience myself than to inconvenience others. Plus the impact of being 10 minutes late professionally can be harder to repair than being away from home for a night.

Posted by: briwei at February 26, 2007 2:39 PM

My thoughts exactly, Brian.

Posted by: Mike at February 26, 2007 2:45 PM

I would hate to be 10 minutes late for a presentation I'm giving. I echo Brian's comments.

Plus, like Bob, I generally don't travel for business to a destination where I couldn't find some way to entertain myself on the company's dime.

Tip: Always check out www.frommers.com for restaurants in your destination city. I would be just fine missing a flight in a nice restaurant with a good bar.

Posted by: Patti M. at February 26, 2007 3:05 PM

It's interesting the assumptions we make about these scenarios.

Those of you choosing to miss your flight are assuming that you can't recover professionally from missing 10 minutes of a presentation, and that you'll be very comfortable and in the city of your choice when you miss the flight. What martyrs you are! Or bad presenters. LOL!
If your mere presence in the room for the fully allotted time is the mark of a "professional" presentation, then I'm glad I'm not attending any of your presentations!

(It's also delightful to see how you "professionals" don't mind costing your companies, and eventually your customers, a little extra money just so your audience can be blinded by your brilliance for an extra ten minutes.)

Whereas I'm assuming that in a presentation I can recover from a little mishap like missing ten minutes, and I don't like the uncertainty of travel. I like restaurants and nice hotels, and I'm smart enough to find one if I'm stuck somewhere, but I don't enjoy sitting on the floor of a crowded airport, and I really wouldn't enjoy sleeping there, not knowing when I'm going to get home. I also feel some responsibility to my family to be home as scheduled. ("Sorry I missed your birthday party, honey, but mommy was going to be ten minutes late to a presentation. My audience would much rather listen to me talk than network for those ten minutes.")

Posted by: Maggie at February 26, 2007 3:44 PM

I think Maggie really wants me to make it back from Atlanta on time.

Posted by: James at February 26, 2007 3:52 PM

Are you flying on jetBlue? :-)

Posted by: Jim at February 26, 2007 4:23 PM

Our assumptions vary in this case, Maggie, because our situations are not the same. :-)

- I'm not yet secure enough in my career to bungle an important appointment, even if it isn't my fault.

- I do not have a spouse and children waiting for me to come home so an extra day is not the end of the world.

- I wouldn't necessarily stick the company with the extra cost of flights and hotels. It depends whose mistake it was and what the company's policy was for such things.

Posted by: Mike at February 26, 2007 4:31 PM

No, I would be fine with being late also (assuming I had a good reason to give). But I would likely enjoy myself if I was travelling. I like travelling and always make the best of it. I used to find myself hoping that my flights home from Kansas were overbooked so that I could get me some airline vouchers.

As far as costing the customers. If my company wants me to travel (and it doesn't happen much) then they have to pay for any problems. It certainly isn't going to come out of my pocket. Obviously they will pass that cost along. However we have a tarvel budget and we always stick to it. We almost always come in under to allow for things like missed flights unforseen travel, etc.

The set up said nothing about being stuck in an airport. If that were the case I would certainly change my vote to being 10 minutes late.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at February 26, 2007 4:32 PM

James makes the set-ups very vague, and then we start arguing because we've made different assumptions. I think that's the fun.

(For him.)

Anyway, I was just teasing y'all. I thought it was funny that you were so quick to assume that people couldn't live without a full 90 minutes of you, and you were very happy to be in a city of your choosing, costing your company money. You have to admit, that's funny.

I admit it's a pet peeve of mine that people constantly criticize the government for spending "their money," but they don't see that CEO salaries and money wasted by pharmaceutical companies courting doctors, or by other companies taking clients or employees out to expensive dinners is also "their money."

I give "presentations" every day, and I take them very seriously, and I hate to be late. But sometimes it happens, and you survive.

Posted by: Maggie at February 26, 2007 4:46 PM

I always leave it vague because it's usually more fun to see how you guys interpret the question rather than for me to over-specify the problem into boringness.

Posted by: James at February 26, 2007 4:47 PM

Simultaneous (pretty much) post.

Posted by: James at February 26, 2007 5:03 PM

Yeah - I assumed that I was being stranded overnight at the Newark Airport and no longer had my hotel room. And that 80 out of 90 minutes would be enough. And that I could call ahead and tell someone I'd be 10 minutes late due to travel problems.

Posted by: Julie at February 26, 2007 5:17 PM

It is not that I am afraid for my career that I don't want to be 10 minutes late, it is more that I greatly dislike lateness.

When I give a training or seminar, I do not start over for those who come in late. Tardiness is rude.

As for getting stuck sitting on the floor of an airport, well, I didn't read that in this email. I assumed I would be able to leave, book a hotel, and go to dinner. Regardless, I always travel with snacks, books, magazines, and a radio with ear buds. I'm pretty self-contained.

Posted by: Patti M. at February 27, 2007 8:10 AM

I'm with Patti on this one. I think my presentation would survive just fine and I think the audience would survive just fine. But it also depends on your audience. Is your audience familiar with you? Is presentation a significant part of your job?

The career impact assumption is based on presenting to a professionally significant audience who may or may not know you. Their first impression of you is that you were late. No excuse for being late will revise that.

Tardiness is rude and often avoidable. But if it happens, and you handle it appropriately, then it isn't as big a deal.

Posted by: briwei at February 27, 2007 11:10 AM

Oh, I think people are starting to see that CEO salaries and pharmaceutical companies courting doctors is a problem. On the other hand how do you propose doctors become educated about drugs? The government? On their own with all their free time? It's a crappy system but it might just be the best one available. Companies are looking for alternatives, both Wyeth and Pfizer have drastically cut their sales forces and changed how they inform doctors.

Anyway back to the question. If I missed a flight I assumed it would either be 1) the airline's fault in which case they should put me up. If they didn't and it was a business trip I would get the company to do it because I'm travelling for them or 2) a work/business related reason. For example when I use to travel to KS routinely it was to work, often at ungodly hours (2-3 in the morning). So if work required me to miss a flight then work would again pick up the tab. The work I was doing out there involve manufacturing million+ dollar batches of drug so another 100-200 bucks for a hotel room and meal was not going to be a big deal even to the price of the drug. Which of course isn't really how it works anyway.

When I travel for any reason I am always sure to be at least 2 hours early. I have never even come close to missing a flight. Even when I had all my baggages stolen out of my car in SF, I managed to get to a police station, file a report and get to the airport with time to spare. So I definately assumed it was not my fault that the flight was missed.

On the other hand I present maybe 1x a year to 100-200 people in a seminar series where in the 18 years I've been working I've never heard of anyone being 10 minutes late. Cancelling yes but never late. The presenter is almost always the first person in the room. So I wouldn't really want to be the first to make people wait.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at February 27, 2007 12:19 PM

If I were in the audience of the seminar and the presenter was 10 minutes late, I would leave.

Posted by: Patti M. at February 27, 2007 12:24 PM

My dad used to travel a lot, and one funny aspect of flight problems he once mentioned was the situation where they'd try to offer people stuff to take a later flight.

What's interesting about it is that if they were having trouble getting people to give up their seats, the offers would get better. So there was a dynamic going on with how long people would wait until the airline was willing to give better tickets, or a nice room or whatever.

If newbies were present, they might jump at the first offer, which is good for the airline, but not as good for the travelers who might be willing to take a later flight, but want to wait fir a better offer.

A neat interplay with how much you think you can get vs. how long you should wait.

Posted by: James at February 27, 2007 12:28 PM

Depends on the audience:
a group of young students will have fun not being in class waiting for you and most likely will not impact you professionally. In this case be late.

A group of business people will not want their time wasted and may impact you profesionally. Get a nice dinner because you're missing that flight.

Posted by: Cousin Bob at February 27, 2007 12:42 PM

How do I propose doctors become educated about drugs? By reading the studies in which they are tested. Anything less is terrifying.

I wish my doctor would think about what's making me sick and how to fix it, rather than what drug he can write on a prescription slip to make me go away. I once had a doctor hold a z-pac in front of my face and pitch how it stays in the body after I'm done taking it, like a guy who "plays a doctor on TV." I actually laughed in his face. I could practically smell the $40 bottle of wine on his breath. I know pharmaceuticals reps. I know what they do. Doc can buy his own dinner and read the study while he eats, because that's his goddamn job.

I appreciate that in certain corporate environments, missing ten minutes of a presentation could be detrimental to your reputation, or your company's.

I'm tickled that Patti will spend ninety minutes of her time watching a presentation if the presenter is on time, but won't wait more than ten minutes if he's late. I can't figure out if that other eighty minutes is wasted or not, because either way it's ninety minutes, and presumably she signed up for the seminar for a reason. Interesting. If this is an example of the kind of corporate reasoning that makes you all think nobody can bear to miss you for ten minutes, then I must agree, I'm completely unable to reason in that situation and my answer must be invalid. Those ten minutes are crucial, or your audience will remain in the dark about your very important topic.

Posted by: Maggie at February 27, 2007 1:17 PM

Sorry, just going to add a note about college students. There are certainly bums who don't come to class and don't care about their grade, or don't see the correlation. That's their choice. There are others who recognize the relationship between their grade and their future, and attending lecture and their grade. They take the lecture very seriously, and don't disappear if the prof is ten minutes late, because the lecture is actually covering important material.

The picture you paint, which is sad but probably true, is that the appearance is more important than the topic or the material you present. I'm very lucky to work where the opposite is true. And my job would certainly be in grave danger if I were ten minutes late on a regular basis.

Posted by: Maggie at February 27, 2007 1:22 PM

I'd wait 10 minutes to listen to Richard Feynman for 15 minutes, never mind 80. (OK, he's dead, but if he were alive.)

Honestly, if I am ready to commit 90 minutes to almost any presentation, 10 minutes is an inconvenience but, as Patti said about herself, I'm pretty self contained. Even if I am sitting in an audience for 10 minutes I'll either have a book with me, or something to write on.

It's possible that, after waiting 5 minutes I realize that I really wasn't interested enough to spend the 90 minutes in the first place, in which case I shouldn't have been there anyhow.

I hadn't considered any of this when I proposed the question.

Posted by: James at February 27, 2007 1:29 PM

If the presenter can't be bothered to be there, why should I?

Posted by: Patti M. at February 27, 2007 2:12 PM

For the same reason you went to the presentation in the first place. And the question didn't stress that the delay was intentionally inconsiderate.

If a movie starts 10 minutes late, or a band is 10 minutes late starting I don't walk out. Let's say a string instrument has a string that breaks just before the performance and it takes them 10 to get a replacement. If I planned to see the performance, I still want to see it.

These are different types of presentations (and I don't think I'm that entertaining) but both involve professionals and a business arrangement.

Posted by: James at February 27, 2007 2:17 PM

I hope that everybody is taking this just as seriously as I am. ;-)

I'm going to confess one of my assumptions: that I'm late for a good reason, such as my car broke down or I was saving somebody from being murdered (as I do so frequently).

I wouldn't want to be ten minutes late for a bad reason, like I couldn't figure out which shirt to wear.

But there is a balance somewhere. Nobody here was brave enough to say that they wouldn't ever miss ten minutes of a presentation, but instead they would sit on a runway for ten hours in a freezing cold airplane with the bathroom out of order. That might be a remote possibility, but it is absolutely a possibility. No, all of you who wouldn't inconvenience your audience for ten minutes also wouldn't inconvenience yourselves in the slightest way -- having a nice little hotel and dinner on somebody else's dime in a city of your choosing.

I think I'd pick being late even for a bad reason over sitting on the runway for ten hours, because I'd be a drooling, babbling idiot after that experience and of no use to anyone. And I'd pick being "inconvenienced" if I got a nice dinner and hotel over being late for a good reason.

It's all in the assumptions, which is why stories like the Monkey's Paw exist.

Posted by: Maggie at February 27, 2007 2:17 PM

"Would you rather" unlocks the monkey's paw in your own mind!!!

Posted by: James at February 27, 2007 2:44 PM

I had assumed that there was a direct relationship between the missed flight and the presentation - i.e. I was ten minutes late for some reason related to not wanting to miss my flight, which I consider a non-frivolous excuse. (Due to past experience as well as recent current events, I also assumed that I missed my flight due to bad weather, which usually does NOT result in a free meal and hotel stay... I was lucky.)

I wouldn't hold it against someone else for showing up ten minutes late to a meeting or more, especially if it's due to travel problems. Nowadays people can at least call ahead and let someone know if they're going to be late.

I would probably leave at the end of the 90 minutes whether the person's presentation was finished or not, though, unless it was really good and I didn't have someplace else to be.

Posted by: Julie at February 27, 2007 3:41 PM

"I would probably leave at the end of the 90 minutes whether the person's presentation was finished or not, though, unless it was really good and I didn't have someplace else to be."

Or if you had to stay to get professional credit for the seminar or if your boss was there, or, worse yet, your boss's boss's boss, meaning you have to stay, even though you'd rather pluck your own eyes out so you wouldn't have to see one more Powerpoint slide (this is where a hip flask would come in handy).

Posted by: Patti M. at February 27, 2007 4:23 PM

I've stayed out of this one, and it looks like it's gotten very interesting. As with many of these, "it depends" is my answer.

Nobody wants to miss their flight home. In my case I wouldn't wanted to have flown FROM home to be wherever I am and unable to get back from tonight.

That said, I think what this question is about is being inconvenienced and inconveniencing others.

I don't want to inconvenience other people. If I have to choose between being inconvenienced myself and inconveniencing other people, I'll choose the former, generally.

Then again it matters what this meeting is and the circumstances of my lateness. Let's say it is not a professional meeting, or a meeting I am being paid to present at. If it is just an informal presentation on a hobby-type topic, and I have the ability to call ahead and let people know that I am going to be late by 10 minutes, then perhaps I would choose to be late instead of being stuck overnight in some crappy Red Roof Inn just so I can book a later flight.

If the people were all friends of mine who are likely to be understanding if I am going to be late, I might choose to be late over the other option.

If on the other hand the people I am meeting with are my customers, or my company's customers, and I am being paid to present to them, or worse yet, they paid a fee for my presentation, then being late would be outrageously rude and presumptuous of me unless I am late for an incredibly good reason like, I was hit by a bus.

When you allow people to count on you, you become obligated. I hate to be obligated but when I am obligated, it's important to me to take my obligation very seriously. Particularly in a professional setting. So in such a setting I'll choose to be inconvenienced, rather than to inconvenience everyone else.

Posted by: Chuck S. at February 27, 2007 4:34 PM

So, sorry Chuck, I'm going to tease you too -- if money were involved -- god forbid money -- then you'd better have been hit by a bus or make it there. The inconvenience is the money. It's not so rude if you can't make it if people didn't pay to see it, but it's "outrageously rude and presumptuous" of you to miss ten minutes of a presentation if people paid money to see it.

Posted by: Maggie at February 27, 2007 4:52 PM

Oh, by the way, sorry to post again. But look at it from the point of you of a person waiting for the presentation. (Don't worry about Patti, she's gone off to have a nice dinner -- the other guests.)

Imagine a gentleman with a Dick Cheney-style sneer. (Don't picture him cowering in a bunker in Afghanistan, though -- picture a little swagger of bravado.) "Ten minutes! Ten minutes late! That guy better have been hit by a bus or something, because I paid good money to see this presentation."

Nice guy. I value your life and your wisdom much more than that, Chuck.

Posted by: Maggie at February 27, 2007 4:55 PM

Ugh! "Point of view!"

Posted by: Maggie at February 27, 2007 4:56 PM

"Recent current events" wasn't exactly my best phrasing, either. :)

Posted by: Julie at February 27, 2007 5:27 PM

I appreciate what you're saying, but silly or not, that's a core value for me--you don't take someone's money and then do anything other than the best job you possibly can.

Anyway the choice wasn't about me getting hit by a bus or being 10 minutes late. It was about me being inconvenienced for an evening, or me inconveniencing 40 people for 10 (and probably 20 if my presentation subsequently runs long) minutes. Generally I'll choose the former, unless the meeting is extremely informal.

Posted by: Chuck S. at February 27, 2007 7:02 PM

It was you who said that you'd better be hit by a bus if you were going to miss a presentation that people had paid for.

I guess if I want you to be nice to me I have to pay you. How much, and what'll it get me?

Posted by: Maggie at February 27, 2007 7:20 PM

BTW, a core value for me is to always do the best job I possibly can. Period. I don't do something if I can't, and I don't do something half-assed unless I've been hit by a bus. My word is the value, not how much I'm being paid.

Posted by: Maggie at February 27, 2007 7:22 PM

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