Do you ever find yourself in meetings where someone starts talking about audio visual (AV) or information technology (IT) and you have no idea what they’re saying? Or, even worse, you start to zone out because it’s all just gobbledygook? Well, you’re not alone. Turns out that even some of the most savvy event planners and association managers are often perplexed by the AV/IT lingo. Many women in particular feel like they need a degree in engineering to understand all of the jargon and make the best choices for their event.
Shannon Morton, Director, OWPM, recently spoke out about the challenges she’s faced during her decades-long career in meeting and event technology, and how slowly the evolution away from engineered biases is dragging on.
While awareness surrounding gender issues in the workplace is steadily increasing, it is remarkable how many of the old stereotypes linger in the meeting and event industry and how they put women at a disadvantage, especially given their dominance in the role of decision-maker.
Ms. Morton is an expert in overcoming these obstacles and she’s made it her personal mission to help other women do the same! Following university and a two-year stint teaching English in Japan, Shannon began her career in the tourism sector in Whistler, BC. At that time, it was as a great opportunity to use her fluency in Japanese in customer service, bridging the gap between two cultures and languages.
From there she moved into association and conference management spinoffs, and just like with the previous language barrier, she built a bridge across the cultural gap dividing technicians and the organization staff. Her unique perspective as both a technology vendor and as a consumer, reveals some insights that resonate with women throughout the meeting and events industry.
Today Shannon is a Presentation Manager who specializes in setting up networks and computers and the OWPM presentation management system. She travels all over the world, interacting with venue IT teams to ensure that everything will go smoothly. Sometimes these conversations go in circles before finally settling down into an agreement about what needs doing – which isn’t always helpful when you’re trying put together best results possible in a live event situation
“Listening to technicians and programmers talk among themselves can really leave you in the dust, and when they spoke to me or my clients, it was like speaking in a foreign language. I knew that I was going to change that.”
A simple look around the room at any meeting reveals how extensively the professional roles fall along the gender divide. At times it seems like technical gobbledygook is standard operating practice. When over-jargoned and blurry speech obscures communications, then how can you determine what to believe? How can you possibly have the confidence to make the best decision?
Women need to demand more direct and straight forward methods of communications. When our clients find Shannon onsite, they usually remark on how much clearer their understanding of the process is and how grateful they are to be able to work with someone they can trust.
“Clients say to me, there’s no speed bumps when dealing with another women. Women understand where they want to go – and that is in a straight line. “
That’s the best advice we have for others facing these challenges. Technology does not have to be mysterious. Ask questions, ask for clarification. Don’t settle for blurry answers. Always speak in terms that relate directly to what the effect or result is that you want at your meeting. Take notes and make comparisons.
We believe that direct and straight forward communications from both men and women is essential for any business relationship – no matter who is leading the charge.