The famous ad – “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” – is successful both in it catchiness and truism: in Las Vegas you can let your hair down and behave in ways you may want to forget. Given Vegas’ place as a center for conferences and trade shows, the reference is certainly not just to personal visits, but to event attendees as well.
The events environment – not just in Las Vegas – has for some people offered an opportunity to act in ways different from how they might at their grandparent’s dinner table. At one product launch, not only did organizers need to ensure the audience didn’t “overly interact” with the band members (and vise-verse), a crew member was locked out of his room while dressed in women’s clothing, and two marriages resulted from the 4 days on site.
Mostly innocent, antics such as these were referred to as “road rules”, even before the popular MTV show of the same name.
Now a new trend is emerging that attempts to put restraints and context to the more extreme and disruptive of this behavior. With an increased awareness, and declining social acceptance, of any behavior that is harassing or disrespectful, event hosts and organizers are publishing Codes of Conduct and Anti-Harassment statements.
Not totally new – codes of conduct have been common at internal events and as reminders of employee everyday codes of conduct – these policies and statements are becoming more common at external and 3rd party programs. Also new is they are now more prominent including as posted reminders at the venue and in the show guide, not just as part of the registration and confirmation micro type.
At their core, the Codes of Conduct and Anti-Harassment Statements outline the consequences (mostly being asked to stop, or being removed from the event) for engaging in unacceptable and/or harassing behavior. Many are short, sweet, and to the point appearing to have been written by legal. Others are page long documents (seemingly written by PR) in a more casual voice that address the need more directly, and contain long lists of (interesting) reasons people harass each other.
For instance, the DreamForce Code of Conduct contains over 700 words, and a list of 13 specific “unacceptable behavior”, while “Conduct” in Apple’s WWDC online details, contained a total of 77 words.
Google’s Anti-Harassment Policy starts: “Why do we have an official anti-harassment policy for Google events? First, it is necessary (unfortunately). Harassment at events is incredibly common.”
And the Conference Code of Conduct includes a list containing: “gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion (or lack thereof).”
A discussion around the need for such policies, much less their increased prominence, quickly becomes heated and passionate. Some argue (correctly) that the vast majority of events already manage such incidents quickly, privately, and in much the way the Code of Conduct states, so what’s changed? Others ask if there is truly a need for the event to play such a “parental” role or if the parties involved should be left to manage the issue as if it occurred on the public street instead of at the event.
The conclusion, by a growing number of events, is that they do have a responsibility, and an active role, in creating and ensuring a harassment free experience at their events.
Note: Microsoft’s Code of Conduct states:
Microsoft mission is to empower every person and every business on the planet to achieve more. This includes at [EVENT] where we seek to create a respectful, friendly, and inclusive experience for all participants.
As such, we do not tolerate harassing or disrespectful behavior, messages, images, or interactions by any event participant, in any form, at any aspect of the program including business and social activities, regardless of location.
We encourage everyone to assist in creating a welcoming and safe environment. Please report any concerns, harassing behavior, suspicious or disruptive activity to the nearest security guard or show staff.
Microsoft reserves the right to refuse admittance to, or remove any person from [event name] at any time in its sole discretion.