Oxford Etiquette: Speaker Events

This article first appeared in The Oxford Student on 27 November 2015. And yes, double post today, because tomorrow I’ve got an original article coming for the first time in about three months. Stay tuned. 

Speakers, by which I mean important individuals who visit to make speeches or give presentations, and not the large black things designed to generate sick beats in the club, are an important part of the Oxford student experience. Whether it’s the various politicians and celebrities whom legends say lie at the end of those absurdly long queues outside the Oxford Union, or the smaller (and generally more interesting) writers, philosophers and all around cool people who occupy this city’s town halls and college auditoriums, Oxford has a lot to offer in the way of stimulating ideas and rich intellectual discussions. But no matter how big or small a guest lecture or a political rally, there are certain rules which need to be observed regardless, which a number of us sadly fail to do as rigorously as we should.

First of all, obvious as it sounds, please turn off your electronic communications devices. Flipping through Facebook on your phone may be acceptable in the duller compulsory lectures (or indeed exams) but please don’t distract those around you in the middle of an event that everyone, including you, has chosen to go to voluntarily. There is nothing more egregiously distracting from a top economist’s nuanced and intelligent talk on quantitative easing than the strains of ‘Funky Town’ erupting from the pocket of the person next to me, and it is a mark of disrespect to one’s fellow students, the speaker themselves and the concept of music to let such a thing interrupt.

That aside, the protocol is all rather straightforward. If you turn up late then please try not to distract everyone as you look for a seat, and be mindful of those around you – your jacket may well be a beautifully hand-crafted piece of kitted cashmere, but it doesn’t need that seat more than the poor woman desperately searching for a chair.

And if you have any questions, please save them till the end. Shouting out is not appreciated, and neither is the delivery of questions by text message or paper aeroplane. Although top marks for originality.


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