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by Loren G. Edelstein | December 01, 2016
The Floor Show

A doctor's spouse at one of my conferences loved to over-imbibe wine. At one of our dinners, she had an untold number of glasses and slipped out of her chair and onto the floor. She was so loose that she was laying flat-out on the floor and couldn't get up! None of us could assist her as she insisted she could get up on her own, but she couldn't.

She was an older, rather large woman, and she just flailed around for a while. She wouldn't let anyone touch her. Finally, I got a wheelchair from the hotel, and the banquet captain and I proceeded to assist her. As we finally worked her into the wheelchair, she told the banquet captain that the issue was her husband was trying to kill her, and he had poisoned her wine!

At this point we had a small crowd surrounding us as we left the ballroom. She was like a wet rag and could barely stay in the wheelchair. When her husband found us, she screamed, "MURDERER! You killed your first wife and now you are trying to kill me!" 

The poor husband was completely embarrassed in front of all of his peers, as well as the growing crowd from other events in the hotel. At that point, we held a quick leadership meeting to determine what to do. We decided to offer medical assistance, and to ask if she wanted us to contact the police. She refused both. 

Ultimately, we wheeled her to her guest room, with her husband following, and were able to put her to bed. The next day they both showed up for the breakfast like nothing had happened. 

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For the record, attendees are the lifeblood of the meetings industry, and we love and appreciate them -- the great majority of them. But there are always a few who have you thinking about that bake shop you always wanted to open, that doctorate in library sciences you once considered, that brochure on early retirement in Costa Rica you found in the dentist's office...

We know all about it. M&C's November research column on "The Worst Attendees Ever" polled readers on the difficult "types" they encounter at meetings, and we got an earful. We plumbed the topic further by asking, "What Else Do Attendees Complain About?"

But the juiciest content came from an open-ended survey question inviting respondents to describe (anonymously) a personal experience with an "attendee from hell." Following are some of the more colorful stories. Feel free to add your own tales in the comments below, and let's commiserate.

The Short Fuse

I was running an incentive trip in the Bahamas. A guest had been out all day, and when he came back to his room at 4:30 p.m., oh, the horror: His room had not yet been cleaned! So he proceeded to come all the way back down to the registration desk, red-faced and shaking, and shouted very close to my face about not having clean towels, etc., etc. I asked him if he had called housekeeping and he said no, he shouldn't have to, as they had plenty of time to clean his room. So I calmly called housekeeping for him and he stormed off. I thought to myself, in the time it took you to walk from your room to here you could have called housekeeping and already had your towels and showered.

The Inadvertent Team Builder

A VIP guest woke up in the morning with two -- count 'em -- comely younger female fellow attendees with him in bed (a king-size, fortunately), all married, all elected public officials, and claimed he had no clue whatsoever as to how it happened.

The Lady in Waiting

I had an attendee undergoing fertility treatments. She wanted us to find someone in attendance who would be willing to inject her in the buttocks each day.

The Unbridled Enthusiast

A major beer distributor I was doing a trip for once had an attendee who yelled across the room, asking if he could smell my neck. This same client had another attendee who stripped down to the buff on the 17th hole of a golf course, played the hole and drove naked to the 18th hole.

The Bad Penny

A guest says he registered and paid. We don't have it in our system. He doesn't have a receipt. We ask him to call his office. He says they are in a different time zone, and we should just let him in since it is our error. The guest has done this two years in a row and doesn't think we recognize him!

The Nutty Puppeteer

One attendee brought a giant hand puppet along that she introduced to everyone as "Valley Girl."

The Pop-In

I'm soooooo tired of people who do not RSVP and then just show up. Because the clients often want me to accommodate them, I usually do, but it really messes up many things, especially when the room is set up just right and there's assigned seating. It's always the same people -- and I hope there's a special waiting area in hell for them. No, I'm not bitter!

The Badge Burglar

We had someone walk in from the street, pick up a name tag and proceed to help herself to the open bar. The funny thing was she picked up the name tag of someone we know very well, plus it happened to be a man's name, so it was obvious that she didn't belong. I followed her into the bathroom and asked her to leave. She left with no trouble; however, she showed back up at the hotel after our dinner. To be honest, I think she was a prostitute. And persistent!

The All-Inclusive Kvetch

Everything was up for criticism for one attendee. The food did not meet his expectations, the room was too cold, the bathrooms were too far from the ballroom, there was not enough seating, too much paper was being used, the lanyards weren't an appropriate length...

The Instant Vegan

I hate seeing the whiny, loud, complaining vegan who you catch enjoying an all-beef hamburger during your meeting. Or the attendee who magically "converts" to vegetarian the moment they see a better veg meal option. Makes me nuts!!!