A tale of two unexpected attendees

It’s story time kiddies, this time around, a tale of two people who found out late about PAB2011, and wanted to show up to meet friends and participate ….

Story 1, the Boring One, the Right Way : Mr Classy.

Mr. Classy realizes that he’s in Ottawa at the same time as PAB is happening. He’s only around for part of the event. He contacts the organizers, and politely asks if he can drop by for the meet & greet event. The organizers say yes, provided he comes by after the keynote speech. Mr Classy thanks them for accommodating him, and does just that. Once at the meet and greet though, Mr Classy realizes he wants to be involved in other activities connected to the event. He then registers, and officially becomes an attendee. He’s welcomed into the group, that’s pretty much it.

Takeaway from this story: Being Classy is boring, but forever has our respect.


Story 2, the Crasher, The Wrong Way : Mr Douchebag.

As a PAB organizer, I’ve got google alerts and twitter searches set up so that I get a chance to see when someone talks about the conference. Sometimes, just because it’s nice to see the wonderful things people say about PAB, other times it’s been handy because people have questions, and twitter has somehow become the internet’s default FAQ.

The day before the event, I see someone tweet about how they plan to go on the PAB boat cruise. I didn’t recognize the name. Immediately, I get concerned that somehow I messed up the registration setup, and I’ve lost one or more attendees. I had something like this happen in 2007, so right away I reach out to the person to ask if they were coming to PAB. The response made my jaw drop, he publicly tweets :

I’m going to try to sneak on to the boat party

WTF? In front of twitter, the universe and everything, this person publicly declares his intention to rip us off. I don’t want to get into it, as we’ve got a conference to run, but simply tweet :

you might want to register, boat cruise is for attendees

With that, I get no response. I figured he finally clued in that I’m an organizer, and that the attempt to crash PAB is pretty much over. I was wrong.

Mark and I usually spend PAB off to the side of the room, where we can see both speaker and attendees. It lets us easily see hands for the Q&A sections of the event, as well as giving us a chance to jump to the stage for intros and outros, or should there be a technical issue. As we sit down to watch Mark Poirier‘s great keynote speech on Friday night,  I look around the room, pleased at the turnout, when who do I spot but Mr. Douchebag sitting at one of the tables.

Wow. It’s one thing to crash an event, but the sheer lack of intelligence involved in doing it after being publicly called out is immeasurable.

Here’s how the next part of the scene plays out in my mind:  I interrupt the speaker, tell the audience there’s a rat among us. Alarmed and offended, the rat is taken by the audience to a secret location, where thanks to modern surgical techniques, his chances at ever reproducing are made nil. Then they all sing and dance and live happily ever after. And there are puppies, lots of very cute puppies.

What really happened is that we once again called him out publicly on twitter, and once he realized he was caught, claimed he meant no disrespect. We politely asked him register or leave quietly. He did the walk of shame and snuck out of the event.

I was worried it might cause some friction with the attendees who were “friends” with him, so I asked them about it later.  As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

PAB is a non-profit event, as anyone who knows how to use google can find out. The event and its activities are paid for by everyone who attends PAB. To try to crash the event offends me personally on many levels, and is so disrespectful to everyone in that room.

What’s the moral of the story? Really? You need me to spell it out? what are you, 4 years old?


On the positive side, this is the first crasher we’ve had in 6 years, which tells me we’ve been lucky. 🙂



Photo Credit:Wrong Way, originally uploaded by KungPaoCajun.


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  1. Andrea Ross says:

    And they all lived happily ever after. A powerful message in an entertaining package. Well played, my friend. I’ve been recounting my own tale of boat cruise crasher ejection without your classy playfulness. I’ll try to learn from you.

    Congratulations on yet another fabulous PAB week. Enjoy a well-earned restful summer.

  2. Andrew says:

    “As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about.”

    … Until you label him ‘Mr. Douchebag’. A bit harsh, don’t you think?

    1. Alistair says:

      Nope, I think that’s legit. Here’s why:

      Generally speaking, people use Twitter in three basic ways:
      Sharing: “I found this interesting”
      Bragging: “I’m hanging with Tom Cruise”
      Messaging: “I will see you in five minutes”

      Look at Douchebag’s tweet through any of those three lenses.

      – If he was sharing, he’s saying, “it’s interesting that I’m crashing this nonprofit event and stealing from others.” That, in my mind, screams douchebag.
      – If he was bragging, he’s saying, “I’m proud of my subterfuge and craftiness in getting something for nothing and ripping off others.” Plus, he believes his social group online will commend and appreciate such actions. Also, douchebag.
      – If he was messaging, then admittedly, he’s just a fool: it’s like calling a bank to tell it you’re about to rob it. Not a douchebag per se; but clearly someone who doesn’t have a lot to add in terms of rational discourse.

      As a guy who runs conferences a lot, including one that I lose $3K a year on because it’s fun, that label’s perfect. I have several others, but this is a family site.

  3. Bob says:

    You may be right Andrew, perhaps that is harsh – The actions, in my opinion are worthy of the label, you’re right,it may be unfair to label the person that way.

    What would you recommend?

  4. Andrew says:

    You’re free to call him whatever you want, and had he tried to crash the entire weekend I’d agree with you.

    But he came to the keynote on the heels of dinner with me, and as I understand it his pretense for being there was to socialize with people he knew rather than to get a free ride.

    The decision to crash rather than ask permission to hang out was his, and it was a bad one. I can certainly see how it was offensive to you and Mark, but it certainly didn’t disrupt an fine fine evening — at least for me.

    I guess douchebaggery is in the eye of the beholder…?

    1. Andrew says:

      “… but it certainly didn’t disrupt an otherwise fine evening”

      Stupid lack of spell-check 😉

  5. Bob says:

    Well, he did clearly state his intent to crash the other social events from the conference as well, so all I had to go with were his publicly stated intentions.

    We’re not against socializing, in fact, had he asked – My response would have been the same as for the other person – “Sure, come, but after the keynote, please. And thanks for asking.”

  6. Mark says:

    There are many issues at play. For me, I saw someone who feels a sense of entitlement not only by declaring their intention to attend the conference without paying, but acting on that desire even after being given an opportunity to be better than how he had presented himself (and perhaps it’s the brazen way he presented himself that caused Bob to be blunt in his description of the person). A respectful person would have recognized the evening included a keynote presentation (when our keynote was introduced, if not earlier by the publicly available program) and would have eagerly excused themselves before the event began. Doing otherwise comes across as a slap in the face of the organizers, speakers and the 74 people who paid to attend (many who also paid for travel to attend).

    We would all love to bring a friend to the event at no charge. Unfortunately, things don’t work that way. In fact, we had to respectfully ask another “crasher”, a friend of Andrea’s and mine, to either pay or leave when he showed up on Saturday.

  7. Andrea Ross says:

    Given the labelling challenge, above, perhaps there is some misunderstanding about the amount of time, effort, passion, financial-risk, generosity, preparations of all sorts that go into this event. Given the extremely personal and generous person-to-person nature of the conference, I have a really hard time seeing crashing the keynote, the boat cruise, the Saturday sessions — all of which were attempted this weekend by various (4 different) parties — as being anything other than disrespectful slaps to the face.

    Not many non-douchebags would follow their friends after dinner into a movie without paying, let alone publicly announce days in advance their intention to crash a paid and already generous event.

    Sure glad he didn’t let the offense to your hard-working hosts disrupt his fine evening.

    Luckily, as disrespectful as the douchebag behavior was, it couldn’t detract from the fabulousness of all the other PABsters.

    1. Mare says:

      I gotta chime in here as another conference organizer and say I agree with Andrea. Even a small-ish conference (mine had 40 attendees, 20 more than we expected) takes a crazy amount of time, effort, work, loss of sleep, and, yes, money. To presume that one can just show up, yes, is offensive.

      At our conference, we had discussed offering a few “scholarships” for college students and made those available. And I’m with Bob: if someone says, “Hey I’m short on cash, but can I attend for drinks?” (or whatever), I’ll likely say yes. BUT. We had one person show up who assumed that because she wrote about our event we’d “comp” her. We ended up doing that, mostly just to avoid a messy situation on a busy Saturday morning; but, yes, I was offended and truly pissed off. Pulling off a conference, even a small one, is no easy feat. Pay or contribute in some way; or don’t show up, please.

  8. Moe says:

    hmmm, Douchebag? You know, I’ve had a long standing problem with calling anyone a douchebag mostly because it is an insult to a perfectly acceptable object of personal hygiene. It’s like calling someone a ‘nail brush’ or ‘face cloth’. But I digress…

    In my opinion, the person who crashes PAB is insulting everyone there who took the time to register for the conference: the people who are there because they are genuinely interested in the topics of discussion, to learn and engage in an exchange of ideas. Crashing the keynote and the cruise is like wandering into a wedding reception and licking the cake during the toast to the bride.

    Tweeting about it beforehand is what we old fashioned folk would call brazen. It is the same mentality of someone who sets fire to a police car and then is outraged a picture of him doing it is published in a local paper…Gosh, they didn’t ask permission to take the photo or pay for you its use?

    There 363 days of the year that aren’t PAB and we are all free to socialize with whomever we choose and in the manner that provides us the greatest pleasure. The boat cruise is a private party. No one has any right to attend a private event other than by invitation. That is what PRIVATE means. Not public. It means asking, not insisting. And it means if an attendee wants to spend time with a non-attendee buddy on that one Saturday night of the year then that attendee has to make a choice to stay ashore or meet up afterwards.
    It’s 3 hours, fer heaven’s sake, get a grip…what a turn signal…

    xxoo(yer the best, Bob….)

    1. Bob says:

      Moe – I completely agree. From now on, I will no longer use the word “douchebag”, I will use “nail brush”.


  9. Paul says:

    No respect and no boundaries equals a low rating on the social scale. At least the person had the sense to leave when he was called on it. Still, behavior like this is the antithesis of a social media conference. What would his Jolt have been about?

  10. Bob LeDrew says:


    Y’know what — I wager that if someone can’t afford the $170 to attend PAB, they could talk to Mark or Bob and they’d find away to accommodate them. I’d toss $10 or $20 into a pot to help pay for someone who’s on tough times.

    And that’s what we’re talking about here. $170. IABC’s annual conference will kill $2K. So will most “commercial conferences”. Blog World LA, same thing. MESH? $700. IdeaCITY: $4K at the door.

    For your $170, you get a lunch that would cost you $30 minimum at Le Cafe. You get the boat cruise, which likely would retail for about $45. You get coffee and fruit in the mornings, a $10 item. And you get 1 full and 2 half days of great content in a top-notch venue. And the community.

    I could ALMOST agree with crashing if this were some ridiculously profitable venture. But I know what Blevis drives. And I’m guessing that Goyetche doesn’t drive a Lamborghini. They devote countless hours to organizing this conference to allow US — the people who PAY — to participate and learn.

    The person who pulled this stunt needs to think about his actions. They were stupid and disrespectful and thoughtless. If Mr. Nailbrush Douchebag didn’t want to attend, but just wanted to socialize, he should have made plans to meet up with his friend or friends AFTER the conference events were over.

    The one thing I would say is this: perhaps a “social ticket” should be available for those who can’t or don’t want to attend the sessions. I would peg it at, say, $50 for the cruise, or $85 for the cruise and lunch. Other than that, pony up or piss off.

    1. Mare says:

      Ditto. $170 may seem like a lot, but look at what it costs to attend writer’s conferences: the “cheap” ones are $200 USD.

  11. Mark says:

    Most of all, I feel it was completely unfair Bob, Andrea and I had to be pushed into the role of enforcers (not in our nature) at a conference we also attend — and, in at least one case, one of us was further insulted by being blasted for it in front of a crowd of people. We never did get apologies, either. I’m afraid to say “nailbrush” is appropriate in these circumstances.

  12. Andrew says:

    “… and, in at least one case, one of us was further insulted by being blasted for it in front of a crowd of people.”


    I think I know what you’re talking about, but we’d better make sure we’re on the same page before I say anything else…

    1. Bob says:

      Mark’s referring to a separate incident at the cruise, that involved different people.

      1. Andrew says:

        Well, that’s a relief. 😉

  13. Perhaps (and that is a big ‘perhaps’) if we did not have the counter example of how the other person behaved, that would be a different matter. However, this is still simply a lack of class, and frankly of common human decency. In the words of George Costanza ‘WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY’.

    I like Bob L’s idea of the ‘social ticket’ but make it a thousand bucks… (my fear is that if a cheaper social thing was advertized we would be inundated by people trying to sell us frakking twitter strategies and SEO fuckwads.

    1. Bob says:

      Actually Dave, through the years we’ve had several “Mr Classy”-types. I’m happy to tell you classiness, from my experience here, is the norm, not the exception

      1. That is a good thing Bob, that is how the humans are supposed to behave.

  14. Oh, I know! Release the social parts as a cc share a like event, then if folks just show up, you get to show up at their place and eat their food, drink their beer etc.

  15. Mark says:

    When it comes to PAB, I believe you’re in or you’re out. It’s not a two hour social event, it’s a weekend of shared experience. The conference is an incredible bargain at $170 (even more so at the early reg price of $130) and we invest months of planning time on the whole experience, not just the cruise. If a cruise is what you want, there are plenty of public cruise options available – gather some friends and go. If you want PAB, or the PAB cruise, register.

    1. Moe says:

      I agree, Mark. Part of what makes PAB work is that it is more like a retreat than a conference. When you sign on you are there for the whole thing as a group: no choice A or B for morning session Saturday and a panel on monetizing your name or the workshop on microphone cover art at 2:00 or the backwater ‘atomic wedgie survivor group’ in room 202. Any social event is part of the experience out of all proportion for participants to what it could offer to a ‘drop in’ ticket holder.

      At the risk of bringing on the contempt of Dr. Dave for mis-using the term, I would go so far as to say PAB is a Gestalt. Breaking off a piece of it won’t provide the same experience to that one event ticket holder and may even weaken the dynamic for the whole weekend participants.

      Maybe to take the pressure off youse guys, a couple of participants could volunteer ahead of time to act as Sargeant-at-Arms for the sessions and at the boarding ramp for the cruise. Instead of an orange fez they could wear Orc War Helmets and brass studded bandoliers.


      1. Excellent use of the term ‘Gestalt’ there actually….

        1. Bob LeDrew says:

          What are you, some kinda psychologist or sumthun?

  16. Janice says:

    I have only read about PAB from a distance – just might plan a trip to Ottawa for next year’s. $130 or $170 sounds like an amazing deal. So, yes, he was totally a nailbrush – likely even a facecloth!

    Furthermore, whoever you are, Moe, I love your way with words.

    1. Andrea Ross says:

      WOOoooooooooHOOOOOOooooooo!! I hope, hope, hope you do!! (our cozy house is your house while you’re here, btw)

  17. Mike Vardy says:

    Crashing isn’t cool.

    Bob & Mark are very approachable and this whole thing would have been avoided had it been handled that way. One person did that, one person didn’t. Simple as that.

    And when someone publicly goes on a social media site and proclaims their intent to crash, they’re asking for it – be it labelling or other ramifications. Just sayin’.

    I paid to go and I expect others to do the same.

    Thanks again for a great PAB experience!

  18. Paul says:

    “And that’s what we’re talking about here. $170. IABC’s annual conference will kill $2K. So will most “commercial conferences”. Blog World LA, same thing. MESH? $700. IdeaCITY: $4K at the door.”

    I’ve been to the expensive events and the free unconferences and they all have something to offer. As Chris Brogan said a few years ago, the cost of PAB is way below it’s market value. But the real value for me and the unique value of PAB is that it offers the opportunity to be involved in the creation of a community in realtime, the confidence I have that Bob, Mark and other helper bees will make it happen and the gleeful buy-in of the attendees to share their hearts as well as their minds.

    “When it comes to PAB, I believe you’re in or you’re out. It’s not a two hour social event, it’s a weekend of shared experience.”

    Dead on.

  19. […] A tale of two unexpected attendees (Bob Goyetche) […]

  20. Mr Classy says:

    Thanks for the post BTW. I know which one I am amongst those two. It made me smile to be called such a thing :).

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