Smart phones and meetings

June 22, 2009
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The days of only the powerful few getting by with tapping their Blackberries during meetings are long gone.

When was the last time you were in a gathering where more people seemed interested in the topic or the speaker than in whatever was on their Blackberries â?? or iPhones or Treos? Smart phones have become pervasive in professional settings along with expectations of instantaneous responses.

Critics insist the phones detract from tasks at hand and introduce a low grade of chaos. In short, they cause distractions that compromise quality of work and decisions.

However, the upsides are compelling. Business and conversation certainly move faster. And who really wants to be out of contact?

If youâ??re leading a meeting, what are your rules for phones? Do you have rules at all?

If youâ??re the speaker, do you feel itâ??s rude for others to check e-mail â?? or Facebook and Twitter â?? while youâ??re talking?

To what extent are these questions generational? Younger workers have grown up multitasking.

Anyone willing to predict where phone etiquette will settle out?
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  • These questions are highly generational. Even at the age of 30, things are so different now than they used to be. For those who can manage to find the right time to check their email/voicemail, these things are amazing for staying in contact and providing good client service. But for those who somehow drop everything the minute an email pops up, I have no idea how any actual work can be getting done throughout the day. (Plus it's frustrating to be talking to someone and have them check their blackberry or email because it dinged. I mean seriously, can't you wait 1 more minute?)
  • Despite the tone of the NYT article today covering this subject, it is NOT old-school for participants in a meeting to concentrate on the matter at hand. Contrary to popular thought, multi-tasking is not really possible and often leads to mistakes or a lack of judgement. Unless one is a doctor or similar sort of person who must be available for health-related emergency calls, there is simply no reason to be otherwise online. If a business matter is so pressing (which does understandably happen from time to time) that a meeting participant must constantly check emails on his/her smartphone, that participant should apologize at the outset to let everyone know the situation or simply not attend the meeting. Not to do so is exceedingly rude to the meeting leader who has spent time preparing for the gathering, as well as to the other participants. While the latter may find themselves bored by the subject or the presentation, such boredom is made even worse by the lack of participation by those engaged in echatting.

    For the record, I myself am not a Luddite. I create and maintain several websites and am a smartphone nut. I find myself constantly checking my emails and Facebook page -- something that really has not added to any real productivity. I will soon be moving from my well-used MotoQ to the new Palm Pre.

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