We’ve all noticed that in our digital lives we tend to be forever connected. Certainly our phones are with us at all times now, as are our wearable’s, glasses, tablets, laptops. Far too often our focus in on our devices and not what’s going on around us. This can mean missing seeing a beautiful mountain vista or putting a severe strain on a relationship during dinner.
One area where this digital-fixation is having a significant impact is during business meetings.
It’s not uncommon anymore to find attendees lugging a tablet or laptop to meetings to “take notes”.
As a result, presenters are finding it harder to hold their audiences’ attentions.
At a recent work meeting, I had the opportunity to “work the lights” for a few minutes and in doing so, had a vantage point that was behind a whole row of people in attendance. During my time standing, none of the people I was spying were paying attention to the speaker. Every single attendee in front of me was busy responding to emails , reading documents or even updating their Facebook accounts. It was disappointing. The poor speaker continued to do his best to engage everyone though no one (except me) was making eye contact with him. It was a waste his time and a loss for the audience.
At another meeting a few years ago at a customer site, I was presenting information on our software with another colleague when I noticed my audience had their faces glued to their laptops. As an experiment, I started comparing our software to Metamucil, explaining how it helped with difficult (hard) situations and often reduced the effort the consumer had to spend to complete their tasks. Other than my co-working snickering, no one else reacted.
After much thought, I think I’ve come up with a workable solution.
In your next 1+ hour meeting, require that people put away their laptops during the meeting. If they have tablets to take notes, that’s fine, but require that they stay in their note-taking application. In return, you will agree to shorten the meeting by 30 minutes. Maybe for thirty-minute meetings, reduce the length by 10 minutes.
This will give attendees time back to return to their desks (or stay put, I suppose) and answer their emails, update social media or whatever else they need to do.