How many times have you been in a meeting when some one’s iPad “dings” or blackberry “buzzes” and the owner snatches it up to see what message they have received? Or glanced at your colleague texting or posting on Facebook on their smartphone under the table?
Why are they even in attendance at the meeting? What type of respect are they giving to the presenter? We used to get sent to the corner for passing notes during class, but now organizations seem to condone the same, if not technologically advanced, behavior during meetings.
Meetings should be used to discuss and interact in “real time” to solve problems or reach agreement on issues concerning the organization. I seriously doubt that texts and Facebook accomplish decision-making.
I was hired by an organization to facilitate a decision session with Senior management, with several C- level executives in the room. Less than two minutes into the presentation, an iPhone indicated a message; less than 30 seconds later, a blackberry “dinged” followed immediately by another exec’s iPad. I reached into my briefcase and produced my collapsible “ballot box” (actually a car trash can, but that’s another story!) and politely asked all of the executives to turn off their devices, and place them in the pop-up can. I explained that they were here to get some decisions made, and their electronic devices were costing them both time and money in accomplishing the resolution. The devices were placed in the middle of the table where all could see them but allowed for personal interaction. Amazingly, it only took about 40 more minutes to review, discuss and decide what direction the organization should take.
Maybe we should follow the lead of the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School to declare an EFZ – an Electronics Free Zone where all electronics are “banned” from a meeting. Leave them back at your desk. Turn them off, or at least to silent (and don’t keep pulling them out and looking at them!) Or have baskets at ech end of the meeting room for the attendees to deposit their devices when they enter the meeting room.
I know it is hard to break the “crack-berry” habit but it can be done.I truly thought that one of my executives who had his smartphone taken away was going into withdrawals before the close of the meeting! Let’s not get so attached to technology that we forget why we go to meetings: for interaction, decision-making and to pack up and go home!