How Managers Can Get People To Pay Attention In Meetings

Digital devices can be a distraction during any meeting
Digital devices can be a distraction during any meeting
Image Credit: Matt Madd

One of the key manager skills that we need to have is the ability to communicate with our team. There are a number of different ways that we can go about doing this. When we have something that we need to share with a group of teammates, the way that we most often go about doing this is by holding a meeting. These meetings have never been something that anyone has looked forward to, but in the past everyone has gone along with them. The arrival of digital devices has changed the game – people may be attending your meeting, but they are not really there. What should the etiquette for a modern meeting be?

Digital Devices At A Meeting Etiquette

As a manager, you are going to want to establish some ground rules when it comes to the behavior that you want to see from the people who will be attending your meetings. What you are going to want to do is to lay out just exactly how you want people to go about using their laptops and mobile phones during a meeting. The challenge is that there is no manager training for how to go about doing this.

Hopefully we can all agree that in a perfect world everyone would leave their laptops and mobile phones back at their desks when they are attending your meetings. However, we don’t live in a perfect world and so this means that they will be showing up in your meetings. You need to get the people who are coming to your meeting to agree that during the meeting their phones should be set to silent and placed face down on the table in front of them. If they are expecting an important call, they can set the phone to vibrate and leave the room to answer it.

These days many people no longer wear watches. Instead, when we need to know what time it is we simply get our phone out and take a look at it. If during a meeting someone needs to check on the time, they should be permitted to flip their phone over, check the time taking only three seconds or so, and then replace it on the table. If while looking at the phone you notice that you have received an important email, then that email, and only that email, should be answered quickly and discreetly.

There is always the possibility that while responding to an email, the person may notice that they have received a text message from an immediate family member. The rules should be that the person can respond, but only if it is really an emergency. Text messages from business associates can be responded to; however, it is important to let them know that the sender is currently in a meeting and will get back to them later on.

What All Of This Means For You

As managers it is our responsibility to make sure that the members of our team have all of the important information that we can provide them with. What this means is that we often need to gather them together in meetings in order to pass on critical information. When we do this, we may often discover that we are competing with the wide variety of laptops and mobile phones that have been brought to the meeting. What’s a manager to do?

What we need to do is to establish some meeting etiquette rules with our team. What we want to do is to acknowledge that in this day and age, everyone always travels with their laptops and mobile phones. However, we’d like them to put them down and concentrate on us during our meeting. In order to make that happen we need to request that all mobile phones be muted during a meeting. Vibrate is acceptable if an important call is expected. If a phone is being used to check the time, do it quickly and then return it to its resting position. Important text messages can be responded to, but let the person that you are texting with know that you are in a meeting and will talk to them later.

The good news is that even in this world of constant distractions from our phones, we can still hold productive meetings. However, because both laptops and mobile phones can be such a distraction, as managers we need to establish some ground rules for our team to follow before starting any team building. By laying these rules out before your next meeting starts you will improve the chances that your team will walk away from your meeting with the information that you wanted to share with them in their heads.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Can you think of a type of meeting where you would have to prohibit anyone from bringing a mobile phone to it?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So if I understand how this story has unfolded, we were all going into the office and working when the Covid-19 virus struck. The next day we found ourselves at home using Zoom to video conference with the people that we had been working side-by-side with. This was a massive upheaval for everyone especially managers. There has never been any manager training for how to deal with something like this. However, we all seemed to get over it and we’ve all adjusted to the new world order. Is this the way that things are going to be going forward?