News For Planners

Electronic prohibition: keep your business meetings business-like

Tuesday, 8/23/2011  4:45:38 PM

In an age where almost everyone has their own smartphone, tablet and laptop computer, it's a rare occurrence for business professionals to be found without one or the other at any given time. To the frustration of many managers and professionals, this includes business meetings.

In fact, this bothers one mayor so much that he has proposed a ban on the use of cellphones and electronic communication devices during city business meetings. Acting Mayor Bob Magee from Lake Elsinore, California, says he's had enough with the electronic distractions.

"When we're doing people's business, we owe the public, our staff and our colleagues our undivided attention," Magee said. "We should not be distracted by any other influences. While meetings are under way and live, we need to pay attention to the people in front of us and our staff and our colleagues."

Magee's concerns echo those voiced by many business professionals who are tired of having their meetings interrupted by cell phones and other similar devices.

“People mistakenly think that tapping is not as distracting as talking,” said Nancy Flynn, executive director of the ePolicy Institute. “In fact, it can be every bit as much if not more distracting. And it’s pretty insulting to the speaker.”

If your face to face meetings are being disrupted by the improper use of electronic devices, it may be time to lay down a few ground rules to make it clear what is - and isn't - acceptable. These are just a few sample rules you may want to consider adopting in your office:

1. At the start of a meeting, ask all attendees to turn off their electronic devices for the duration of the meeting. If someone is waiting for an important call, say, from the doctor or school nurse, ask that person to have their phone set to "vibrate" so that it doesn't disrupt the proceedings.

2. If a coworker must take a call during a meeting, make it clear that they should excuse themselves quietly and step outside - before answering the call.

3. Let employees know that the restrictions on cellphones in meetings includes texting and other non-vocal activities. Button-mashing can be just as annoying - and distracting - as actual conversation. Not to mention, if someone is giving a presentation, that behavior is just plain rude.

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