We take pride in being a resource for our clients on an ongoing basis – not as a one-and-done transaction. The communications landscape is rapidly changing, and we make a point to keep on the forefront in order to provide the most relevant executive training.
One question we’ve been fielding more and more lately pertains to cellphone etiquette at meetings. Disgruntled managers are seeing iPhones on the table and wondering: Is this appropriate?
Their gut tells them no. Should they speak up? Or are they being grouchy and old-fashioned?
Our advice is unequivocal: before a meeting begins, put away your phone. Period.
To keep your phone at hand during a meeting is disrespectful and distracting. It takes you out of the moment, unable to fully participate in the work at hand. It also sends a terrible message to everyone else at the meeting: You don’t value them; your phone comes first.
Placing your phone down so you cannot see the screen during a meeting is only a half-courtesy. It means you won’t be glancing at it every three seconds, but it’s within arm’s reach, still able to disrupt and distract.
Apple watches should also be removed for meetings and sales calls. You simply cannot be present if you’re scanning a watch that blinks with messages and notifications.
You’ll feel good about the message you’re sending when you are unencumbered at a meeting. And you’ll encourage colleagues to follow suit. This is an important dimension: the culture you are setting in the workplace.
If an extenuating circumstance requires you to keep your phone at hand, address it before the meeting begins. You don’t need to go into great detail but simply acknowledge that you’re making an exception – “I wouldn’t normally do this,” “I don’t want to be disrespectful” – and apologize.
If an extenuating circumstance requires you to keep your phone at hand, address it before the meeting begins. You don’t need to go into great detail but simply acknowledge that you’re making an exception – “I wouldn’t normally do this,” or “Please forgive me but I need to answer only if So-And-So calls.”
You might also re-evaluate your reason before the meeting begins. If a personal matter is truly urgent, perhaps the meeting should be rescheduled.
Another element to reconsider: the length of your meetings. People are busy, which is why we ought to approach meetings differently. I’d rather see a 20-minute meeting where everyone is fully engaged than an hour-long meeting where people tune in and out.
This format shouldn’t be hard to sell, but it does require a bit of planning so more work can be done before and after the meeting. Set a reasonable agenda. Share a specific “ask” in advance so colleagues brainstorm beforehand and arrive with ideas. Delegate deliverables and leave with clear-cut next steps attached to deadlines.
A meeting should not be the place where all the work is conducted. It’s simply a touch-point, an opportunity to raise questions, listen to colleagues and adjust plans.
Finally, we advise our clients to make several other cell-phone adjustments in order to maintain their professionalism. Choose a dignified ring tone. Silence your phone at your desk. Never use your phone in the restroom. And take personal calls in a private place.
These measures add up to keep you focused and respectful.
If enduring an entire meeting without a phone makes you break out in hives, maybe it’s time to take a hard look at your phone habits. An excellent guide is Catherine Price’s bestseller “How To Break Up With Your Phone.” She was inspired by her own cellphone addiction. One night Catherine was feeding her newborn, enjoying what should have been an intimate moment when she realized: the newborn was gazing at her, while she was scrolling through eBay.
“This was not the way I wanted things to be,” Catherine wrote.
She’s not alone. According to data from Moment, a time-tracking app with more than 5 million users, the average person spends four hours a day interacting with his or her phone. Catherine wasn’t looking to chuck her phone into the nearest lake; she simply wanted to establish a new relationship with her phone, one with better boundaries. Her book offers practical ways to do that.
Ultimately, managing your phone usage isn’t merely a matter of having more productive meetings. It sets up you for a happier, healthier life.
Greg Dardis is the CEO of Dardis Communications, based in Coralville. For more information, visitwww.dardiscommunications.com.