Nothing says "rude" like checking your phone, tablet, or laptop during a meeting. On top of being disrespectful to other attendees, it can destroy a meeting's chemistry. In the middle of a recent presentation, for instance, I saw an attendee tap out a text message on his phone. Then, I heard a buzz and a corresponding giggle across the table. The exchange made me wonder how much either person valued the meeting and the speaker. Are these the kind of people I want to work with? The answer is, quite simply, no.
This might sound like the grumbling of a cranky old Luddite. In fact, I'm the founder of a marketing agency that specializes in digital and mobile marketing. In our office, there is a very clear understanding that good etiquette and common courtesy trump your Twitter feed or Angry Birds rank. Here are three basic rules of gadget etiquette I follow:
Practice what you preach. At our agency, it's common knowledge that mobile phone use is verboten during meetings. Our management team leads by example. If one of us has to take an urgent call or respond to an e-mail during a meeting, we quickly give a heads up to the group and step outside. These small gestures set a strong example.
Be upfront. If you are using a mobile device to take notes, announce it up front. For instance: "I'm going to take notes with my tablet and will distribute them afterwards." It may seem obvious that you're taking notes instead of checking your Facebook feed, but it's better to be safe than perceived as rude.
Make meetings short and sweet. When I call meetings, I set an agenda and do my best to use the time efficiently. If a meeting is short and sweet, there's less time for attendees to get bored and turn to their gadgets for amusement. After all, the only thing more annoying than a person glued to his mobile device is a drawn-out meeting that truly wastes everyone's time.