Business execs once gathered in the boardroom; asking the secretary to keep the coffee flowing while holding all non-emergency calls.
With virtual meetings and video conferencing, executives get their own coffee and it doesn’t seem possible to get through a meeting without a host of trivial interruptions -- mostly digital in nature.
The average person checks their digital device once every six and a half minutes. We’re constantly on the phone, trying to get off the phone or waiting for the next call to come in. Our personal computing devices are the "third hand" our parents wished they had – holding calendars, phone books, important documents and photos – or viral videos of the precocious toddler singing the Twelve Days of Christmas backwards while standing on his head.
Every ping and buzz sends an almost uncontrollable urge to answer – we're connected 24/7. While many people believe technology is a vital tool for business growth, failure to manage technology responsibly can hurt business relationships.
So, what can we do to cut down on interruptions during important meetings? Try these tips.
Model Acceptable Behavior
- If you’re leading a group meeting, set a good example. Turn off your phone or set it to “airplane mode” to block incoming calls.
- Establish standards for meetings that allow you to focus on client issues or stay on agenda. Inform attendees you’ll be taking a break to check email and voicemail halfway through the meeting and you expect all digital devices off while in-session.
- Leave unnecessary technology in your car or desk drawer – out of reach and out of sight.
- Notify your clients, friends, family and co-workers you’ll be checking messages twice per day – or on a schedule that allows you to get work done without interruptions. Stick to your schedule. Every time you give in and answer you'll encourage callers to ignore your schedule.
In a world where a plurality of people sleeps with their cell phones and Millennials think texting during meetings is SOP, cutting ties with technology – even temporarily – might be challenging. Be patient while your team adjusts to the new rules, but don't waiver in your resolve. We use our technology for a variety of activities, most aren't urgent. A 2012 Pew research survey showed that while more than 80% of cell phone owners take photos, only 50% send and receive email from their phone.
Make plans to leave your smart phone behind next time you head to a meeting – it will amaze you how much more productive your team can be without the constant pings and rings reverberating through the room.