November is now over and with it came three (3) conferences: the WIPF and the APAA in Taiwan and a FICPI event in Singapore.
All conferences had talks, and what I have seen is that even the speakers were fiddling with their smartphones when they were not speaking.
In one talk I could even see one of the speakers taking a call from outside while he was on the panel. Needless to say that everyone in the room was appalled. There is no stronger way to make others feel disrespected. I believe that that gentleman did not mean it as an offense, he just wanted to be efficient by multi-tasking.
An article by Rev. Tim Stevens applies here. He is the author of several books on leadership. He offers lots of simple but practical advice. Here is what he says about smartphones in various situations https://www.leadingsmart.com/leadingsmart/bepresent
When you start a meeting, turn your ringer off and move your phone away from you. If the screen comes to life when you get a text–then put the phone upside down so you won’t see it. If it is likely to vibrate, then put it somewhere it can’t be felt or heard.
If your phone does vibrate during the meeting and your guest says, “Go ahead and take that if you need to” — reach down and silence it without even looking. This communicates to your guest that their time is valuable.
Don’t buy into the “what if there is an emergency?” line. Rarely does that happen. It’s not a good excuse for having to look at your phone multiple times through every meeting.
If you know you will need to be reached during the meeting, let your guest know:”My wife is at the doctor’s office and may need to reach me, so I apologize in advance that I’ll be taking her call when it comes.” That tells your guest this is an exception–you wouldn’t normally do this.
If you are in a meeting with multiple people–follow the same rules. Don’t convince yourself that your participation isn’t needed right now so you can disengage and respond to texts or play your next turn in Words With Friends. We fool ourselves into thinking we can multitask, or that our disengagement won’t be noticed for a few minutes. Not true.
How to Apply This in Business Meetings
Not bringing my smartphone to a business meeting does not work. I use it as a business information storage, and this is why I often need it in meetings. Applying the five rules above helps to solve most problems.
I even find that rule #2 is a powerful sales tool: if your phone is ringing while you are with clients, “… reach down and silence it without even looking. This communicates to your guest that their time is valuable.” I can read that positive feeling in the eyes of my dialogue partners when that happens. It works to a degree that I have already thought about asking my assistant to call me during a meeting with a potential new client so that I can demonstrate to them him how important they are for us.
And I find that rule #4 is the most difficult one to put to practice: “Don’t convince yourself that your participation isn’t needed right now so you can disengage and respond to texts or play your next turn in Words With Friends.” It is ultimately the responsibility of the leader of the meeting that this rule is put to practice.
I am applying these rules in my life for a very long time and they work for me. And if they work for me, they may also work for you.
And there is one more profound observation is in the article: “If you are multitasking, neither task is important.” Anything not worth a tight focus is not important. Following the Eisenhower-Rules it can, therefore, be postponed. That insight goes beyond the use of a smartphone, it applies to our entire professional life. When you find yourself multitasking, use this observation ás a trigger for optimizing your time.
Martin “Focus” Schweiger