You’ve been there. You’re in a meeting. You are exchanging amazing ideas back and forth. Synapses happening all around. It’s electric. And then it happens. Someone’s phone buzzes and they take a look. And then they are thumb-typing away. Just like that, the warm, fuzzy electric feeling is gone. They’re on their phone so you take yours out too. And the next thing you know, everyone is on their phones, reading emails that aren’t urgent at all and sending texts about dinner and whatnot. I loathe this scene. And it happens all the time. Awesomeness killed by the mobile device. Meeting productivity killed. RUDE.
I’ll own it now. I’ve been the person who has looked at my device in a meeting and derailed things. I’m not proud. So now I have one rule: the phone doesn't go to meetings with me. Period. The phone stays in my car, at my desk, or is silenced and out-of-sight.
I do this for three reasons:
1) Rarely is a message or phone call legit urgent. If it’s an emergency, I will be found. And I will deal with it when I have the time real estate to address the issue properly. If it's bad news, I remain grateful I was gifted with an extra 30 minutes of living in ignorance.
2) Clients and colleagues deserve my full attention. When folks commit to an in-person meeting, they are giving their time and energy and I need to respect that. When I get on my device while in a meeting, I’m saying my phone and its messages and notifications are more important than the people in the room and the matter at hand. So not true.
3) Paying 100% attention to my clients, potential clients (and everyone is a potential client) is a part of my branding. I care what message I'm sending to the peeps around me. When I’m in a meeting and a potential vendor is paying more attention to their device than they are to the folks at the table, I judge them. (And I certainly don't hire them.) I’ve even named that person. I call them a “mobouche.” Yup, that’s “mobile” + “douc&e” combined. It’s true. I want to yell, “Seriously dude. Are you THAT important that you can’t pay attention to this conversation right now?” If I'm thinking that, it means that meeting participants could think of me as such if I am that person in a meeting.
I liken mobile device fiddling in a meeting with showing up to a job interview in a bathing suit. It's really not a good idea unless you are interviewing to be a lifeguard.
I’m not perfect. I slip up all the time. In fact, recently, I asked my friends via FB to help me stop being a mobouche. I’m committed. I mess up more in my personal life with this stuff than in my business life which is in some ways worse, but what can I say? I’m a work in progress. Personal interactions are so precious and impressions even more so.
So I implore you to do yourself and others a favor when you enter a meeting and leave your phone behind. Give 100% attention to the peeps in the room and trust that your messages and notifications will be there after the meeting. Set the example and perhaps others will follow. Your meetings will be more productive and your brain will take its first steps towards recovering from FOMO. It'll be electric.
Jonesing for more cell phone etiquette tips? Emily Post says solid things. Check it here.