It used to be the case that using gadgets like mobile phones in meetings was considered rude. You were supposed to put your laptop away and stop playing on your BlackBerry while someone else was talking. It was bad form to spend the presentation doing your emails and not listening to the speaker.
Good manners are still important in meetings, of course. But more and more people find they can’t put their gadgets away during meetings because they have a critical function to play in making the meeting run more smoothly.
For example, in some companies, the drive to go paperless means employees take notes on their laptops during the meeting. Some project managers record the meeting minutes directly into the project wiki in real time. That might mean four or five laptops on the desk with people typing during the discussion.
iPads and tablet PCs now have the ability to capture handwriting, so you could also see managers scribbling away on their tablets with a stylus. This has replaced that paper alternative: the notebook. Instant messaging applications mean that you can ask questions of colleagues who are not in the meeting, and get a response – while it might look like idle chat to an outsider, it could give you the answer that moves the meeting forward to a successful resolution.
It is now far more likely for project team members and executives to use their gadgets during meetings than it was five years ago. If you are going to take your laptop, iPad or smartphone into a meeting with the intention to use it, pay attention to our gadget ground rules so that you don’t disrupt the meeting.
Etiquette For Gadgets
If you are going to use a laptop or the WiFi service in the room, arrive a bit early so that you can set it up. Don’t waste the first ten minutes of the meeting crawling under the desk to find a power outlet or trying to work out how to use the projector with your iPad. Don’t stop the flow of the discussion ten minutes later to ask what the WiFi key is. Find out beforehand, or make do without!
With today’s multi-site project teams, it is not always possible to hold a team meeting where everyone from the project can be at the same location. Conference calling and web conferencing is great, but watch where you sit if you plan to use your laptop to capture notes. All background noise is amplified on a conference call, and the noise of someone typing can be a huge distraction. You can still type, but choose a seat away from the phone so that no one picks up the sound of you tapping on the keys.
With a laptop, iPad or even a smartphone, it is easy to multi-task. Try not to. Only do work that is related to the meeting and avoid checking emails or doing anything else that is not relevant to the discussion. It goes without saying that checking social media sites or doing anything that is not work is to be avoided, doesn’t it? You are very visible in a meeting situation, so don’t take chances with what you display on your screen.
On the subject of multi-tasking and screens, watch out if you are the one with their laptop connected to the projector. In many project workshops, the projector cable is passed from one person to another. If you are in the habit of multi-tasking, and the discussion moves away from what is projected on to the wall, it is very easy to flick away from the meeting content to your emails, forgetting that they are now being broadcast to the room. Switch off those pop up alerts as well, as you never know what an email will say and it is always best to read them in private before sharing them with a room of people.
Turn off all the beeps and noises your gadget makes. They are distracting for people on the phone and in the room, and they draw attention to what you are doing. People should be focused on the speaker, not on trying to work out where the clicking is coming from.
Of course, none of these are prescriptive and if you need to break the rules to get the best out of your meeting, then do so. But the overarching message is to use your gadgets with care in meetings. They are great productivity tools, but can damage relationships between project team members if used disrespectfully, so watch out!