Head into any meeting and you’ll see the same thing: people surreptitiously checking their smart devices while tuning out of the conversation that’s happening right in front of them. Anyone running a meeting finds it hard to not get frustrated or take it personally when the people in front of them are visibly somewhere else.
The personal tech distraction can be so blatant that it shifts the morale and participation of the entire group. This new behavior of our modern age goes on a lot of people’s most annoying list, made more relevant by the amount of work event planners typically do with groups.
Entrepreneur.com came up with a great list of ideas to help leaders of meetings. Here are some ideas for how to diplomatically keep everyone focused and off devices when meeting time comes.
- Establish Ground Rules
It’s easier (and more comfortable) to get people to refrain from smartphone use than to get them to stop. At the beginning of a meeting, post a hard sign or verbally state: “Please turn off your phones/devices until the meeting is over.” It is not inappropriate to make such a statement. In group situations, taking a direct approach is best. Realize that you have to say this at the beginning of every meeting until group norms are established. An hour or two before the meeting begins, send out an email reminding employees that this will be a phone-free meeting.
- Instill a check-your-device-at-the-door policy
Take the method used at The White House (and other heads of state) and have a phone drop basket. Before meeting with former President Obama, cabinet members had to attach post-it notes with their names to their cell phones and leave them in a basket before entering the room. Former French President François Hollande banned phones from his cabinet meetings, while previous British Prime Minister David Cameron mandated a similar no-phone policy during his meetings.
- Honor Meeting Breaks & Official End Times
It’s good to remember that people are psychically chomping at the bit to get to their social media, work emails, and texts - so if they are kind enough to put their phones away, then do your part by honoring breaks for check-in. If the meeting will last more than two hours, give participants a clear break time with a set beginning and end time. People are more likely to unplug when they can mentally plan for when to plug back in.
- Be a Good Example
Here’s an important thing to remember when trying to reduce device use in your meetings: you, the meeting leader, are not exempt from the rule! Employees (and people in general) are especially bothered by managers who answer phone calls during meetings. If you’re trying to get employees to stop using their phones, set a positive example by shutting off yours. Be the first person to leave your phone in the drop basket, and others will begin to follow.