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How do we participate in meetings

It seems to be common sense today for many people to go into a meeting to do their eMails, chat with other people somewhere else or do whatever else they think is important right now on their thinkpad while the meeting is taking place. I even very often see people flying into a conference to just sit down and work on their thinkpad or mobile device instead of listening to the speaker.
How unproductive is that ? I can't think of a much better way to throw money out of the window. And I presume in many cases people are doing this not because their eMail or SMS or chat message is more important than the meeting; they are doing this because they don't have the discipline to listen to someone else for some minutes, instead they are distracted by their technical gadget.

How many people have I seen during meetings to figure out a new wallpaper for their desktop background image ? If I go to a meeting I go there to participate. Like I would not go into a movie theatre just to take a nap. I even don't fall asleep in front of my TV since I either watch something or go to bed. Participation in a meeitng does not always mean to be the active speaker, also as a listener it is your job to participate in form of active listening, may be take notes, draw conclusions out of what has been said, prepare a comment in your mind and give feedback to those who speak. You can not do this while doing your eMail. Actually doing eMail or whatever else while one is speaking to me is a way to actively ignore this person, or to take it further: it is actually a way to not respect the speaker.

I might be too conservative in this. May way of thinking most probably does not fit in todays working culture anymore, nevertheless let me stick to it for now until I receive some great comments to turn me around. If I think a meeting will be ineffective (because for instance of those missing essentials like agenda and meeting minutes) I'd better not go to that meeting at all instead of making the dirty compromise to go there and then do something else. And if I decline my participation it would be actually fair to mention the true reason to the chair man of the meeting to give him a chance to improve the effectiveness of his meetings in the future. I am more productive in reading my eMails at home or in my office than doing this during a meeting or conference call. The result will be probably that I neither grasped what is going on in the meeting nor grasp the contents of my eMails entirely since I am distracted by the speakers in the meeting. I am a fan of quality: I rather prefer to do one thing right instead of two things in parallel less efficient and with lower outcome. The solution has to be: less but better meetings ! We do not improve meetings by just turning around and doing something else !

6 blog comments below

I feel exactly the same about this Amagard. I don't understand why people aren't putting a stop to it. Used to be in the beginning that it was looked upon as bad form and a sign of disrespect to attend to a device like that in company, but right now it has become standard practice for people to go into meetings with their Samsung Note or iPhone or tablet to the extent if they didn't have one, one wondered whether there is something wrong with them. And yes, it's become quite "accepted" for people to scroll their phones/devices while they're at a meeting. Even students at Universities are now allowed to take their phones into classes. Thankfully they're banned from taking the phones into exams. Worst part for me is family at airports. I see all members of a family with a little square device being totally disassociated from one another in their own world. And of course those who are so much into their devices when they're in public, that they're a nuisance to others. Such as in supermarkets or on pavements or on the road, and being a hazard to themselves and those in whose way they are. Think people refer to them as the phone zombie generation.
deanhills on Fri Jul 22, 2016 1:58 pm
I agree one should pay attention in meetings. I always ended up in production meetings.
One place in worked had a meeting to decide when they would have have the next meeting. I could have used my tablet then!
standready on Sat Jul 23, 2016 4:35 pm
Think people refer to them as the phone zombie generation.

Right. Or as "Generation Heads Down"

Just found this in my Facebook stream:
amagard on Sun Jul 24, 2016 12:12 pm
So true, amagard. I see so people walking or even driving (yikes) that way.
standready on Sun Jul 24, 2016 4:13 pm
That's an awesome image for me. Dead on the number! Laughing
deanhills on Sun Jul 24, 2016 5:08 pm
The examples of phone use you give are clearly misuse, distracting attention from the meeting, and disrespectful of the presenter. Yet our phones are supposed to be our assistants, and either have, or we think they ought to have, legitimate uses during a meeting.

One can imagine the phone recording the audio, and perhaps even transcribing it on the fly as written notes. Taking pictures of slides is a bit more questionable. I would like to imagine the possibility of walking out with a full collection of video images of the presentation, but that probably would be much better done by having the slides provided in downloadable form and easily stored with the "My Meeting" app or whatever.

The fact is that today we can imagine these uses of our phones, and in some cases get them to almost work. So we fool with the phone to do something legitimate but it usually is not a net benefit to us. That produces frustration, and we typically respond by getting somewhat bored and missing much of the point of the meeting. Since we're fooling with the phone anyway, it seems easy to do things irrelevant to the meeting.

One example of legitimate use of a phone is using a Bible app during a sermon. I find it easier to read the Bible on my phone than to open a book, although I can't turn from one passage to another as fast as I could with a paper book. In some cases I can check different versions of the text, and I could conceivably look up commentaries and word definitions. I can imagine the possibility of checking historical references and lots of other stuff during a sermon, but I know that the phones are not yet good enough to do that without doing more harm than good.
SonLight on Mon Jul 25, 2016 6:33 am

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