Devices at meetings? Big mistake. Big. HUGE.

I recently implemented a new meeting policy across my organization that reads like this: no devices, paper note taking only. If you have to open your lap tap or take a call, please leave the room.

I manage a high caliber team with Senior Director Titles and indirectly manage a cross functional group with VP and Chief Titles. And I’ve politely asked people to leave the room as multi-tasking on a device has disrupted meetings.

I have found this approach does two things:
  1. Makes meetings more productive as everyone is engaged and present. 
  2. Empowers people to ask if they are needed at a meeting, clarify objectives, outcomes and get a clear agenda.

Look around the room at your next meeting. How many people are heads down in a phone or computer? Are they adding value? No. Are they needed at the meeting? Maybe. Did you need to call the meeting? Reevaluate.

One of the best books I’ve read about effective meeting management is Read This Before Our Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli. 82 quick read pages. And was recommended by my virtual mentor, Seth Godin.

The author's Modern Meeting objective: focus on the only two activities worth convening for – conflict and coordination. Output: If you don't receive an action plan from the meeting I invited you to attend, you have every right not to attend my next one. Tenets:
  1. Supports a decision that has already been made.
  2. Moves fast and ends on schedule.
  3. Limits the number of attendees.
  4. Rejects the unprepared.
  5. Produces committed action plans. 
  6. Refuses to be informational. Reading memos is mandatory.
  7. Works alongside a culture of brainstorming.

The inspiration for this blog? My seat mate on my last cross-country Virgin America flight. She described the pompous Vice President at her sales call. My seat mate was representing one of two companies selected for a final presentation after a rigorous RFP process. The Vice President pretended to not know the meeting was on her calendar, ostentatiously checked her phone the entire meeting and then declared the products insignificance based on her personal reference.

Compare that experience to the team at Twitter who humbly embraced this small company, used their employees as the litmus test vs. personal reference, and engaged in the conversation and proposal DEVICE FREE. Did I mention my seat mate had the most senior staff at Twitter at her meeting?

After hearing my seat mate’s story all I could envision was one of my favorite scenes from Pretty Woman –  “Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.”

The difference between these two interactions is human connection. Respect. Eye contact. Engagement. Conversation. Being present.

The learning? You are not so important or busy that you can’t put/leave/shut down your device for a meeting. And if you can’t? I will be asking you to leave and come back when you can.


Jenn said…
Go, Tia! I totally agree with you and I'm glad it's from the top down.