Skip to main content

Should Mobile Phones be Banned in Meetings?

By September 8, 2017February 14th, 2019Articles, Leadership

Copyright: rawpixel / 123RF Stock PhotoIt seems when people are invited to attend a meeting they now consider it a ‘plus one’ scenario. It is common practice these days for meeting participants to show up with their mobile phone in hand, engaged and ready to distract.

Tip – if you are reading this whilst you’re in a meeting right now – put the phone down!

Let me share of scenario with you and hand on heart this really happened! I arranged a meeting between 2 associates I know well recently as there were potential business opportunities between them. Firstly, one of the parties was late. They didn’t call to advise they would be late; I had to call and see if they were still coming. Secondly, they sat down in the meeting room after arriving 20 minutes late, got out their phone and sat there texting or emailing and continued when the second party to the meeting walked in the room. And it gets better, they hadn’t put the phone on silent after deciding they’d actually be present at the table, looked at the ringing phone and flicked a text off when talking to my associate without apology. I can’t tell you whether I was more horrified about this person’s behaviour or more embarrassed.

Needless to say the meeting didn’t go well, as it generally doesn’t when someone is treated with disrespect. First impressions are crucial with most people making up their minds within seconds of meeting someone.

The above could be perceived as an extreme example, thought it’s not the first time I’ve seen it happen. So let’s look at another common scenario in business – when meetings are held for meetings sake. From the get go people are incredibly disengaged because they are unsure of the purpose of the meeting, it’s not relevant to them and it generally has one person doing all the talking. So phones are out, emails are being scrolled though, texts are being sent, and people’s focus is anywhere but in the room because the meeting is a perceived waste of time. They are bored. But the question still remain; is this acceptable? Both on the part of the business for wasting people’s time and the behaviour of the participants?

Now I may be old school, but given the purpose of a meeting should be to discuss something of importance (otherwise why have it?) then it should be given the attention and focus it deserves.

In general, the purpose of a meeting is to:

  • Share information
  • Make decisions
  • Learn from each other
  • Listen
  • Problem solve

Distractions should be limited to ensure people are getting the most from the meeting hence most meetings are held in a room or separate area so people can connect. They should be curious about the meeting, what’s being discussed, what’s being agreed, what others opinions are, not curious about what’s in their inbox or what texts their missing out on.

Unless your child’s birth is imminent, there is a medical emergency or similar situation or if a meeting is designed to participate via your mobile phone is there really any valid excuse to be interacting with your phone whilst in a meeting?

This situation reminds me of people feeling the necessity to walk along the street absorbed by the mobile phone expecting others to move out of their way and accommodate their presence. People believing they are more important than everyone else at the meeting not concentrating on the conversation and not respecting other people’s time, thoughts and intelligence are not only incredibly rude, but incredibly stupid considering how alert, focused and on top of our game we need to be to stay ahead and be competitive in the challenging business landscape we are now in.

And another thing, people notice – and you’re memorable for all the wrong reasons! It comes back to the question “how do you want people to speak about you?”. Think carefully. It may be worth leaving your ‘plus one’ behind!