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Meeting Rules: Mobile Phones and Laptops

Does your company have clear meeting rules?

While some organizations have clear policies about whether laptops and mobile phones can be used during meetings, in other companies the rules were never established or have been allowed to grow relaxed. Ask a group of professionals what they think about this issue and you’re bound to get a mixed response. Some people will say these devices should be banned from every meeting with no exceptions; some will say they don’t see any problem with using them in meetings; others will say that remaining in touch is an absolute business necessity. We’re not here to tell you how to run your meetings. We are here, however, to bring your attention to the fact that you need to have clear meeting rules on this issue, regardless of how you decide to handle it.

3 Dangers of not having clear meeting rules for mobile phones/laptops

  1. There’s not a unified approach to the meeting – In previous posts, we’ve discussed the importance of setting ground rules for your meeting. Mobile phones and laptops should definitely be addressed when you set the ground rules along with your team.
  2. There’s a chance some colleagues might be unhappy – If a member of your team is strongly against the use of laptops and mobiles in meetings, they should have a chance to discuss the issue with their colleagues. In the end, a conversation about the situation might highlight key issues. What if, for example, one colleague has responsibilities that force him or her to be in contact with another group of people at the same time as your meeting?
  3. You’re not as efficient as you could be – While we’ve stated that it may be necessary for some people to be in contact all the time, the fact is that when someone’s attention is divided between the meeting they’re in and their laptop screen, they’re not completely focused on the matter at hand.

3 Ways for your team to deal with the issue

  1. Establish a total ban – This might not be a popular approach, but it solves the problem permanently. This means all mobile phones and laptops are switched off and put away, out of sight.
  2. Ask colleagues who absolutely must take a call or send an email to leave the room – This is probably a healthy compromise, but the risk is that attendees will still spend the entire meeting checking their phone or laptop, even if they don’t make any calls or send any emails.
  3. Put an “email break” on the agenda of longer meetings – This doesn’t take care of urgent phone calls or emails, but can probably satisfy even the most hardcore smartphone and email addicts.

3 Outcomes of establishing meeting rules

  1. You display leadership – Setting ground rules and then sticking to them is key to running meetings that really work. When you take charge effectively and suggest solutions, the members of the group will feel more committed to working together with you as the leader of the meeting.
  2. You save time – A few minutes spent discussing this issue now can potentially save a lot of time (and problems) later.
  3. You ensure everyone is on the same page – Without the chance to discuss opinions, small disagreements about issues like these can turn into bigger problems. A unified team will ultimately work better together over time.

Having clear meeting rules will help everyone focused on the topic and not distracted by calls and emails. Let us know what has worked for you in the comments area below.  Click here for more information on how to make your meetings run more smoothly.

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