Monday, July 27, 2009

Reprise: Leave your laptops, Blackberries and phones out of meetings

At the end of last year, or was it the start of this year, I wrote a blog entry which got a lot of attention: Leave your laptops out of meetings. I was talking specifically about laptops but I could have easily included Blackberries, iPhones and other portable devices.

In todays Financial Times two professors from Toronto Rotman School of Management make the same call: Why e-mail must disappear from the boardroom. Their piece specifically addresses e-mail and boardrooms but its the same argument I was making.

Professors Beaty and Weber wonder what how directors can concentrate on discussions when they are doing something else. And the question what will happen when someone decides to sue a company for decisions taken by directors who are not concentrating.

So there are three good reasons to leave your laptop out of the meeting, switch off your Blackberrry and ignore your SMS messages:
  1. You cannot do your job properly is you trying to do two things at once
  2. You are opening your company to negligence claims
  3. It is rude; you are insulting the people who are in the room asking for your attention
For the record I very really take a laptop to a meeting, only really if I have something on it I want to share. I don’t own a Blackberry, iPhone or other portable e-mail device. And I set my mobile phone to silent when I arrive at an office.

I am guilty of occasionally viewing an SMS during a meeting, and even more occasionally sending an SMS during a meeting. I apologize to everyone in a meeting where I have ever done so.

I fully support Beaty and Weber’s call: think of the message and example it would send if a company board stated that Blackberries and laptops were not to be used in meetings.


  1. Good points, Alan. I've taken the no-laptop rule into meetings where I've faced a wall of open screens: generally speaking it's surprised people, but afterwards - having paid attention to a meeting for the first time in a long time, people are usually surprised to learn that you get more out of interacting with people if you pay attention...

    There's a corollary, though: I've seen some organisations where there are so many meetings, it's the only way some people can get work done. A clear viscious circle: maybe the no-laptop rule is a nudge that will help companies improve their meetings in general.

  2. I've been in a meeting with someone who had laptop + blackberry + iphone, and who proceeded to spend the session installing a new version of AIM on the laptop. Cue lots of rebooting and electronic chirping. Grrr!


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