The basic etiquette for meetings is simple:
- Pay attention to the speaker.
- Don’t talk while others have the floor.
- Don’t try to catch up on work.
- Have a notebook for writing important information.
- Keep your devices out of sight.
How many of those have you broken recently? The last one is particularly difficult to enforce. We have had a lot more virtual meetings since the pandemic began. This has made it easier for people to carry on a whatsapp chat when they should be listening. Even before more meetings went online, people had the annoying habit of using their phones under the table.
Since people are determined to bring their devices to meetings, perhaps it is time meetings evolved to take advantage of technology. Rather than encouraging people to put away their devices, perhaps we should encourage them to use software that can make meetings more engaging.
A few months ago, I took part in a two-day mini-retreat where participants were encouraged to use their devices during the events and it led to more engagement.
- During the pre-event meeting, we used jamboard to ponder what went well, what did not go so well and what could have been done better. Everyone was given access to the board so they could write and paste notes without having to identify themselves. This generated a lot more responses than could have been gotten if everyone were in the same room and anonymity not guaranteed.
- We used kahoot to carry out a fun quiz before a group breakout. Everyone had a good laugh and the winner got a box of chocolates for his efforts.
- I was once at an event where the presenter used zeetings to get anonymous responses to sensitive questions about workplace morale and harassment.
All these software can be easily installed on your participants’ phones before the event. Let everyone know what you plan to use and share download links so they can have them ready on their phones before the event starts. It will definitely boost excitement and it channels phone use into more productive meeting behaviour.