In meetings how do you feel when somebody keeps using their phone? In a recent meeting I got my iPhone out to check my availability on a date, as the other person mentioned it. His reaction, although polite, suggested that he thought I was taking a call/ text/ email or something else. I apologised, explained that I was checking my availability for the date mentioned and we carried on.

I kicked myself for not making it clear what I was doing; for I know how many times I’ve seen people in meetings using their smart phones in a less positive way.

What does using your smart phone in meetings say?

It says more about you than anything else and what it says probably isn’t good! In my case I was lucky as we discussed it, but it probably says something like:

  • Self important: You think always being connected to your email makes you look important! In other words it’s a prop as you want to be seen to be needed. When I see that I find it amusing, what do you think?
  • Social Media Addict: You love the excitement of a new twitter message and are addicted to social media (Twitter can be a great business tool if it’s used well, and good fun too). I think its plain rude, others may think it’s sad and that you should show some respect.
  • Email junkie: You think your email is more important than the conversation in the meeting. I might wonder why you’re there; others may think it rude and arrogant that your emails are more important than the meeting.
  • Unable to trust: You don’t trust your team and think you need to be constantly managing them to ensure everything is done properly. I’d suspect that you are not a good manager or leader (perhaps if you know somebody who is always micro-managing like this they need business coaching to improve their leadership skills). Other people probably think you can’t manage your business and or team.

Stopping somebody from using their phone in a meeting

To finish the previous theme, before using your iPhone in a meeting think carefully about why you’re doing it, what it says about you and how you view other peoples time. If you really do need to receive a vital message, apologise before the meeting and explain why you need your phone switched on.

If somebody keeps using their phone in your meeting, what should you do? How have you dealt with it? I’ve used some of the following tactics:

  • Before the meeting: Ask if anybody needs to use their phone in the meeting and promise to have sufficient breaks, reinforce why it’s important to concentrate on the meeting. I don’t “ban the use of phones”; I hate that when people say it to me.
  • In the meeting: Politely ask if we could all focus on the subject, ask the offender a direct question about the subject being discussed, have a break to keep in touch with the office.
  • After the meeting: Do you really need them there next time?
  • For more ideas on improving your team meetings, click here.
  • What has worked well for you?

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What do you think about people using their phones in meetings? What’s happened to you? How have you dealt with it? Or perhaps, like me, you use your phone for note taking – how should you do that without insulting people?

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access