Personal Technology in Meetings


It's not even the end of January and I've already broken one of my New Year's resolutions. Well, I've broken more than one but there's only one I'm ready to publicly talk about!

Personal technology in meetings.

It's become SOP (standard operating procedure) to come to a meeting loaded up with technology -- at least a laptop and a smartphone. Sometimes two smartphones if your organization hasn't adopted BYOD (bring your own device), requiring you to carry a work mobile and a personal mobile. God forbid there's an emergency at school and no one can find you since you're in lock down in a meeting.

We've grown accustomed to pulling around a conference room table, plugging in and staying connected for the entire length of the meeting. We've learned to multitask at the table and beyond the table.

Sure we can brainstorm, problem solve and debate... while we are checking email, posting on social media, and researching who was right on that last point someone was making. We appear to do it with ease. We can stay connected outside the conference room while we are actively participating within it.

Or can we? I'm not sure how it makes people feel on both sides of that equation.

Which is why I made a New Year's Resolution to leave my devices at my desk while I'm in meetings. I vowed to be more present and to focus on the task at hand, rather than multi-task my way through group discussions. I promised my colleagues that I would be more in the moment with them.

It didn't work.

It didn't work because no one else made the same promise. I came to meetings, sans technology, and found myself staring at the tops of people's heads while they emailed, tweeted and searched.

And guess what? For the most part, they were still contributing just as much as I was, with or without the devices. In fact I found myself at a disadvantage because I couldn't pull the file where we had already covered the topic at hand, and I couldn't find the image that perfectly captured what I was describing, and worst yet I left my other colleagues working on other projects desperately waiting for me to answer their emails.

They went unanswered the entire time I was in that conference room.

The truth is that the workplace has evolved, as has how we interact with each other in meetings. What was once considered rude is now SOP. Everyone understands the need to multi-task and everyone is taking advantage of the technology that can help us get it all done.

So I'm actually going to reverse my resolution and vow to use technology even more. I'm going to cut my antiquated reliance on paper, and stop printing copies of documents. I'm going to reduce the number of files I keep in my cabinets and switch them over to folders on my desktop. I'm going to get better at archiving email chains so that I can pull them up quickly to refresh our collective memories when debating a topic.

I'm going to get more reliant on technology, in and out of meetings. It's not a bad thing to have a laptop open in front of you while brainstorming with colleagues. And it's not a bad thing to keep multiple work streams alive by keeping on top of email chains.

It's SOP to look at the top of people's heads in meetings, and I'm now going to embrace it. It was my old-school thinking that had me thinking I needed to leave my personal technology out of the conference room.

No wonder I couldn't keep it up!