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Meetings vs Cell Phones

Filed Under Human Factors

This is a reader guest post by Jeremy Neuharth. Jeremy is a PMP that recently helped start a mobile development company and enjoys learning and assisting teams in implementing release management and continuous integration.

Cellphone Meeting

As a fellow tech geek I always enjoy new gadgets and various other electronic toys that I can spend money on and play with. Then a few years back something revolutionized my life, a smart phone. This device was great, no more PDA that I barely used, no more running back to my desk to find contact information, or having to print out my daily schedule. Basically my life was all right there in one device with the plus of being able to email or surf the web at any time.

Fast forward to a trend that I am seeing all too often today where the popularity of cell phones and mobile devices have all but taken over meetings. The time where it was frowned upon, or just downright rude, to play with your PDA or phone during a meeting is simply gone. In recent meetings the consent checking and sending emails thought-out a meeting seems like a status symbol of sorts. What happened to the days of basic respect or etiquette for others by gracing the other patrons with your attention was just expected. I will be the first to say that not all meetings are productive, but this trend has taken unproductive meetings to a whole new level.

Maybe it is time to start using more tools like wikis, instant messaging, or email to communicate. Is it time for human contact to go out the window? Are some drastic measures like “no cell phone meetings” needed to kill off this trend? Would it be better to remember what our mother’s taught us about basic social skills? Am I going to fall into the black hole of socially expectable non-interest of basic face-to-face respect and communication? What sort of emergency daily Dilbert would I miss if I shut my cell phone off for a whole meeting ?

Just think a few very short years ago not only did we not have ready to communicate 24/7 smart phones, but we actually had to be at our desks to get email, voice mail, or calls. With all this seemingly lack of communication it is amazing the world did not fall apart.

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One Response to “Meetings vs Cell Phones”

  1. Mark Freedman on January 2nd, 2008 8:50 am

    Although I agree that, in general, we should not be using our cell phone PDAs during meetings, there are at least a couple of legitimate reasons why I would NEVER agree to completely turning off my cell phone:

    1) Sometimes you need to look things up during the meeting for info pertaining to that meeting. Our conference rooms are scattered over two floors, and it’s inefficient to leave the room just for some quick info.

    2) Personal emergencies. In this day and age, I (and many others) would consider it unacceptable, and would never forgive ourselves if there was an emergency at home that you didn’t respond to just because you had to turn off your phone because some people are rude about using their phones.

    Setting a rule to shut off phones during meetings just because of rudeness of a subset of people, is a kindergarten cop action. Adults need to take responsibility for their actions, and if they want a reputation of rudeness, then they’ll have to deal with the consequences.

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