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Meeting Etiquette in a Tech-Saturated World

Just because we all have smartphones doesn’t mean it’s OK to whip them out whenever we want.

Mobile devices such as smartphones, notebooks, and tablet PCs are now omnipresent at meetings and events, but that doesn’t mean attendees should have carte blanche to whip them out whenever they like. It’s important to know how these tools can be used in a manner that’s both mindful of other attendees, and respectful of hosts’ wishes. Here are a few simple tips and suggestions to make it easier for attendees to mind their high-tech/online manners, and enjoy more positive interactions with their favorite portable devices.

Using Phones and Mobile Devices for Business Purposes

• Devices should be turned off during meetings or any other professional functions. As a rule of thumb, devices should be put away and silenced at any time they might disturb others, i.e., when in shared company.

• If attendees must keep their phones on because they’re expecting an important message, remind them to silence it or set the ringer to vibrate. Under optimal scenarios, calls will be forwarded to voicemail.

• For those who cannot avoid having to take a call or text, they should politely excuse themselves from the meeting or discussion.

• When speaking in public spaces, avoid sharing private information, as it may be overhead.

Politely excuse yourself and step outside, or wait until you’re in a less private or intrusive setting.

• If placed on vibrate, phones should be stored in a purse or pocket, the sound of the vibration against a hard surface, e.g., a boardroom table, isn’t distracting.

Using Devices During Meetings and Events

• Texting, sending emails, and checking messages should happen only after meetings are finished, or during official breaks.

• At no time during meetings should devices be used for personal purposes, i.e., updating social networks or flipping through a favorite video game.

• When in a meeting, change your voice message to let callers know that you’re engaged so they don’t feel that they’ve been left hanging by delayed response.

• If you must use an app during a meeting, set your device to airplane mode so it won’t accept any outside calls or disturbances, and turn sound effects and volume levels off.

• Always turn your phone’s ringer off when in a meeting—note that many wearable devices such as the Apple Watch or Fitbit Charge can push call and text notifications to your wrist, where you can quickly receive and parse them without disturbing others.

Scott Steinberg, a trend expert and futurist, is author of Netiquette Essentials: New Rules for Minding Your Manners in a Digital World, and other business books. He’s also founder of travel and hospitality trends magazine SELECT: Your City’s Secrets Unlocked, and host of Next Up on NewsWatch.


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