Have a smartphone? A tablet? Your colleagues would like you to shut it off and put it away until the meeting’s over, thank you very much. You’ll be able to concentrate better, too, because you aren’t as good at multitasking as you think you are.
These conclusions come from new research into mobile devices and attention at meetings from an IMEX America/MPI survey of meeting professionals and a study published in the Harvard Business Review.
The survey, part of Meeting Professionals International’s quarterly Meetings Outlook research from last fall, found that 40 percent of respondents agreed with this statement: “To maximize attention, delegates should be banned from using personal devices during conference sessions and meetings: They should be told to switch them off and put them away before the meeting starts.” (MPI is Plan Your Meetings’ parent company.)
You might think you can keep track of your meeting and check email and Facebook, but professor Francesca Gino, quoted in Harvard Business School’s “Condensed Guide to Running Meetings,” doesn’t agree.
“Multitasking is simply a mythical activity,” Gino says. “We can do simple tasks like walking and talking at the same time, but the brain can’t handle multitasking.” In fact, studies show that someone trying to multitask takes 50 percent longer to accomplish a task and makes up to 50 percent more mistakes.
If you want to know why meeting attendees scrunch down in their seats and peek at their phones, blame the boss. A Warwick Conferences study found that 81 percent of people said they were acting on work emails, sometimes from the very managers who sent them.
“The debate is whether to fight devices and their content or accept and even integrate them,” says Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group. “There are a number of apps, such as audience response apps (Sli.do), or even apps that turn your phone into a microphone (Crowd Mics) that make mobile devices a genuinely useful part of the meeting session or event — when used in the way that the speaker or organizer intends. And, the harsh reality in a business context is that, in practice, it would often be very difficult to implement a ban that sticks.
“Perhaps a more sensible approach is to give delegates space and time within every event to check and respond to important messages, so that they can be fully focused on the content when actually in a session,” Bauer says. “Ultimately, the investment of time and money in attending an event should hopefully ensure that delegates want to stay focused on the content, as much as they wish to keep up to date with their emails.”
Planners what do you think? Please use the comment box below to share your pros and cons.