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Meeting Organizers: You’re Responsible for my Attention

David DeRuchie over at Happy Cog made a very reasonable request…

If you are reading this in a meeting STOP! Put down your mobile device or laptop and slowly lift your head and eyes upward until you see (and hear) the person speaking!

It’s pretty common - in meetings and at conferences - to see the tops of people’s heads, their faces awash in the artificial glow of screens. Say what you will about the back channel or multitasking or whatever - it’s all bullshit.

If you’re in the meeting, be in the meeting.

That said, Rian van der Merwe raises an important caveat: Meeting organizers are responsible for keeping attendees attentive and engaged.

We’re distracted in meetings because we don’t find them that valuable, so we try to fill the time with multitasking activities that we feel do add value. So if this becomes a thing – if we agree and communicate that a meeting blocks out not just our time but also 100% of our attention and focus – well, that places a huge burden of responsibility on the meeting organizer. If you’re going to arrange a meeting, and you expect everyone to pay attention without distraction, you’d better make sure that it’s a meeting worth having.

I think we can do better than distracting ourselves on mobile devices when a meeting isn’t worth our time. I think we get up and leave. I think we (politely) ask the organizer to create an agenda and reschedule if/when that happens. I think we walk out of poorly planned presentations at conferences, and go network or drop in on another one instead.

Time is our most finite resource. Don’t waste it in poorly planned meetings.