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Tech-Free vs. Tech-Aided: Do Gadgets Belong in Your Meetings?

In your next business meeting, look around. Is someone glancing at their smartwatch every minute, tapping on a smartphone, opening up email on a laptop or scrolling through Twitter on a tablet?

The average worker now carries multiple devices with them at work, and those gadgets follow them everywhere, from the desk to meetings. However, not all companies agree on whether gadgets belong in meetings at all. Some teams collect devices at the door to limit distractions, while some claim that technology aids in note-taking, research and brainstorming.

So, is it a distraction or an aid? When does technology hurt meeting productivity?

Tech-Free Meetings

Studies clearly prove that the human brain is incapable of effectively multitasking, and only an estimated two percent of the population can manage it. That’s why some teams build tech-free meetings into their culture and even hold standup meetings that focus solely on the conversation, not screens and presentations.

When gadgets make meetings go awry, they impair focus, engagement and teamwork. If the screens in employees’ hands steal focus from the topic at hand, people aren’t listening, asking questions and contributing ideas. Workers ask repetitive questions, time is wasted and you fail to accomplish the main objective of holding the meeting in the first place.

Tech-Aided Meetings

Despite the downsides of bringing devices, on the other hand, employees also have direct access to apps and resources on their gadgets that can aid meeting productivity. They can open up a note-taking app to create reminders and jot down new information, and if the brainstorming or problem-solving gets stale, someone can do a quick Google search to find fresh inspiration or answers.

What’s more, workers can take immediate action during the meeting if their devices are in tow (like forwarding an attachment or email thread to the group). And if the boss wants to join at the last minute from the airport, someone can pull up a conferencing app to bring them into the meeting.

Ban Bad Meetings, not Technology

Clearly, workers’ devices have the potential to either hinder or enhance meeting productivity, so how do you balance the good and the bad? Try these ideas:

  • Don’t let your meetings create a need for distraction. Boredom is simply a sign that attendees don’t have enough mental stimulation, so mix up your meeting format, go outdoors, show a video, ask more questions or let participants doodle along with your presentation.
  • Don’t give employees space to multitask. If your meeting participants are staring more at their screens than you, appoint someone a “Meeting Yoda” to call them out and reel them in. When you meet online, ask everyone to turn on their webcam so they don’t have a screen to multitask behind.
  • Don’t choose a meeting time for everyone. Instead, send a free/busy poll so attendees can choose the time and day that they will be most attentive and productive in your meetings.

What does your company do: ban technology or welcome devices into business meetings? We want to know! Leave a reply in the comments below.

Featured Image Source: Startup Stock Photos

About Ashley Speagle

Ashley Speagle is a Florida-born, Georgia-raised communications specialist, couch movie critic, dream interpreter, acrophobic adventure seeker, outdoors enthusiast, and easy-going introvert.

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