How To Win At Meetings: The Laptop Barrier

You feel like you are out of touch with your team, as a manager.  Hiding behind your cell phone or your laptop, you realize that don’t you? Read on for some encouragement.

Communication is key in meetings. Part of better communication is creating a neutral environment through room selection, attention to seating, temperature, etc. We go to these pains because we want to communicate “I’m interested in what you have to say and I want you to hear everything I have to say.” When that is done, what is the first thing we do? Pop open a laptop and check email.

What exactly is that supposed to communicate? “What you have to say is not as important as this IM about lunch.”

There is also the occasion when you find a lengthy meeting with a dozen or so participants buried in the screens of their laptops, so engaged with their personal communications that the presenter even drops out.  This team is paralyzed with no takeaways, no answers, and hardly any value earned.  This paralysis reveals a number of organizational problems if you dig deep enough.  However, removing the technological barriers and distractions from productivity allows the individual strengths the meeting has suppressed to result in solutions and innovations.

As a project manager, estimate the man hours lost in that one scenario. Then put bill rates on it. Tracking with me now?

If not consider this, your wife makes a candlelit dinner to set the mood.  Devoid of a romantic response, you sit down at the table and dive into email.  The wife then casts some stink-eye on you thinking “You like the sofa?”

Not there yet? CEO calls you to his suite to talk status. Are you really going to answer IMs from your office mates?

Now, put yourself on the other side of the table. This is your team. One-on-one, plan the message you want to give your tech lead or developer. Picture yourself closing the screen down and hearing everything he needs to share.  Yes, the first time you do this you’ll scare their pants off but you’ve bought their attention. Chances are that every time you meet with them or pass them in the hall you will have their increased trust and their interest.  You can bet they will be prepared for the next meeting.

Suspend your personal need for instant gratification and captivate your audience, engage the team, and–just maybe–energize your projects.

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