Marketing And The “Always On” Culture

Earlier this week I was in a meeting where the conversation turned to behavior in meetings by attendees. In part, the conversation evolved from a recent article in the NY Times that highlights the issues about multi-tasking.  This article, along with others, reinforces the belief that multi-taskers cannot and do not do things as well as those who focus on the job at hand.

The discussion started on whether it is appropriate for those attending to use electronic devices (laptops, notebooks, blackberries, etc.) during the meeting.  Some felt it is disrespectful to the presenter, while others said that the devices were acceptable, based on the culture of the company or if being used to take notes.

One suggestion was to ban the devices, offsetting the ban by holding shorter meetings that follow a set agenda.  This was countered by those that hold project management type meetings where different constituencies need to be heard and that such meetings inevitably take time.

Most conferences that I attend have a hashtag, and attendees are tweeting about the meeting, presenter and weather during the course of the meeting, either using their computers or smart phones.  Obviously in these meetings, the organizers have decided that promotion on twitter is more important than focused attention on the presenters or panel.

So, on one side there are those feel that during a meeting the presenter or chair should get undivided attention, while others say that the culture requires immediate access, whether it be from their management or their need to access the Internet.

Another element that has crept into today’s meetings and conferences is the “back-channel” communication provided by the electronic devices.   Meeting attendees have been known to make comments about the presenter or other attendees, thru texting, email, or twittering, resulting in inappropriate smirks or giggles…comments which are oblivious the other attendees who are not part of the electronic group.

A conclusion that can be derived from today’s behavior is that you, whether chairing a meeting or presenting to a group, will rarely have the undivided attention of the audience.  Recognizing this beforehand, the key concepts that have been drummed into you are worth repeating:

For Marketing/Sales people:

  • Tell them what you are going to tell them
  • Tell them
  • Tell them what you told them
  • Keep it short
  • Keep it simple
  • Ask for the order
  • Recognize that you will probably have to come back to do it again.

For those running a meeting:

  • Follow a set agenda
  • Never let a meeting go for more than a hour without a break
  • Recognize that you are going to have to cover fewer things, and probably repetitively because attendees will not get it the first time.

The current “always-on” workplace seems to be counter-productive, driven by distraction and the inability to focus on work.  I hope I don’t appear as a Luddite, but my recommendation would be to manage the distractions to a minimum in order to improve productivity.

Your thoughts?

RHM  5/10/2020

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