We interrupt this presentation to bring you an important email

A presentation used to attract your full attention, but not any more.  It’s not uncommon for the audience to be tapping into their Blackberries, iPhones or mobile phones while ‘listening’ to the presentation.

Is this rude or just a good use of time?  Sharren Bessant gives us her opinion.

Most of today’s younger generation would find it hard to believe that just a couple of decades ago technology was not a patch on what it is today. No internet, brick-like mobile phones that literally just made phone calls. In fact, most business correspondence was done by sending a letter or making a telephone call. Oh, how things change. The world is so much more technically advanced and no matter what we do or how much we use this new system, we all have to accept that this is the way things are progressing and will continue to progress.

But surely there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed??

There has been a lot of discussion lately regarding texting and emailing on your phone whilst in a meeting. Some people believe that it is the way that things are done now, whilst others see it as rude.

Whichever you believe, the truth is that things are different now. Business is expected to be far more immediate. If you have a potential client, they need to know that they can get hold of you, that you are important to them, and if that means picking up and responding to a message from them, then you obviously need to do that…wherever you are.

Understandably, for the host of the meeting it is going to be annoying when someone is tapping away on their phone when they are trying to speak.  Perhaps the speaker will even feel a little unsure about whether their audience is even listening.

Perhaps they need to turn the proverbial blind eye and be glad that their audience is there at all.  It is just as easy these days to host a meeting by video link up, or to forward the information by email; having your audience there whether you have their undivided attention or even just 50 per cent of it should be seen as a blessing.

So, can you get away with it as well?  Well, you may get away with it in a big auditorium, particularly if you sit at the back of the room.   But it would not work in a typical university or school presentation (your teacher will not be impressed or understanding).

AND there are always going to be exceptions to the rule – do not check your phone if you are at a job interview, do not check your phone if you trying to impress your new boss and especially do NOT check your phone if you are the speaker.

Under other circumstances, be discreet, and try to pay as much attention as possible to the meeting, you never know, you might miss something interesting.

Sharren L Bessant

Do you think that doing email in presentations has crossed the line?  Leave your opinions in the comments box below.


Published On: 17th May 2010

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1 Comment
  1. I think a line has been crossed and I think it is up to the speaker to do their utmost to rectify the situation. First -set the ground rules , next grab the audiences attention from the start – immediate engagement should keep them on their toes – show of hands, question or volunteer. It is incredibly rude in the same way talking to someone else is – It is, in some organisations, accepted culturally but it doesnt mean they can’t make an exception for you. Keep the presentation short and tell them its only 15 minutes and the world will not come to a grinding halt in that time….!

    Hayley Mogridge 19 Jun at 1:45 pm