Have you ever been in these shoes? You sign up for a meeting because the speaker sounds interesting or you want information on the topic. You arrive, do a little networking, and settle in to hear the talk. But just before she starts, you check your phone. It won’t take long so you go ahead and answer whatever came in. And then you realize you’ve missed the beginning of the talk and you aren’t sure what she’s talking about because everyone is laughing and you didn’t catch it so you go right ahead and keep working on your phone. Been there?
Well, stop it! I do a lot of speaking and I see you when I’m up there. I know you don’t mean to be rude, but it is rude. It also means you just wasted whatever it cost to get into the meeting and your travel time. If you were just going to sit there and do work, why not stay at the office? If something sounded interesting, give it a shot. If you pull out your phone 15 minutes in, that’s a whole different message.
So how do you stop? First, only attend things you care about. If you are only there for the networking in the beginning, leave before the speaker starts. Why be a distraction or make them feel bad? Next, commit to YOURSELF you will pay attention. At the end of the meeting, as the speaker I really don’t care if one individual got what they wanted out of the meeting. If the majority of people felt it was valuable, I’m good to go. So it isn’t about me, and it isn’t about the meeting organizer; it is about you. You chose to come; you chose to pay for it; and you choose to pay attention. So do so. Next, put the phone AWAY. When you are networking or going to a meeting, the world can wait for that hour. Give it a rest. And no you don’t look cool because you are so in demand – you look unorganized because you can’t walk away for 60 minutes. Finally, position yourself so you can see and be engaged. If your seat faces away from the speaker, turn around. If you are at an odd angle, MOVE. There’s a great scene in Men In Black where Will Smith’s character drags a heavy table across the room so he has something to write on. It is uncomfortable but absolutely the smart thing to do. Be Will Smith – not those other guys.
It is important to remember that even as an audience member you are representing your company. If you leave halfway through, don’t pay attention, talk to others during the presentation, or pick your nose (yes, seriously. In the last talk I gave. I guess he figured no one would notice!), someone is watching. So be a good audience member and pay attention. You never know what you might learn!