You and several members of your executive team have taken hours to prepare the necessary materials so that you can bring the board up to speed on what’s happened since the last time you met. There’s undoubtedly a lot to cover, and a limited time in which to do so. As such, you’d like to have everyone’s complete attention once the meeting begins. What you may not have accounted for, however, is having to compete with a room full of mobile devices.
While most board members don’t have any ill intention, even the simple act of quickly checking email or sending a short text message can really take away from what’s being presented. The good news is, there are a few things you can do that will help keep those unnecessary distractions at a minimum.
Make an announcement.
The easiest and most straightforward way to address the elephant in the room is to do so upfront at the start of the meeting. Simply announce to all attendees that there is a lot of material to go over and in the interest of time, you’d like the meeting to be “electronics-free.” You may wish to specify that this means no mobile phones, tablets or laptops. Be polite and professional, but firm.
Provide an alternative.
Some board members may plan on using their devices to take notes during the meeting, but we all know how easy it can be to fall down a rabbit hole and get distracted when those email and text notifications start popping up. Avoid this by being proactive and providing all attendees with a pen and notebook that they can use to jot down notes and refer to once the meeting has been concluded.
Since most board meetings last several hours, incorporating at least one break can help curb the urge to check electronic devices during presentations or discussions. For instance, if you’ve blocked out a 3 hour window for your meeting, schedule a 15 minute break at around the 1.5 hour mark. Be sure to announce this at the beginning of the meeting so that attendees know they will have a chance to check emails, answer texts or make phone calls at the designated time.
Designate a note-taker.
When attempting to prohibit mobile device use during a board meeting, you may run into a member or two who says he or she is better at taking notes electronically. To address this, have someone on hand whose sole purpose at the meeting is to take detailed notes. That way if and when an attendee raises concern, you’ll already be prepared with a solution.
Collect devices before the meeting.
If you’re comfortable being a bit bolder in your approach, you might choose to physically collect all electronic devices and store them in a designated spot of the room while the meeting is in session. For instance, place your own devices in a tray or large bowl and ask each board member to do the same as they enter the room. Keep it lighthearted and chances are you’ll have no problem gaining buy-in.
Mobile technology is sometimes like a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can be a great tool for productivity, while on the other, it can serve as a huge distraction. If electronics are derailing your important meetings, implementing a few of the above strategies should help resolve the problem and help you create a more engaged, productive meeting environment.