Meeting interruptus is a condition that seems to affect most of the meeting population: either people take on a distracted look (waiting for that phone call); or they answer any call that comes – taking five minutes to explain that they’re in a meeting and can’t talk now; or they blackberry; or they use meeting time (in larger meetings) to catch up on their e-mails. How can I discuss productively with those present if my attention is outside the room?
People are surprised when I don’t answer a ringing phone and instead stay focused on our discussion. The humble answering machine also serves a purpose.
Not answering the phone (or using the blackberry or laptop) offers a few benefits: first, we can discuss and work more productively. Secondly, the meeting can usually finish sooner. Thirdly, I send my meeting partners a clear signal that I value the working relationship and their presence.
One client fines People €20 if their mobile phone rings during a meeting. If they answer, it costs €50! Imagine a working world where we are so present that such rules are unnecessary.