Available distractions in facilitation and training environments are on the rise with the ubiquitous use of smartphones these days. I consistently hear challenges leaders have getting their participants to focus on the meeting versus being distracted by their laptops, smart phones, blackberries, and other culprits of multitasking.
My thinking on this problem was expanded recently when I came across an article by Mary Boone, President of Boone Associates called ROM: Return on Meetings. One of the points Mary cites in her article is ” The Blackberry Test.” Here’s how she describes it.
Participants in all sizes of meetings are often so wrapped up in what’s going on outside the meeting that it’s hard to engage them, even with the best performers or the most polished speakers. And a meeting can’t possibly be strategic unless people are engaged. The bottom line is, if you can’t pass the “Blackberry Test,” you aren’t getting good ROM (Return on Meetings). What’s the Blackberry Test? If more than 5% of your audience are scrolling their Blackberries (or smartphones) during the meeting, you’ve failed.
The next time you’re tempted to say “Turn off your Blackberries and smart phones!” ask yourself: “Have we done all we can to make sure that this meeting is highly strategic, interactive, and directly relevant to participants?” Take the challenge to make the meetings at your organization more engaging and interactive. If you step up to the plate, you and the business leaders you serve will experience true ROM.
Mary’s comments helped me change my perspective. The increasing number of distractions in our lives certainly do make it tougher to engage people. But is that such a bad thing? While these “distractions” compete with that increasingly scarce commodity…our attention, they also have the potential of making us more productive.
The days when a mediocre lecturer could captivate a 20th century audience for hours are gone. Today, those seeking to attract and hold the attention of their audiences must be more compelling than the distractions. So in a way, participant distractions can make us better…Facilitators, Trainers, Speakers, and Presenters…if we let them. How? Let’s take a stab at that.
Do I still have your attention? You see, we can just tell it like it is anymore. We’ve got to tell it with FEELING! Try these ideas on to turn your thinking on the blackberry dilemma.
The problem isn’t them, it’s you. I know, I don’t like the sound of that either, but it’s largely true. If we’re not keeping our group’s attention, we’ve got to quit thinking that this is a problem with “them.” We’ve got to own it as ours. If we’re not commanding the attention and engagement of our group, we’ve got to do something differently.
The great quickening. Did you know that “quickening” is defined as the first time you feel your baby move–a long anticipated event in every pregnancy? I had no idea that’s what was coming when I wrote this tagline a moment ago. It just “felt” like the right word and I thought, “What the hell, go look it up on Google and see what comes out.”
So, you’ve got to feel “your baby” move when you’re leading your groups. While this may be a metaphorical “stretch,” it’s that kind of enthusiasm you’ve got to be feeling for your audience to, well, frankly, give a damn! If what you’re doing doesn’t summon your own energy, it won’t draw others in. Go back to drawing board or step it up a notch.
Get on with it! If there’s one thing people hate more than meetings, it’s s..l..o…w meetings. Don’t stretch your meeting to fit into the token hour or two allocated for it. Get it moving and keep it moving at a crisp pace. Keep people on target, and don’t waste time. Get it done so that people can get what they need and get back to business.
Name the elephant. If people are simply so distracted by other work that they can’t offer enough attention to keep the meeting afloat, either cancel it or shift the focus to “focus” issue. Find out what if anything people need to get themselves fully engaged in the room. There’s no better focus for a training or meeting than the very immediate impediments people are having to working in the present, right here, and right now with their peers.
Has this article changed your mind about the blackberry problem? I’d love to hear from you. Just add your comments below.