The Tide Has Turned On What It Takes To Run a Successful Meeting

It used to be that when a company or manager planned a meeting, their employees participated with apparent interest, be it real or feigned, by demonstrating visual attentiveness. Regardless of whether they were into it or not, most employees would listen intently, and did so out of manners and courtesy, at which time they provided their undivided attention.

In many corners these days, all bets are off when it comes to the old standards of having facial and body language be the primary indicator of how attentive the meeting attendees are. Many Gen-Y/Millennial digital natives don’t provide such continual eye-contact during meetings — and unless it’s an old school ‘digital immigrant’ conducting the meeting and upholding the traditional cultural standard of visual attentiveness, the meeting leader doesn’t expect it, either.


Mostly, it’s the residual effect of having laptops, iPhones, Androids and other agility and mobility based devices at our disposal, consuming much more of the work and personal lives of many, which now impacts people’s daily routines and habits in ways not seen just a few years ago. Look around during almost any business meeting, any gathering, during a commute to work, an elevator ride, or just about anytime and anyplace, and you’re likely to see people clicking away on their E-devices, almost obsessively. It’s the new normal for many — and for others, a source of distraction or irritation.

The need to real-time current using IT devices has infiltrated much of today’s work and personal behavioral practices. Meeting participation has not been spared of this mega-trend and phenomenon. Will there be a pendulum shift back to pure, heads-forward meeting participation? Not likely. That horse left that barn for good as a commonly-practiced norm. Many people, especially the younger incoming work generations, have gone beyond the point of no-return when it comes to their priorities to real-time digital updates.

Just about the only push-back, and hangers-on to the traditional forward-focused meeting practice will be found at organizations that have managed to get the word down through the ranks, perhaps through stated and enforced company policy, or through communicated, subliminal distaste cascading down from the brass, that meeting attendees distracted through E-device updating, is shunned upon; but there are not too many of those traditional heads-forward-must meeting purist companies around these days.

But is E-device updating an act of poor manners and discourtesy or simply more a sign of the times? While it’s undeniable that some are massaging their grocery list on their gadgets while someone is talking during a meeting, it’s much more common that the digital fidgeter is up to something much more vital and productive — like trying to keep pace in real-time with business demands. The problem is that you really can’t distinguish between the personal and work related fidgeting, nor can one presume they know which the fidgeter is up to. Besides that, the meeting attendee might be recording valuable notes on what’s being imparted by the speaker. You just never know, so it’s hard to regulate digital fidgeting.

Today’s fast-paced, real-time business demands real-time updating and the ability to be accessible to current and prospective clients.

The game has changed, and to keep pace, so too do the rules and expectations need to change. The requirement of uninterrupted eye contact and body language has now been replaced in many business corners by a more forgiving and expected degree of heads-down device-surfing. Some meeting content and some speakers command more undivided attention than others, and the wise employee is the one that recognizes those moments. But for the most part, the meeting world has changed and evolved right on cue with the way the work-world and the IT capabilities have changed.

It’s a matter of expectations, coupled with the reality that being spontaneous to react to work needs is the greater North Star. Quick reaction and response time has been elevated to equal-status with the quality of the reaction itself, in many instances, and that’s underscored in the way that meetings and attendees are no longer fixated on the speaker — nor in many cases are they expected to be. Just like in school where students drift their multi-tasking focus between the instructor and their note taking, an increasing number meeting attendees today stay current and updated on their work priorities through their E-gadgets during meetings — it’s the new normal.

Focusing on the speaker is less critical or seen as discourteous. Delivery of measurable results, by capturing the gist and objective of the speakers, in between the digital surfing, is the greater prize in many of today’s organizations so that workers can prioritize and remain real-time business current through their devices. Running a successful meeting requires a new recognition and shifting of the meeting manager and presenter’s expectations to match the business demands of the day.

For help planning a meeting that will keep your audience’s attention visit or call one of our amazing meeting planners at 877-424-9767 today!

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Ray Lindenberg

Ray Lindenberg

Ray Lindenberg is President of WANY - The Workspace Association of New York, and IN-Cert - The International Cooperative of A+ Certified Workspaces; and is the Chief Consultant & Innovation Officer at the Winning Workspaces Hospitality Group.