Distracted when presenting?

This conversation, with someone from a global company, points up a big problem in the age of the BlackBerry. Are...

This conversation, with someone from a global company, points up a big problem in the age of the BlackBerry. Are your ears burning?

A. I find it really off-putting when I’m giving presentations to senior managers because they’re constantly using their mobile phones and BlackBerries and laptops.
K What’s the company policy on this?
A. Officially they’re not supposed to use them, but they all do. And they’re not just using them secretly down by their side. They’ve got their laptops right out in front. Then you have to go over things again because they weren’t listening.
K It’s not just your company. This is happening more and more, particularly with the blackberry. But this is also putting those people under enormous pressure and stress, because they’re meant to be contactable 24 hours a day. You go to the office loos and there are people in the cubicles talking on their phones. According to the Economist, 84% of users say they check their BlackBerry just before going to bed and as soon as they wake up.
Getting back to your presentation, what you can do is establish the ground rules at the beginning of your presentation. “I’m going to update you on the project. How would you like to run this? Do you want to use your laptops and blackberries while I’m talking? Or would you rather turn them all off while I take you through the plan? It might mean I can do it faster and save us all a bit of time.”
This way you can get the issue out into the open in a non-confrontational way and it forces them to take responsibility, to make a conscious decision about it. It depends on the culture of course, but in most cases, you’ll find they put their toys away. On the other hand, if nothing is ever said, there are no rules and no one knows where they stand.
Also, you as a team leader can set a standard of behaviour at your own level by giving full attention to your team members when they are presenting to you.

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