Multi-tasking is the new norm in today’s meeting environment. We attend meetings on cell phones in forty-three states that don’t ban using a hand-held device while driving and now it appears we secretly, or not so secretly, check up on e-mail, check in with our kids, and check out the latest headlines.
The boardroom is beginning to look more like a “bored” room, so we conducted a study which looked at how technology has changed and even threatened the very nature of meetings. We discovered that most respondents are grateful for the kind of technology that allows us to have “virtual meetings” but are downright frustrated by the less-than mannerly behaviors of their colleagues. Here are the key highlights:
- Three out of four people secretly multitask. Our U.S. survey conducted in March, 2010 indicated that more than half of all respondents secretly multi-task during meetings.
- Screen-sharing and web-conferencing are important. A full 64 percent rated the ability to share a screen via a Web conference as the greatest technological innovation in the last five years; video conferencing came in at close second at 59 percent. Respondents feel that when you add a visual element to a meeting, you better connect with others and that leads to greater productivity.
- Most people are are frustrated by the actions of others during meetings. 99 percent of U.S. IT decision makers feel this way; among the most annoying transgressions are:
- Having side conversations: 72%
- Checking personal emails: 58%
- Zoning out: 49%
- Checking sports scores: 43%
- Face-to-face moments still beat conference calls. The “face-to-face” wins out with 58 percent of all respondents saying they still prefer in-person meetings over conference calls. Why? Because people are less prone to disengage and more apt to engage when you are making eye contact – it’s as simple as that.
- Do as I say, not as I do: While half of us admit that we multi-task during meetings, only a fraction of us actually get caught in the action. (Roughly a third of IT decision makers got caught in the act, and less than a quarter of SMB owners).
Whether virtual or face to face: pencils down. I often ask my team to stop taking notes and just listen during an important meeting. I find that the single act of listening can be more powerful and productive as it helps encourage people to talk back during a meeting and really dig into an issue or initiative. Besides doing one thing well—like listening—is more efficient that constantly switching gears and losing momentum due to interruptions or multitasking.
A meeting isn’t just a business transaction, it’s an opportunity to establish trust. Building trust and being truly present are things that technology cannot ever replace, but we still work hard to make them as effective as possible.Boland T. Jones is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of PGi (NYSE:PGI) is a global virtual meetings company. You can read the PGi blog, PGiMeet, and follow PGi on Twitter at @PGiMeetTweet to learn more about PGi’s meeting technologies.