Meetings matter. A good leader won’t waste time with a poorly-planned, poorly-executed meeting that won’t accomplish anything. However, a lack of preparation isn’t the only threat to your meeting’s success. Consider this scenario: you’ve spent weeks planning for an important meeting, putting together a killer slideshow, hilarious anecdotes, and compelling statistics. Then, in the middle of your meeting, you look up to find half of your meeting attendees paying more attention to their phones, laptops, and tablets than they are to your amazing presentation.

Technology can be great, but it can also cause problems. Many business leaders these days assume that more technology is inherently good, but this is a dangerous assumption. Before you fill your meeting with all manner of gadgets and gizmos, consider these factors.

Technology Can Hurt Productivity

Technology in meetings could be used productively as well as be a distraction.  Attendees browsing Facebook definitely aren’t contributing to your time together, but neither are the people sending emails or reading text messages. If attendees aren’t using their device for the sake of the meeting, they’re likely not paying attention, a fact backed up by a Stanford study which found that media multitaskers don’t pay attention or retain information as well as those with a singular focus.  The bottom-line: If people aren’t paying attention – even if that’s because they are distracted by technology – your meeting is wasted, and you will likely have to hold an additional meeting.1

Technology Can Be Difficult to Escape

It can be hard to escape media notifications. The notifications don’t stop once you leave the office: 50% of Americans check their email in bed. Studies show that office workers receive an average of 121 emails per day, and many Americans feel they receive too many emails.2 Between phones, computers, and TV, people are inundated with media. Why not give meeting attendees a break? Your meeting might be the perfect chance to close the laptop and silence the phone. Not only will it help productivity, it could also make your meetings feel like an oasis where attendees can, if only for a little while, escape the stresses of technology and media.

Technology Can Increase Meeting Duration

Because technology can often be a distracting presence in meetings, meetings are often prolonged unnecessarily. Who wants a meeting to go any longer than necessary? No one. But people checking their phones, sending emails, or stepping out to take a call will add to your overall meeting time. Good meetings are marked by efficiency, and participants distracted by technology can cause longer meetings, which cuts into time that could’ve been spent doing other work.  Consider the no technology rule and revert back to pen and paper. Not only will this help attendees stay more engaged, retain more of what is discussed, but they will also keep the meeting on task.

Technology Can Harm Relationships

Let’s say you’re running a meeting, and you notice four attendees on their devices. How can you possibly know their reasons for using their devices? The first person could be taking notes on your meeting, while the other three could be busy sending emails. Two of the attendees could be looking at notes or other information pertinent to your meeting, but the other two could be scrolling through Facebook. The person running the meeting is therefore left to assume, unless they actively question every individual they see using a device. This dynamic is unhelpful, as it can hinder trust and respect. If you stop your meeting to single out someone on their phone, only to find out they were using their phone to take notes in your meeting, both you and the person you called out will be embarrassed. It can be difficult for the person running the meeting to trust that attendees using their devices are using those devices for the right reasons.

Similarly, a meeting attendee who sees another attendee on their phone might wrongly assume that the person is distracted or rude, which can harm the relationship between those two individuals. A study cited by Forbes concluded that 76% of employees think checking emails or texts during a meeting is unacceptable.3 Workplace dynamics can be negatively affected if employees view other people as rude or less invested in meetings.  Now, imagine what can happen if that meeting is something critical to your business objectives or where you hope to gain insight from meeting attendees. Stop for a moment and decide if technology is essential to your meeting.

Writing by Hand is Better For Retention and Processing

Let’s assume for the moment that every person in your meeting is using their phone merely for note-taking. That’s much better than attendees using their phones for Twitter or email, right? Well, yes, but making notes on a phone or laptop is still less effective than taking notes by hand. Research shows that taking notes on a device can result in shallower processing than writing out your notes, and the physical act of note-taking improves retention.4 Even if meetings aren’t distracted by email, texting, or Facebook, note-taking on a device is still less helpful than writing notes on a piece of paper.  The take-away:  If you want your meeting to be memorable in a way that impacts behavior going tech-free may be a better option.


Technology is not inherently bad. There are many ways that our devices are helpful. However, it is naïve to assume that technology is risk-free. There are dangers that come with our devices, and there are ways that our technology can get in the way of an effective meeting. We’re not saying you should never use any technology in your meeting—but you should consider all the factors.

Looking for help planning your next corporate meeting? Contact Gavel International for more information about our programs.



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