Twenty seconds into my train journey to London this morning I broke out into a cold sweat. I realised I had left my iPhone and my Blackberry at home. Ironically I was on route to Melcrum’s Social Media conference. What a day to be without the means to communicate!
I managed to find the venue despite having no access to Google maps, which was a relief. It didn’t take long before I found myself glancing enviously around the packed room at my peers as some brandished their mobiles quite brazenly and others glanced furtively between their legs where they engaged with the outside world with a little more discretion.
Two things struck me. First, it cost a fair few quid to be in the room. £625 to be precise. I’m guessing that most delegates were there by virtue of company money. Surely they owed it to their paymaster to pay a bit more attention to the distinguished speakers?
Secondly, how did the speakers feel about giving it their all up on stage to an audience that clearly wasn’t 100% focussed on their efforts? I know how irritated I get when people whip out a Blackberry and begin tap tap tapping during a meeting. Surely it is a simple question of good manners. If someone is presenting to us should we not all afford the presenter the basic courtesy of paying attention?
There is a senior executive at my place who thunders through the office regularly to and from his desk, focussed on nothing other than his Blackberry. I can’t help feeling he is missing a trick. His personal equity would increase significantly if he trousered his mobile, raised his eyes and engaged with the people around him.
Am I clinging on to old world values here? Could it be that etiquette has moved on? Are the new forms of communication changing acceptable norms? I don’t know the answer yet – although interestingly Wharton management professor Sigal Barsade suggests they probably are.
Perhaps it is a question of my inability to multi task? Maybe it is possible to write an email, an SMS message or Tweet whilst listening intently to someone else speaking to you. I had to marvel at the manual dexterity and multi tasking skills of a colleague of mine the other day who was tapping away on his Blackberry with one hand while his other hand was ensuring Percy was properly pointing at the porcelain….