Go Topless!

Ban Laptops and Third Screens From Your Meetings

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Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
I have written in recent postings about workplace issues such as e-mail etiquette and the need to disconnect at times from our technology. Now I have another related issue that is increasingly getting on my nerves and affecting productivity: laptop distractions.

I believe listening skills in the workplace are rapidly eroding in an era where it has become commonplace to bury one's face in a screen, whether it be a laptop or wireless device. The primary setting for such offenses is in meetings. How many times have you been in a meeting, where you are talking and someone in the room is looking at his/her SmartPhone/iPhone/BlackBerry? Or worse, you're presenting and several people are on their laptops clicking away on keyboards. And you wonder: Are they taking notes on your comments or checking e-mail? Long ago, I banned any personal screen from my agency management meetings. And you know what? We haven't lost a client or missed a deadline during those two hours of being disconnected.

I know I'm not the only business leader irked by these serial distracters, who spend more time making eye contact with a screen than a human being. Fortunately, there's a movement afoot to ban all laptops and wireless devices from meetings. It's called "Topless Meetings," as in laptop-less. And it is what it says -- no laptops (and other devices with a personal screen) allowed in a conference room!

Think of the beauty of going topless:
  • Your colleagues no longer will ask questions that have been already asked and answered, because they are paying attention.
  • Productivity will increase, because more ideas will be exchanged and problems resolved.
  • Rudeness levels will sink dramatically, and respect in the workplace will soar.
  • Face-to-face meetings will once again have relevance.
As marketing agencies are very similar to technology companies (where this problem became epidemic), we are notorious for burying our heads in the internet while meetings are taking place. I propose that anyone who believes a meeting is so unimportant that he/she disconnects with the speaker and connect online, then that person should not attend in the first place. And companies that want to embrace going topless can have a place (cabinet) for people to store their laptops while a meeting is taking place.

The thought of a topless world for meetings is inspiring. It would take us back to the days when people actually listened.
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