When you’re in a meeting with other people, be with them, not with your laptop.
Respect for Others
If you care about the person who’s speaking in a meeting, you’ll look at them. You’ll be with them. You’ll engage.
If you have your laptop open in a meeting, you’re communicating that something else is more important than the meeting. You’re communicating to others that observe your stance that the content, purpose, or outcome of that meeting is not as important as something else you’ve got going on privately on the screen of your computer. It’s super easy to be distracted by a screen in a meeting, and it’s super important to give others the respect of your attention when in their presence.
Laptops Integral to a Meeting
A meeting is not usually convened for the purpose of having you be on your laptop during it. But sometimes meetings are working meetings. Perhaps a spreadsheet is referenced. Perhaps people are taking turns sharing their screen to a video conference screen. There’s a moment when using your laptop is required, so you have it handy. Use it. Be empowered by that tool to make the meeting better. Then close it.
If you don’t want to shut down you computer for some reason, like for keeping a video conference session open, close the lid most of the way in order to make it clear that your attention is on the meeting and the people in the meeting.
If you’re bored, either try to fully engage or leave. If the meeting doesn’t need you, leave. If there are too many people in the meeting for you to effectively participate, leave. The more unengaged people there are in a meeting, the less helpful the meeting will be. Be gracious, but get up and go.
I’ll Just Listen In
Sometimes we’ll attend a meeting thinking we just want to hear what’s going on. We might – might – hear something useful. We don’t expect it’s very probable, but just in case, we’ll attend that recurring meeting one more time.
This is a losing bet. If you can’t fully engage, don’t go. If you just want to hear what’s going on, it would be better to hear it over a video conference stream than to go sit in the middle of the meeting half zoned-out. Make sure you turn off your video so people don’t take cues from your non-interest as displayed on the big conference room screen.
Multitasking doesn’t work anyway. You only end up doing two things less than or equal to half as well anyway. Skip the meeting. Ask a trusted attendee for the 5 minute highlight version.
Close your laptop and go to the meeting – or don’t. Either choice is great.
Is this a challenge for you? What am I saying? The pull of the screen is a challenge for the Internet-connected human kind. How are you going to decide whether to skip or engage in your next meeting?