If you’re having meetings with your organization every few months and have only a couple hours to give your messaging and discuss, eliminating distractions will be helpful.
A huge distraction for your staff can be their mobile phones, but this topic is controversial, as some would argue that devices can enhance productivity. While this may be true, they can also be a slippery slope, as one moment you are on task, and the next you are scrolling through Facebook… Whichever distraction is in place, it’s taking away from a productive group discussion.
Here are 6 ways you can combat the problem:
1. Emphasize that you would like your staff to be present and participating. If they are typing away on their laptops it can be super distracting and means they are not engaged in discussion.
2. Avoid having extra people in the room who are not really needed for the meeting. If they are preoccupied in the meeting with other things, it may not be a good use of their time, simply ask them not to attend.
3. Schedule a break in the meeting. If it’s a three hour meeting, take a break at 1.5 hours for 15 minutes. Announce at the beginning of the meeting that the break will be the best time to check emails or make phone calls, and not at any other time throughout the meeting.
4. If anyone prefers to take notes electronically (on laptop, ipad, mobile phone), ask them to keep that to a minimum, because the goal is to have every member present and engaged in conversation. Emphasize engagement & discussion. once they start “quickly checking” their text, email, and news—you’ve lost them.
5. Announce at the beginning of the meeting that you’d like the meeting to be “electronics free” including mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. Provide paper and pens for notes.
6. Another more blunt approach is to have every member of the board meeting put their mobile phones in a tray on the side of the room. It’s a bit aggressive but if you do it with politeness, it’s a way to emphasize how serious you are.
If you want to facilitate a productive group discussion, it’s up to you to create the environment for this to happen. If the board meeting consists of hours of slides, it can become too much information and the member’s attention can dwindle. The best results come when people are participating in discussions and debates about the business, rather than being lectured to.
It’s a good idea to send out materials 72 hours in advance, but try to avoid handing out a printed binder, this enables members to “scroll ahead”. The best approach is to have everybody on the same page at the same time.
Apply some of these tips to minimize distractions in meetings.