Image by William Iven

Do you really need to be on your laptop?

I visited my old agency today and I sat in on a meeting where 3 out of 5 people were on laptops. This mightn’t seem all that strange but it really stuck out.

At Topshop, we don’t bring laptops to meetings. Mainly because we don’t all have them. When I first started there I found it strange, but like anything you get used to stuff.

I’m a bit of a traditionalist; I like taking notes by hand. While it takes a bit more time if I ever need to type them up, I think there’s something in processing the information twice.

But aside from that, it feels more respectful. It gives whoever is running the meeting a sense that you are present.

Laptop screens, by design, create a wall. Anyone sitting behind one will often become more focused on what is happening there than what is happening in the room. Tablets are a bit different, but only marginally.

I’ve done a lot of presenting. It’s one of those things that becomes more natural over time, but you will always judge whether it went well based on the way you read the room.

While you never really fixate eye contact with any one person for too long, you are constantly darting your eyes around. When the majority of people are looking down to a laptop as opposed to you, it’s quite off putting. They could be engaged with what you’re saying, but it doesn’t come across that way.

Distraction also comes into it. In the meeting I was in today there was a constant sound of tapping on keyboards. While this could have been people making notes, it wasn’t really of those meetings. It was more a chat and an update from a supplier. I couldn’t help but think the people on laptops were either on emails, doing other work, or you know, Facebook. In which case, why be in the meeting?

It’s kind of odd. One of the main complaints I hear from both agency people and those on client side is that there are always too many meetings that just drag on. But if these grumbles are borne of meetings where everyone is kind of distracted by other stuff, is the meeting the problem or the way we are allowing them to be run?

If someone has taken the time to prepare for a meeting, and people have decided it warrants their time to attend, it doesn’t make sense to bail out on giving full attention.

I get that technology speeds up things. Laptops make sense. But just as phones don’t have a place at the dinner table (call me old fashioned) I don’t think it should be default to bring our laptops out at meetings. Or at the very least, that everyone be on them.

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