Cell Smackdown

The ubiquity of cell phones is unavoidable. Expecting audiences to give a speaker their full attention, including eye contact, is a thing of the past. However, do you know what people are actually doing when they’re glued to their cell phones? Are they checking their stock portfolio, texting friends, or visiting Facebook and Instagram? Maybe not.

We’ve polled audiences, and many say they are taking notes; commenting to colleagues on our presentation; or viewing our website and books. When you speak, if you demand that everyone put down their cell phones, you may be missing the mark and offending your audience. But if their lack of attention really bothers you, seek out the friendly faces in the audience for reinforcement.

There are also ways you can compete with the small screen. Include variety– in your movement, tone, and content. Brains need changeup to avoid getting bored. Use a white board, as well as PowerPoint. Draw in your audience, including rhetorical questions and interactive exercises. Make them feel part of the conversation, as opposed to sitting through a lecture. Speak directly to them, not at them. Flex your speaking muscles and win the cell smackdown.

1 Comment

  1. William Hall says:

    When someone you’re speaking to pulls out their cell phone it is a signal…..a reaction. Sometimes it can be strong feedback that you’re not holding their attention.

    I was delivering training to a group of about 50 people for a large company. The session was going well….except that one young man in the back kept pulling out his cell phone. I was tempted to call-him-out during the workshop but instead approached him during a break.

    I started the conversation with curiosity by asking him if there was something urgent going happening. He explained to me that his wife was at the drive up window of Starbucks when her car was blocked in by police cars. She was suddenly in the middle of a police action. The Starbucks was being robbed. He explained that his texting with his wife acted as a secure base during the stressful time.

    My takeaway: Always start with curiosity and you never know what other people are going through.

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