Meeting Interrupted? Communicating Why We Use Technology.

February 20, 2012

How are you communicating that you are using event technology?

Last week, while I was sitting and waiting for a flight, I noticed the laptop of the woman sitting next to me. On the front of it (so that onlookers could see) was a big sticker that said “I’m taking electronic notes using Evernote.”  I was so curious about this tag, and glanced at it a few times. As I was getting ready to ask her why she had it, the man sitting across from us opened up the conversation. “Hey, I noticed your sticker, may I ask what it is about?”  She explained that it was so that when she is in meetings (she works for a major food manufacturer), she wanted people to know that she was note taking and not being “rude.” She didn’t want the presence of an open laptop to suggest that she was checking email, playing on the internet, etc.  The man explained that he worked for Microsoft and was happy that she was promoting his product. He offered to send her a laptop skin to replace the sticker and they exchanged business cards.

As I observed this conversation, I decided that it was appropriate for me to chime in and share that I found it interesting and that I would be blogging about it.  Unfortunately, it was time to board the plane and I didn’t have time to explain my perspective to them. Perhaps they were thinking that I was interested in writing about his offer to send her the laptop skin (I found that slick on his part).  What they didn’t know is that I was contemplating the need to explain why, in 2012, that we are using a computer in a meeting.

We talk a lot about adult learning preferences and how different people learn in different ways, including typing notes of tweeting from a meeting. However, I suspect that her use of the laptop was more for internal meetings to “discuss business.” In my mind, I imagine someone is at the front of the room explaining what their strategy for a product launch is or how they are changing the production schedule to address a shortage of materials.  I imagine that the “owner” of the meeting might be offended if someone is typing notes and would prefer the traditional use of paper and pens  where the exact same notes would be typed after the meeting because that’s what they are used to.

I remember being in a meeting a few years ago and I was taking notes on my laptop. I can close my eyes and still see the horrified and disapproving look on the face of the facilitator as he watched me type away as he spoke. How dare I bring a computer into a meeting? Computers are for sitting on desks. They aren’t meant to be used for such things as efficiency and quick access to information.  Oh and turn off ALL cellular telephones. These are strictly prohibited until we reach a comfortable cruising altitude of never!

Listen up, times are changing and people are still at different stages of acceptance that technology is here to stay. I applaud the use of the sticker on the laptop to inform people of technology in a meeting. What the woman was doing was communicating the purpose of the laptop to help the other meeting attendees understand what she was doing. What she did was what everyone needs to do when we are introducing new things, technology or otherwise.  In order to gain buy-in, we need to communicate the purpose and help people to understand the benefits.

Until we reach a point where technology is not feared, it is important that we “early adopters” help to bring people with us and not leave them behind. Whether we are talking about event technology, marketing technology or simply technology that brings us efficiency and productivity in our daily lives, there will be degrees of adaptivity. Communicating purpose and value can help get everyone on the same page.