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Stop Multitasking in My Meeting!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I hate useless meetings. They're counterproductive and horrible. I'd rather sit through a root canal -- twice -- than show up at a useless meeting.

And nothing makes me madder than having to attend a follow-up meeting to a previous meeting because some of the original attendees weren't paying attention.

And why weren't they paying attention? Because these brainiacs believed they were capable of killing several birds with one stone by multitasking. (You know who I'm talking about, you BlackBerry addicts.)

I recently gave a presentation that involved a PowerPoint, a great deal of audience interaction, and me standing in front of 15 people doing the dog-and-pony show. I'm not saying I'm the greatest presenter on the planet, but I'm a whole lot more fun than watching paint dry.

I know how to engage my audience, so there I was, asking questions, making eye contact, getting laughs -- and then I noticed the guy at the end of the table. The one who thought he was being so discreet by holding his BlackBerry just so under the edge of the table so no one could see him sending e-mail. Or checking his stocks. Or playing Brickbreaker. Or whatever.

Oh, but I noticed. Not once during my presentation did he even glance up. Or chuckle at my brilliant wit. It was incredibly obvious that he was the only person in the room not paying attention.

So of course, what happens? He finally comes out of his BlackBerry coma with five minutes left in our meeting time, looks at me and says, "I'm not sure I completely understand where you're coming from with this plan. Can we circle back and discuss this next week -- same group, same time?"

Cue the horror music as my head explodes.

A plea, people, to all you wanna-be multitaskers: Unless it's mission-critical, don't check your e-mail, text your spouse, or IM your manager during a meeting. It's rude, it keeps you from focusing on the task at hand, and it can catch everyone in a never-ending death spiral of ever-more-pointless meetings.

And be forewarned if you're ever temped to multitask in a meeting I'm running: Next time, I'm bringing my slingshot.

(image by Joi via Flickr, CC 2.0)

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