Managing Audience Behavior: Devices

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2015 12:57 Written by Pam Chambers Tuesday, 14 June 2011 05:09

Earlier, my sister Julie asked what we speakers/teachers can do when we notice that people in the audience are glancing down, using their devices while we are speaking.

What I do about that depends partly on my relationship with them. Am I a guest speaker at a Rotary Club? If so, I hardly have the right to ask them to stop. I suppose I would ask myself to be more engaging so that people would rather listen to me than “go away” to conduct personal business.

Recently I asked a student in a one-day class to please refrain from texting during the session. He seemed offended by this and announced that he, as an adult, has a choice about sending a quick e-mail — that this causes no disturbance. I explained to everyone that I should have made my expectation clear at the beginning of the class. I am now adding that rule to my short list. “Be on time. Be willing to be a student. Save eating for the breaks. Save using your devices for the breaks, unless you’re using them to take notes.”

But even more recently, I’m saying something else: “When you do something that removes yourself from the group, even momentarily, it’s as though you are removing your pot-luck dish from the buffet table. Now something is missing. You are acting as though your contribution doesn’t matter. It does matter.” People listen respectfully to this, and cooperate with my expectation — truly for the good of all.

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