I think I’ll just check my messages.

OK, let’s be honest. You’ve heard the siren song call of your smart phone on more than one occasion. How wonderful to be able to check your email inbox, voice mail, or maybe even read a few posts on the social media site of your choice. When you’ve got a few free moments, why not take care of those little things, right?

To tell you the truth, I have no problem with that myself. Just remember that one of those “free moments” is not when you are sitting at a networking event listening to a speaker. There is only one thing you should be doing at that point — paying attention.

Why? I mean you’re their to connect with other people, right? It’s not like you can do that while that person is in the front of the room going on and on about whatever it is. Why couldn’t you just sneak a quick peek now and again?

Here are a few ideas that will hopefully keep you on task.

  1. Information. OK, this one should be obvious, but conceivably the organizers didn’t just pick this person at random. In fact they probably believe that the presenter has some sort of valuable information to convey. You might have something to learn here.
  2. Discussion. Paying attention will give you something to talk about with the other attendees and also with those you might meet later who didn’t get to attend the presentation.
  3. Connection. As a professional speaker myself, I can tell you if you come up to me after I speak and tell me about some specific piece of my presentation that either really spoke to you or that you will use to make your life better, I will pretty much love you forever. Despite appearances, speakers are a bundle of insecurities just like everyone else. They like to know that their efforts haven’t been wasted.
  4. Reputation. As an audience member, when I see someone near me checking the results of their fantasy football league during a presentation, that person goes down a notch in my eyes. Their inattention tells me that they don’t value improving themselves through learning and that they don’t have the ability to focus on a situation for longer than a few minutes. Probably not someone I want to refer if I can avoid it.
  5. Concentration. Not just for you, but for those around you, you checking your phone can be a distraction.
  6. Good manners. (Sorry, I couldn’t come up with another “-tion” word.) When it comes down to it, checking your electronic tether is just plain inconsiderate. It disrespects the speaker who has put no small effort into the information she’s presenting. It disrespects the event organizer who went to the trouble of arranging the speaker. It disrespects your fellow attendees by creating a disruption, no matter how small.
Of course there will be times when you really do need to be in immediate contact with your home or office. These instances are few and far between. You have to ask yourself the question whether the message that might be waiting is really worth alienating the people you are with right now. Most of the time, unless it is truly a matter of life and death, it isn’t.
Whatever it is, it can wait for twenty minutes.