The Case For and Against Electronics in Meetings


If you work in an office, you are likely familiar with this scene:

You walk into a meeting and the others who have arrived before you are sitting around a conference room table, on phones and laptops, heads down, typing or reading. This behavior might change somewhat as the meeting begins, but still the sound of typing can be heard under whoever is speaking.

Are they taking notes? Are they responding to emails? Does their activity help make the meeting better, or is it a distraction?

Companies large and small are battling with this question – is it okay for people to use their devices in meetings?

Let’s solve that problem now.

The Case For Electronics in Meetings

First of all, any argument for the use of electronics in meetings acknowledges their inherent value. Whether you are using them to take notes, share work, collaborate, or conduct research, access to phones, tablets, and laptops can make everyone at the meeting a more productive member of the team.

That’s what is so great about these devices. When used correctly, they are additive. They make each one of us smarter and more productive.

These are tools that we should use to have better meetings. And any argument against their use ignores the simple fact that these devices are so ubiquitous in today’s offices that to try to ban them would do little more than cause confusion and resentment.

The Case Against Electronics in Meetings

The case for electronics in meetings is a blue-sky version of the perfect meeting, and ignores reality. In the real world, when we allow electronics in meetings, we are inviting distraction.

With our phones out, and our screens open in front of us, we are much more likely to ignore (fully or partly) the conversation happening right in front of us for the other attention-deserving items at our disposal. From email to text to one-off projects – whether work-related or personal – we become tempted to let our minds and fingers wander away from the meeting at hand.

We are more productive when we put down the devices and focus 100% on the conversation. Electronics are fine in the office in general, but should not be allowed in meetings.


Different people, and different companies, will have to answer this for themselves. But for me, a policy of no electronics creates a better atmosphere, and a more productive meeting.

Where necessary, one person in the meeting can be designated note-taker. That person may be the only person on their laptop, and will share her notes with the rest of the team as part of the meeting’s follow up activities.

Many offices will allow for a shared computer, a screen for presentations that will allow for someone to “drive” the meeting from a computer. In this case, that should be the only device in use, and can be shared for presenting, researching, displaying, and note-taking.

This type of policy, if implemented and upheld in the right way, will lead to better meetings.

3 Tips for Better Meetings

Meetings suck. Not just because they’re long and boring and wastes of everyone’s time. Though they are that. But also because they all too often get nothing accomplished, result in more confusion, and lead to even more meetings.

It’s time for a meeting revolution. Meetings done well certainly still have a place in today’s office culture. But they have to be done right. And that means rethinking meetings in their entirety.

Here are three tips for better meetings:

  1. Clear agendas. A good meeting is one where the agenda was prepared well in advance of the meeting. There was a clear reason why a meeting was necessary. The meeting has a goal. An agenda was created and shared with everyone for feedback ahead of time via email. Everyone knows who is leading the discussion and what role they’re expected to play during the meeting. Nothing ever comes up for the first time in a meeting. If it’s not on the agenda, it is not discussed.
  2. Clear outcomes. The conclusion of any meeting should be a clear set of next steps. Decisions should be made, and work should be assigned. Someone should be assigned to take notes, create a task list, and distribute a copy of those tasks to all meeting participants directly after the meeting is over. Those people that have work assigned to them should know when it’s due, and a follow up should be set to see that it’s done on time and to the satisfaction of all parties involved.
  3. Strict time and attendance limits. The biggest problem with meetings today is that they are overcrowded and never-ending. No meeting should last a second longer than it absolutely needs to. Along with the agenda, there should be clear start and end times, for each topic if necessary. If a discussion requires more time than the meeting allows, reconvene at a later time. Commit to ending the meeting on time, every time. And only those people directly involved in the decision making process should be involved. If a team member is not deemed critical to the topic being discussed, don’t drag them in.

Keep them lean and short. Prepare ahead of time. And get things accomplished. That’s how you do meetings right.