It's good to talk...and listen
Increasingly it's become the norm for people to have their mobiles and PDAs switched on during meetings and to then answer calls and emails once they have finished talking. Rudest of all are the people who answer calls without knowing who the caller is, effectively saying "anyone calling me, including a salesman from Mumbai, is more important than the people gathered together for this meeting."
It tends to be the boss who defines and dictates the behaviour (for this and all other protocols) - if the boss takes calls, answers emails, tweets during a meeting then it's fine for the team too. I attended one meeting recently where 5 of the 7 people present took a call or answered an email - and no one seemed put out in the slightest!
Not only do I find it incredibly rude but also incredibly distracting and so I've adopted a new policy - I now start a meeting by asking if anyone has any calls to make before we start and if anyone has anything so important that they might need to be excused from the meeting to deal with it. So far, everyone has stated they haven't anything that significant and the meeting has proceeded uninterrupted however when I see someone on their blackberry taping away I just stop whatever I'm doing and wait for them to finish. On the 3 occasions is has recently happened the crackberry addict has stated: "it's ok, carry on" to which I now reply, "No, I'm happy to wait until you've finished." Sometimes is isn't enough, and the individual just continues at which point I point out that whilst they might be blessed with the ability to multitask I unfortunately can only give my full concentration to one thing at a time.
In coaching sessions I'm building in breaks now every 60 minutes, never more than 90, as it's clear some people just cannot be disconnected from their network for any longer - this is a sad indictment of how technology is now our master rather than our servant.
It's good to talk, even better to listen.