Do People Text While You Talk? Maybe It’s Not Them, It’s You

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Business presenters often complain about the sight of audience members texting and tweeting away while they speak. I choose to see it as a challenge instead of an annoyance.

First, let’s be clear: distracted audiences are nothing new. I remember a college professor kicking a student out of class for reading a newspaper as nonchalantly as if he were at the breakfast table.

(Other students were more subtle. I worked on the school paper and we caught hell from readers when we failed to place the crossword in the corner of the page, which made it fit neatly and discretely when the broadsheet is folded in quarters.)

And just because somebody’s watching your presentation with no devices in hand doesn’t mean they’re paying attention to what you’re saying. For all you know, behind that steady gaze they could be planning their dinner menu or their to-do list or their escape route.

So when you’re confronted with a sea of glowing screens, try upping your game: increase the energy and pace, cut material, ask a question, shake things up — whatever it takes to get the audience’s attention back on the subject at hand.

And if that doesn’t work, assume they’re live-tweeting your speech and urging all their colleagues to rush to Conference Room B to hear it themselves.

Or, just possibly, it might mean you’re not as fascinating as you think you are. I know I’ve been on the audience side plenty of times, and my phone has saved me from many a dull and dreary presentation.

Which is why I sit in the back of the room — I mean, you don’t want to be obnoxious about it.