How to Handle Phones in Innovative Presentations
The world has changed. Besides showing up late for meetings or innovative presentations, many people put their phones on the table in front of them, read and send text messages, surf the web, and check their Facebook page throughout your presentation.
Ray Anthony worked with a special, highly elite U. S. military group (he can’t say which one). What surprised and pleased him enormously was that prior to entering the meeting room, everyone has to shut off his phone and place it in a box outside the room. Wouldn’t that be nice in corporate environments? No such luck, so as presenters here are a few tips for you to consider:
Set the ground rules for phones accompanied perhaps with a slide showing a phone happily going to sleep. Communicate other guidelines designed to show courtesy and respect for other audience members. Suggest that if someone is expecting a really important call, he put his phone on vibrate and take the call outside the room.
Take out your own phone and put it on vibrate. Then ask everyone to take their phones out and do likewise. Wait for them to actually do it. In the event a phone rings, stop speaking. That signals that you have been rudely interrupted and will not continue until the distraction stops.
Don’t look at the person or call out his name. When the phone is turned off say, “Thank you” and continue.
Do something creative or use humor, which is especially effective in large-scale presentations or speeches. One keynote speaker, when hearing a phone go off in her large audience, hyperlinks to a video in her slide deck to show a flashing light (like on police and emergency vehicles) accompanied by a loud wailing siren audio blast with the words, “PHONE DISRUPTION!” that lasts about four seconds.
She then smiles, laughs, and says, “Sorry, that’s my automatic phone detecting device. You don’t want to hear that, so please make sure your phones are off. Thank you.” Just once is often enough to encourage people to follow phone protocol. Another professional speaker says “Is that call for me?” with a smile and playful intent rather than openly embarrassing the person.
One presenter has an interesting activity she uses to have fun with the message about phones during meetings. She buys cheap, used cellphones. She tells her group, “I love phones, but sometimes they can just disrupt others at meetings. I need a volunteer — well, actually two people to come up here and help me.”
As people are walking up, she slips an old phone into a transparent plastic freezer bag and locks it in. She throws it on the floor and tells each of the two people to “do a flamenco on it” while she plays flamenco music. She says it’s amazing how some people enjoy smashing the phone to pieces with their feet.
She then says with a huge smile, “Okay, these two phone terminators will get $10 each to dance on your phone if it goes off!” Many in the audience chuckle and laugh while getting the point. Still the occasional phone goes off, but not nearly as much as before she started using this clever tactic.