Earlier this week, I sat in on a media presentation. The presenter wasn’t the most engaging and apparently he was filling in for someone else at last minute notice. You could see he was nervous and just wanted to get through the PowerPoint as soon as possible. He stopped in the middle of his presentation and, in a tone riddled with annoyance, said to someone in the audience “Should I wait until you’re finished texting to continue?” Now the truth is, many people were using their smartphones throughout the session. So why did he call out this one person? He spotlighted her because she was in his direct line of sight. She was sitting right in front of him and didn’t think anything of whipping out her phone and chatting it up!
I began to think of my classes and how at the beginning of the semester some students think it is alright to text while I’m teaching or answer a call in class. Contrary to their beliefs, there is a standard of cell phone etiquette that you should put into action when you are listening to a lecturer or presenter of any sort. Practicing this short list of standards will help you to convey that you respect the person and the work they put into sharing information with you:
- Turn off that cell phone ringer! Vibrate is an option if the phone won’t be resting against anything that makes the vibration louder.
- Put your cell phone away (out of site). Hiding your phone behind your bag or in your lap while you type away is not the same as putting it away.
- If you must keep your phone visible, then turn it face down so that the LED light notifications do not distract you or the presenter.
- If you anticipate receiving a call or responding to a series of text messages, then take the conversation outside until you are done and ready to return.
- When using the phone as a tool in the session, let your presenter know ahead of time that you will be using it for that reason. For instance, if you will need to calculate data that will be discussed, then you should explain that you will keep your phone out in order to utilize the calculator.
As with everything else, there are exceptions to the rule. In today’s world, with everyone being wired (or WiFi-ed), a presenter might ask the audience to keep their phones available to access the Internet in order to surf the web, visit a specific website, tweet about the lecture, or any of the other awesome things you can do on a smartphone now. I take the liberty of incorporating that kind of technology usage into my lectures all the time and so do many others. In those cases, by all means comply with the request. Just keep in mind that the main purpose of you working on your cell phone is still to participate in the activity led by your presenter and not to text your BFF for an hour.