Master Facilitator Journal





The draw of cell phones and various electronic devices seems to be consuming an increasing amount of our attention. The inappropriate use of these technologies in classrooms, meetings, and working groups is a growing concern among many facilitators and trainers. In this week's article, Solving The Cell Phone Dilemma, we address ideas several facilitators have found useful in dealing with this issue. If you have additional ideas, please send them to me and I'll add them to the article.

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The Point


Solving The Cell Phone Dilemma
Know effective ways to deal with the use of electronic communication devices.



Logistics Skill


The draw of cell phones and various electronic devices seems to be consuming an increasing amount of our attention. The inappropriate use of these technologies in classrooms, meetings, and working groups is a growing concern among many facilitators and trainers. In this article we offer ideas several facilitators have found useful in dealing with this issue. If you have additional ideas, please send them to me and I'll include them in this article that get filed into the archives.


Application


Using Humor and Warmth

  • In some less formal groups, I might joke about having a good time during the meeting or training by saying, "So let's start by switching phones to vibrate and putting them in your pocket. I expect to see you smile great big throughout the day!"
    --Becky Lucas, CPT (Certified Performance Technologist) Owner, Training Partners Plus, Inc., Chief Learning Officer, RetailTraining.com --

  • When going over logistics and ground rules, I simply ask participants to mute or turn off their cell phones so I, and perhaps some of their fellow participants, don't feel compelled to dance to the music that most people have programmed for their ring tone. That always gets a laugh and only rarely does a phone disturb the environment. On those rare cases, I always stay true to my "warning" and break into dance!
    --Maggie Masimore,Independent Education Consultant--

  • Ask, "Is anyone expecting a 911 call today? A wife about to go into labor? A loved one having surgery? Nervous about kids being home with a sitter for the first time? A million dollar deal you are about to close? Or a boss who will fire you if you don't pick up the phone?" If no, please switch your phones off.
    --Becky Lucas, RetailTraining.com--

  • First I treat all participants like they are guests in my home. I introduce myself and introduce them to one another so they feel less anonymous. Next, I learn more about the participants (in a group exercise), their experience with the topic, what they want to accomplish, and what they plan to contribute to the process of getting what they want from the training. The question about what they plan to contribute generates answers like “my full attention”...and they said it, not me!

    This sets the stage to have the next conversation about housekeeping, which contains all the details that they care about, like when's lunch, how often do we break, where's the bathroom, and where are the fire exits. Then we discuss the details that are important to me including the topic of cell phones. I start the topic by asking the group: "Who can NOT turn your cell phone or PDA off between breaks?" (which I have already told them are ten minutes long and happen every hour so that they can check their phones.) If anyone answers yes, I simply ask them to please answer the call outside the room and in the meantime, please set your phones to “stun”; this gets a good-natured laugh from everyone. Then I simply ask everyone else to please turn off their phones, if they haven’t already done so, and I thank them. The final thing I do is invite them to call work at the first break and tell their colleagues that they don’t need to be called since the class is going to be very interesting and they don’t want to miss any of it.
    --Maia Beatty, Discover Your Powerful Presence

Using Ground Rules

  • When is comes to discussing ground rules or operating agreements, ask the group, "How can we best accommodate our phone needs in the least disruptive way so we can accomplish what we need to accomplish today?" And let THEM set the phone rules.
    --Becky Lucas, RetailTraining.com--

  • I ask that the phones be turned off and advise participants that they may leave them on, but I get to answer the phone if it rings or vibrates. I promise to be professional when I answer it, but the person will hear my voice first. Most phones get turned off.
    --Leslie Orr, Courseware Connection, Inc.--

  • We have a standard operating practice that states "anyone whose phone rings during a meeting buys a round of beers that night for everyone in the meeting". In a training session with fifty participants, this can be quit a motivator. The only opt out is if the person takes a call to close a big deal, in which case they would be expected to buy a round of drinks for everyone to celebrate the deal anyway.

    The Lagos Yacht club in Nigeria used to have a similar rule to stop the noise of phones in the clubhouse. This system works very well, and was self enforcing in that if anyone noticed someone had left their phone on, they would call them immediately from the bar phone to trigger a "punishment".
    --Neil Smith, Caterpillar Inc.--

  • Our office has many facilitators and trainers that often go on the road to conduct meetings. One of our standard agreements we make with groups is that if a cell phone or email alert goes off during a meeting in a multiday session, then the offender brings doughnuts for class the next day. Well, all of our instructors are somewhat aware of each other's schedules, so often our trainers will call each other when they think another is in the middle of a session just to test them and help keep us on our toes.
    --Jeff Wright, Organizational Performance Consultant--

Strong Arm Tactics

  • Hand out small 5x7 manila envelops. Ask participants to write their name on the envelope, put the phone on vibrate, and slip it into the envelope. Then collect the envelopes and tell everyone that the they can retrieve them at the breaks.
    --Becky Lucas, RetailTraining.com--


  • In the old days, saloons would collect guns before entering to drink. Perhaps these days we should ask that cell phones be surrendered into a basket before entering to collaborate. They can be as figuratively dangerous as guns in a bar when it comes to sober communication!
    --Steve Davis, FacilitatorU.com--

  • I ask attendees to turn cell phones off or set them to vibrate before I start presenting. If I hear one during my presentation, I stop what I'm doing and ask the offender to please leave the room.
    -- Ron Borland, Process Management Consultant--

  • The most effective thing I've seen a presenter do in this regard was to start his presentation by pulling out a flip phone, punching some keys, then placing the phone into a padded envelope, dropping the envelope to the floor, stomping on it repeatedly, picking the envelope back up, and then throwing it to the back of the room. He smiled politely and asked if anyone in the room had another device he could practice on. If so, all they had to do was let it make any noise during his presentation. With over 200 people in the room for a two-hour presentation, there was not a single instance of a phone ringing, beeping, or even buzzing. I think he made his point very well.
    --
    Ron Borland, Process Management Consultant--

Quid Pro Quo

  • At the beginning of a talk or a meeting, I tell people that cell phones are a part of business, and I do not want to deny someone of their chance to get more business, so I tell them to leave them on with whatever ringtone they have.

    After repeated interruptions, when I hear a cell phone ring, I pull mine out of my pocket, answer it and pretend to have a conversation for a short time about some innocuos subject like what's for dinner. It's drastic, but you would be amazed at the number of disgusted looks participants will give to the one on the phone.
    --Kurt C Schneider, VP, QIC--

  • Maintain absolute silence untill the person completes the call or silences the device.
    Declare this action in the beginning of your presentation, with a request to switch off electronic devices or to keep them in silent mode. I've seen this as a very effective tool and in most cases, the person is embarrassed to take the call, amidst huge peer pressure, while others get a warning.
    --Subhas C Biswas, Management Consultant--

Action


Which of the above would you like to try in your next meeting? Do you have strategies that have worked for you that you'd like to add to this list? If so, please send them to me by replying to this email and I'll add them to this list with attribution.


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