Leave your phones on – How social media is changing business etiquette

imageAs a software start-up building on the Azure cloud, we’re part of the Microsoft BizSpark community. At their last event, there was live video streaming and Twitter interaction throughout. You didn’t need to be in the room to be part of the event and its conversations.

A fitting example of how insights could be shared in real time was given by Loic Le Meur who wrote and posted a blog inspired by his morning keynote during an afternoon panel discussion (if you look closely at Loic’s photos you can see Mark and I on the front row).

Compare this with a recent IoD event, where a glowing introduction to the event’s guest speaker was preceded by an instruction for attendees to switch off their phones. Ironically the central message of the event was that businesses need to be more open about sharing insights and make them more accessible. It was an excellent interactive workshop, but it completely missed that there are new tools for these (old) rules!

It frustrated me that I’d been asked to switch my phone off. I like to share real time insights and appreciate when Twitter friends (those I follow) do the same, especially when there’s an event of interest that I can’t physically join. Tweets widen the reach of conversations and add depth and perspective – real time responses add to my experience of events and it’s not unusual for me to ask a question to the room that has been put to me by someone outside of it.

When I raised these points to the guest speaker he was quick to see the irony and the benefits – especially when I mentioned that my tweets had caught the eye of a committee member at another IoD branch and might result in an additional speaking engagement.

Being a relatively new committee member of the IoD’s Young Directors Forum (YDF) I wasn’t sure how this comparison/feedback would be taken… I’m pleased to report there is now a commitment to request mobiles are left on (switched to silent) before future speaker introductions and the hashtag #YDF will be used for any related tweets.

I think good manners are very important and I’m not suggesting that it’s acceptable to text during dinner or use a laptop while driving (thanks Ajeet). Equally though, be aware that those tapping away on their phones may actually be listening more intently than those who aren’t, and increasing the reach of your meeting.

(Photo Credit: Laughing Squid)