I recently started reading Rands In Repose, a business blog of sorts that is full of advice I will never need (how to enjoy a gambling trip to Vegas) and plenty more that I find very useful. Take The Laptop Herring, for example. He argues strongly for the banning of laptops in meetings. Oh dear. I take my laptop to essentially every meeting. But he then goes to on to direct some good thinking towards WHY a person would sit in a meeting room and surf the web or check their email. Either you’re in the meeting or you’re not, right? Well, no, because most of us don’t have the power to say “that hour would be a waste of my time” so we have to go. I had a client whose meetings always lasted exactly an hour. People found a way to use up that time even if the decisions were all made at the 37 minute mark. Grrr. But whether or you not you can refuse to attend meetings that are a total waste of time, there is value in realizing that laptop use is a dramatic indicator of what people feel about the meeting they are in.
And from his comments, here’s a challenge for the brave. You want your laptop in the meeting because you’re taking notes / assigning work items / running queries / checking that against the requirements? No problem. Put it on the projector. That’ll keep you off email / IM / YouTube, won’t it?