My wife, a human resources executive, recently attended a half-day professional development program and was so stunned by the behavior of the other participants that she was nearly (not quite totally) speechless when I asked her about how it went.
“The program content was fine,” she said. “But I couldn’t believe the other ‘so-called professionals’ – they were anything but… Instead of using the time to learn, network and develop relationships with other HR professionals, virtually all of the other participants at my table had, and kept, their faces and their attention buried in their smart phones the entire time.”
Prior to and during program breaks, every person at her table was focused on whatever was happening online via their phone – not at all on the other people right in front of them. “It struck me as highly unprofessional.”
As public relations professionals, there are times where we need to be connected to our offices, our colleagues and clients due to the nature of the business. However, after my wife recounted her experience, I recalled that I’ve seen exactly the same type of behavior take place at multiple PR-related events I’ve recently attended.
How often is it REALLY necessary to check your email, voicemail or social media accounts immediately? Is it more important than making a professional connection that could help advance your career or lead to new business opportunities? I doubt it – but I appear to be in the minority here…
Sadly, this “smartphone addiction” syndrome seems to be the norm for some people (I don’t want to specifically call out Millennials here, they’re by far most serious offenders, but it’s interesting to note that none of the people at my wife’s table were Millennials). Their virtual lives online are apparently more important to them than their actual daily interactions.
As professional communicators and reputation managers, I would suggest that the diminishing opportunities we have to directly interact and connect with other professionals (and frankly, other people in general) are far more valuable and satisfying than any virtual connection you may have.
And while you may believe that you’re being diligent and doing an excellent job by staying connected to your online self by burying your face in your phone – understand that the reputation you’re developing with lots of others – the people right in front of you – is a much different thing.
So put those smart phones away when you’re at any professional (or even at a social) event and make some new connections.
Remember these three simple words – be here now – and you might be surprised by the results.