Gadget etiquette

You love your laptop, right? It goes where you go and it’s oh so handy for meetings. Well, personally I’m a pen and paper girl but if it’s really important and will make things easier I will tote around my laptop and use it in meetings.

Not using it for every meeting makes me acutely aware of some of the bad habits people adopt when they use their gadgets around other people. Remember, being an office goddess is all about making it look easy, seamless, effortless. So don’t get side-swiped by gadgets: follow these tips for office gadget etiquette.


  • If you are going to use a laptop in a meeting, set it up beforehand. Don’t waste meeting time (and everyone else’s time) while you try to work out how to connect it up and then realise you have left the mains cable at your desk and you only have 16 minutes of battery power left anyway.
  • Know how it works. Sort out your 3G/wifi in advance. Get the passwords, know how to route round your proxy server when you are out of the office.
  • If you are using your laptop to give a presentation, get there early and set it up with the projector. Know how to switch the display to the projector, and then back to your screen. During the presentation, switch the display away from the screen if you are fiddling with slides or trying to find things on your laptop – then switch it back. Don’t give everyone the opportunity to see your emails 6ft high on the wall.
  • If it’s your meeting, get the right size table. There is nothing worse than trying to squash 6 laptops on a tiny circular table and balance the projector on your knees.
  • Think about the room size too:  if it is too small it will soon get hot with all those gadgets.
  • Turn the volume off before you get to the meeting room. Those login chimes or email alert noises are really annoying and are always 100% louder than you were expecting.
  • You can’t talk and type. If you need to take minutes of a meeting on the fly, have someone do it for you. Otherwise you really aren’t saving any time, all you are doing is replacing type-it-up-later time with sitting-in-silence-in-the-meeting-room-while-I-type time.

Phones and BlackBerries

  • Put your phone on silent. If there’s recording equipment or video conferencing in the room turn it off. Can’t turn it off? How important are you, really? If you are so important that you can’t turn your phone off for an hour you will have a secretary who can come and get you if the world starts to implode. Just prep your staff in advance so they know you are unavailable.
  • If you are expecting a call, let the meeting attendees know in advance. It happens. Then sit by the door and let yourself out quietly when you get the call. Not all calls. Just the one you were expecting that is important enough for you to excuse yourself from the meeting.
  • Don’t let your BlackBerry vibrate on the desk. You know how much of a racket this makes. It’s much more discrete to have it in your pocket or on the chair next to you. Besides, you shouldn’t be looking at it anyway.
  • Let’s just repeat that last point: you shouldn’t be looking at it anyway. Texts or emails can wait. It is so disrespectful to check your messages when someone is giving a presentation – unless you want to send the message that they are overrunning their allocated slot and are giving the dullest presentation ever.
  • Typing away when you are on a conference call is noisy for the other attendees. Don’t do it. Or wear a headset for your phone; it mutes the noise of the keys tapping.

OK, no excuses now. Set a good example for everyone else!


  1. Great listing of etiquette tips. On conference calls, one of the practices we recommend is to utilize mute unless when speaking.

    1. I really should have put that in! Great reminder, thank you. Definitely use mute. But remember you’re on mute before you try to contribute – it’s really frustrating not to be heard (can you guess that has happened to me?!).

  2. This was such an enjoyable post. I have attended meetings, only to notice half the people around the table either on their BlackBerries or texting on their phones. Really people, if it is that important, you should have dialed in or not come at all. I will actually say something if I am the one running the meeting. Don’t waste my time and I won’t waste yours.

    Derek Huether, PMP

    1. Well said! I should have a rule where by I kick people out if they don’t contribute. But the onus is also on us to make the meeting relevant to the audience. No point in complaining that someone is “multi-tasking” if you have asked them to sit in silence for an hour listening to something they know nothing about and is of no relevance to them at all.

  3. Great post…so true!! Many of my co-workers need to read this 🙂
    So question then…if you are on a conference call and as the PM you are taking notes on the meeting, it would then be OK to type, just better to wear a headset while doing it like you mention? Maybe also to casually mention to the group that you are taking notes so that they don’t think you’re ‘facebooking’ or doing something else unrelated while on the call?

    I agree with the phone/blackberry thing too. Ultimately, best to just leave it out of the meeting or keep it silent. I admit sometimes I want to keep it nearby just incase I get a call from my daughter’s school or her babysitter, but I guess even that can be handled discreetly.

    1. Hi Dina. I’m guilty of typing while I’m on a conference call – I have an action log and I will often type a few words to remind me of what was said on the call so I can properly update it later. What really bugs me is when people type everything and take ages and there are long gaps in the discussion while the typists catch up. It’s a good idea of yours to mention that you’re not doing unrelated work, I’ll have to slip that in next time!

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