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April 28, 2014
Cell Phone Distractions at Conferences
 
At a couple of PR/communication conferences I've been at recently (I don't attend as many as I used to), members of the audience have been busily sending cell phone text messages (I presume that's what they're doing with their phones, anyway). I find that distracting and puzzling, for these are people who are supposed to know that attentiveness to their surroundings is paramount. 

Or maybe they're just keeping up with Twitter or Facebook and deploying hashtags throughout the universe. I don't know, but it strikes me as a cancellation of sensitivity to presence and purpose. They could leave the room or wait for a break to make their calls, that is, send their messages. You can't, after all, be in two places at once, or at least that used to be the case. Shouldn't PR/communications people know better? How do they think the speaker or panelists feel when they spot them punching away at their keyboards? If they don't care, then we really have a problem, for as we said above, attentiveness matters.

Distraction, after all, isn't what's meant by "conference calls".

(The head of the organization that sponsored the conference just caught me up on this, wondering whether I meant tweets and noting that "At a digital conference the highest compliment is for attendees to be tweeting and sharing." Maybe so, but it's distracting to those, at least of a certain generation, present; learning and sending aren't the same thing. I didn't think the conference was being held for publicity, but for learning. I was taking handwritten notes on my notepad at the conference, and have them now review and pondering.)  
 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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