Short answer… don’t worry about it. If they miss something important, it’s their loss.
Context is everything. If you are delivering a presentation to a fairly large group i.e. one that’s larger than you can easily make eye contact with everyone, then you need to realize that you really don’t have any control of your audience.
Everyone in the audience comes with their own set of problems and things going on in their lives. Smart phones are addictive to some people and they feel that they need to be constantly connected with others.
You will have to be awfully exciting and engaging to overcome those people’s connection to their phones.
In other events, texting might be encouraged. As speakers, how do we know that our audience isn’t tweeting some pithy remarks or sage advice that we have just delivered? Those tweets could work to our advantage in promoting our presentations.
In the not so distant past, somewhat arrogant presenters would physically remove the phone from the offender. I personally would walk out of that presentation. Not because I would be embarrassed but more to the fact that I would not put up with an abusive presenter.
In a workshop or seminar, it can be helpful to make an announcement in the beginning to tell people to turn off their phones or put them on silent.
I think phones ringing in a presentation would be far disruptive than someone texting. And even more offensive would be someone responding to a phone call or making one in the presentation. I think that is lack of respect for the speaker.
I think we will actually see more of it rather than less. If people are stupid enough to text while they are driving, they aren’t likely to have the sense to avoid it during your presentation.
If you are gutsy enough, you could always pull out your own smart phone and speaking into it say something like “Yeah, the presentation’s going good. Gotta a couple people texting or talking on the phone though. I guess they don’t want to hear the presentation …” You might end up with an applause from others in your audience. Whether the offenders get the message or not remains to be seen.
For further discussion on public speaking, speech development, communication skills and Toastmasters, visit the Live For Excellence Book Store for the following publications:
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Rae A. Stonehouse is an author, speaker, and self-publishing consultant dedicated to helping others embrace constant improvement and overcome challenges. With over 40 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in psychiatry and mental health, Rae brings a wealth of knowledge and passion for self-development to his writing and presentations.
As a 25+ year member of Toastmasters International, Rae has systematically built his communication abilities and self-confidence to share his insights as an author and speaker. His self-help books and personal development presentations aim to have conversational one-on-one connections with readers and audiences.
Rae is known for his wry sense of humor and sage advice delivered in a relatable coaching style. After four decades as a nurse, Rae has rewired rather than retired, actively writing and pursuing public speaking. He strives to share lessons learned to help others achieve personal and professional growth.