5 ways to handle smartphone distractions during a speech

Are people more interested in their phones than your talk? Here are some tactics to confront this increasingly common problem.

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Watching an audience member (or, heavens forbid, many audience members) glued to his or her mini-screen throughout your talk can be distracting, discouraging, and even infuriating. On the other hand, it may also be a valuable sign to you as a speaker that you’re boring the audience, necessitating a change in technique.

It can also be a sign that they are interested in your speech—for all you know, they’re taking notes or “live tweeting” your talk.

Here are five things you can do the next time you catch someone using their smartphone throughout your talk:

1. Do Nothing.

The audience’s use of smartphones may have nothing to do with the quality of your talk. It’s entirely plausible that the audience member is emailing to find out how her father is doing post-surgery. Or that she’s using her device to take notes or “live tweet” your talk. If only one person is distracted by a smartphone—or if you suspect people are using them to take notes or tweet about your talk—let it go. If 10 people are using one and look totally uninterested, you should probably change tactics. The context will tell you a lot; expect a great deal of smartphone use at a social media conference and less at an employee retreat.

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