Does the iPhone Makes Public Speaking Harder?

“What do I do about people working their Blackberries during my presentation?”

That’s a question I get all the time.

Many communicators blame digital distraction like iPhones and laptops for their audiences’ failure to pay attention.

It’s as if some people think that the Blackberry has created a form of attention deficit disorder that has made it more difficult to connect with listeners.

Many training sessions now begin with the scolding plea “Please turn off your cell phones and pagers.” In the New York Times last week a law professor told of banning laptops during his lectures because he wanted to foster more “active intellectual experience.”

Yeah right Professor.  The laptops are the reason that your law students aren’t paying attention to your soul drainingly dull lecture on long arm jurisdiction.  Baloney.

Call me a contrarian. But I don’t buy the argument that speaking is more difficult in the digital age.

Lecture halls, conference calls, and meeting rooms are perfect little democracies. Audiences vote with their attention spans. If people feel the benefit, they will pay attention. If not, they won’t.

And it’s always been that way.  The only difference today is the manner in which attention spans wander.  In the old days, if you were dull, people would fantasize about the opposite sex. Today, if you are dull, people still fantasize about the opposite sex. But they also can tap out emails to their girlfriends on their Blackberries.

If you want to overcome the digital distractions, you need to give people a strong reason to pay attention.

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