I have a simple solution for this problem. Be better than the Blackberry.
People vote with their attention spans. If what you’re saying is interesting and relevant, meeting participants will put down their Blackberries. If what you’re saying starts out by telling them the value of paying attention, they will look up from their email. If you give them a clear agenda of points that matter to them, they won’t be texting their friends.
But if your meeting is a rambling data dump of irrelevant information, then your listeners will find better ways to spend their time.
The Times missed out on a major part of the story today. They failed to point out that the Blackberry isn’t what makes people not pay attention. People have been tuning out dull meetings for years.
But in the old days, people were just day-dreaming or doodling.
The Blackberry is a technological breakthrough that allows people to do something productive during meaningless meetings.