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Rus Slater

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delegates using their mobiles during training workshops


A recent posting brought quite a lot of varying opinion regarding delegates' use of mobile phones in a training workshop.  Whilst not in a training environment this little example of "how to get someone to stop using their phone" is quite an interesting option;


10 Responses

  1. Mobile phones

    I recently ran a day for a leading university on their MBA programme.  Like all my training days at the beginning I specifically asked them to turn their phones off during "core time" and to put their laptop lids down.  I was running a Dragon’s Den type exercise where I wanted the Dragons’ full attention on the pitchers, and asked them to observe fully what they were seeing and hearing so they could give constructive feedback.  It was interesting as the day progressed and we had some good informal chat and one of the delegates said that no-one had ever asked them to do this, but as I had said it with such authority (I joked I was probably a schoolteacher in a previous life) and why (i.e. show your colleagues some respect) they absolutely responded and did as I asked.  I re-enforced it throughout the day before anyone did their presentations.  I was shocked that no-one makes a deal of this….Call me old fashioned but I just think it’s plain rude to have your phone on or laptop up while someone else in the room is asking for your attention.  Unless there’s some dire emergency that you need to attend – put it on vibrate and tell us first so we know.


  2. Not sure what the problem is?

    I was a delegate on a course last week and for 3 days. ALL 16 people on the course had mobiles on and texted and e mailed throughout the course.

    I really dont see it as a problem…we can all multi task a lot more than we used to be able to do 5 years ago when the "switch off your mobiles" "laws" were introduced.

    If I have paid to do a course what right has the Trainer got to decide if I listen or not? I’m perfectly capable of checking my e mails and participating in the course and deciding which bits are relevant and important to me.




  3. not a right but a responsibility?

    "If I have paid to do a course what right has the Trainer got to decide if I listen or not?"

    1. As a trainer I am paid by the client company to ensure that delegates have the best possible opportunity of achieving the learning objectives that the client has set.  I therefore have a responsibility to my own professionalism, the paying client and any third party organisation that I may be representing.  To simply take the view that any and all delegates attending a training event can do pretty much whatever they want, so long as they are physically present in the training room, seems to be an abdication of that responsibility.

    2. Imagine that you are on a training course and you are undertaking a role play in which you are practicing your skills at carrying out a disciplinary interview.  All through the role play your "staff member" is paying no attention because he or she is texting or handling their emials.  Alternatively, you are working in a group of three; one role play manager, one role play staff member and one observer.  You get to the end of a very challenging role play session and ask the observer for feedback and get the response, "Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention, I was answering an email".           How much value will you have got out of the exercise for your money?  Would you feel that the trainer had let you down and wasted your investment?

    I agree that we may be able to multi task more these days, and that all delegates have rights, but how many of us are really so important that we couldn’t actually turn off our phones and concentrate on the matter in hand for a couple of hours?

  4. Multi tasking or manners?

    Totally agree – I’d suggest this is more about basic courtesy than a person’s ability to multitask. 

  5. Fence Sitting

    Not normally known for my fence sitting tendencies, I find myself doing exactly that in this case!

    As a trainer/coach/speaker, I agree that it is polite to listen to the session being delivered and if the delegate is not interested in that particualr session then they can always leave. I agree with Rus that, as a paid professional, this may not look good but on the part of the delegate, they are a grown up and should be able to make a decision and justify that decision, should they need to to thier organistation.

    As a delegate, I am able to multi-task and if I need to conduct some urgent business that cannot wait then I will do exactly that; although I would normally excuse myself prior to doing so.

    There is, of course, another stream to this discussion, perhaps the delegate is taking notes electronically via a simple note taking program or maybe a more sophisticated means, like electronic mind mapping software? Different learning styles require different methodologies of listening, learning and note taking; perhaps the onus is upon me/you as a trainer/speaker, to appreciate that there are such different learning mechanisms out there, rather than dictate at the beginning of a session what mechanisms are, or are not, acceptable? That last bit sounds a little antagonistic, it’s not meant to be, it is simply another viewpoint. As we move further into postmodernism there will be many more instances of delegates conducting such multitasking and as such perhaps the trainer should set aside their modern learning mechanisms? (Discuss!?)

    As a delegate I often take electronic notes. That said, if the trainer had specifically requested for some attention during a particualr session then that is what they would get. On the topic of turning mobiles to silent or vibrate, I 100% agree.

    You see…fence sitting!

  6. Adults

    if the trainer had specifically requested for some attention during a particualr session then that is what they would get.

    Exaxctly…treat them like adults and they wll behave like adults. There isn’t a course on earth that requires 100% attention 100% of the time so let the delegates decide which bits require total concentration and which bits allow for keeping up with the day job.

  7. Delegates using their mobiles during training

    "…..let the delegates decide which bits require total concentration and which bits allow for keeping up with the day job."

    How can the delegates sift through the "bits" which require total concentration if they are in the middle of a complex text/email?  This is exactly the problem.  If delegates are texting or fiddling around with their phone or whatever, their concentration is not with the workshop.  This inevitably leads to them having to constantly ask, "sorry, can you repeat that?" and you have to repeat the section they’ve missed.  This leads to other delegates getting fed up of hearing the same thing again, and they become disengaged. I have had this scenario played out in my training sessions before and it is a distraction to everyone in the room.  I have now decided to have a "rules of the room" written on the back of the delegates’ nameplates so that they are reminded of the do’s and don’ts. 

    Texting/emailing during a course isn’t (in my opinion) acceptable behaviour.

    Sorry Steve, but I can’t agree with you.  Mainly because some people attending a training course will always use the training as an excuse NOT to behave like adults and revert back to the schoolroom!  This was the issue I had (in a previous employment).  Let them use their mobiles at breaks/lunchtime, etc.  Alternatively, if they need to take an urgent call/text/email, they need to make their excuses and leave.

    Sorry, I don’t sit on the fence with this one!



  8. Mobile Etiquette

    Hi Rus,

    Interesting dilema.

    At the start of all my training session, I ask the delegates to either switch their mobile phones off, or put it on light or vibrate, so as not to disturb the class.

    Personally I do not have a problem with delegates using their mobiles, during the training session, as long as they do not expect me to repeat something that has been demoed and/or explained!

    Plus maybe I make the session so interactive, fun, relevant and interesting, that they actually forget that they have their mobile phones with them until the breaks.


  9. Keep it simple

    I have been running courses for many years.  The only problem I have ever experienced is delegates mobiles ringing out during input sessions. Now, at the start of courses, I tell delegates that if their phone rings during an input session, they have to buy everyone on the course a drink at the end of the day.  This usually results in a scramble to turn mobiles off!


    I have never experienced anyone using their mobile whilst I am speaking to delegates and would regard it as abject failure on my part if it ever happened.

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