Laptops in the audience
May 19, 2006
Are attendees who laptop dance their way through a session rude, or so into their notetaking that they can’t bear to look up from the keyboard to follow the presenter? That’s what Heather Green on Blogspotting wants to know. Personally, I think it’s pretty rude, even if they are taking notes. Who wants to listen to all that click, clicking when you’re trying to pay attention to the speaker? And you just know that most of those folks are checking their e-mail or doing something else that has nothing to do with the session they’re in.
IMHO, it’s just another symptom of the pervasive “I want to be doing anything except what I’m actually doing” syndrome, which also causes those five guys eating lunch at a table to all be on cells to someone not present. I don’t know the cure, but the symptoms, including this one, make me crazy. If someone’s multitasking, they’re not concentrating on being here, now. They’re not fully immersed in the moment. They’re not going to learn much, and they won’t remember much, either. And then you hear back that the conference was a waste of time and money. Well, it might not have been if their brains had joined their backsides and been present in the room.
Okay, to be fair, it might be a bit of a generational thing, with younger folks (of which I am no longer one, sob) so used to multitasking that they can’t concentrate on one thing at a time. I don’t buy that argument, but I’ve heard it enough that I have to include it here.
Whatever the reason, the fact that people are doing this means that either a) the content isn’t right; b) the format isn’t compelling enough to keep their interest, except for those few laptop notetakers; or c) people are evolving into attention deficient beasts. Assuming the organizers do their jobs and the content is good—a big assumption, I know— and that the human race is still capable of paying attention to something, I vote for b). We need to find a new way to engage the audience so their fingers won’t do the walking.