The Real Reason Millennials Are Distracted in Your Meetings

By Ryan Jenkins, Contributor, Inc.com @theRyanJenks

Phones aren’t to blame for distracted employees in meetings. Stagnant and poor communication is the problem.

Millennials continue to get razzed for having their heads buried in their phones. For managers of Millennials, this behavior is most frustrating during the middle of a meeting. Those finger flicks and swipes can make the blood of the most seasoned managers boil.

If the small Yondr pouches that lock smartphones shut with a wireless signal while in the “no-phone zone” aren’t an option for your meeting, then what’s a person to do?

This challenge extends beyond the business environment. I recently spoke to a room full of highly esteemed doctors from around the country, and many asked me about how to get their Millennial residents to turn off their phones while in the classroom.

My answer to the room full of doctors is the same answer I’d give to business leaders wondering, “How do I get Millennials to ignore their phones while in a meeting?” That answer is: You’re asking the wrong question. The better question is, “How do I create more engaging communications?”

You can’t control the attention of Millennials. Even if you get them to power down their devices, that doesn’t mean you’ll win their attention. Instead, you’ll earn Millennial resentment and the label of an irrelevant and outdated leader.

The only thing you can control is the message and the delivery of that message. The secret to engaging Millennials in meetings is crafting captivating content.

As a professional speaker, every time I step onstage I am competing with the audience’s hundreds of pending emails, endless status updates, continuous news stories, and prospects of beating their high score in Fruit Ninja…all in the palms of their hands.

My content has to be more gripping than the next post of their favorite Instagram follow. My delivery has to be more dynamic than a sports highlight.

There’s more competing for our attention than ever before. It takes intentional communication to cut through the noise.

It’s a battle for people’s attention, and the battle starts in the preparation and extends through the delivery. Having an audience turn off their phones is the lazy way out.

Attention can no longer be expected, it must be earned. Whether in the conference room or classroom, take responsibility for the attention of your Millennial audience. Prepare meticulously and deliver with passion and brevity.

Here are a few other ideas to consider when engaging the mobile-dependent Millennials:

1.Tell a story. Stories remain timeless as a way to captivate any audience.

2.Ask questions. What’s 12 minus 5? I bet you just answered that question in your head before continuing to read. Questions are inherently engaging.

3.Use images. Humans think in images. Take note from Instagram’s success with Millennials and supplement your message with appealing images.

4.Be shocking. The unexpected and surprising will attract the attention of the most mobile-addicted.

5.Simplify. Simplify the message to its bare essentials and simplify the logistics by cutting the time of every meeting you have moving forward in half.

6.Co-create. Prior to the meeting, ask attendees to help create or shape the content.

7.Draw in digitally. Pull engagement through mobile devices. I use PollEverywhere to engage my audiences with live polls.

If, for some odd reason, phones must be shut off, then you must present a clear and compelling case as to why they cannot be used.

The Millennial worker and today’s ever-evolving times demand transformative communications. Today’s tech should be your motivator to become a better communicator.

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